SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Archive for the ‘Texts work’ Category

10 things you didn’t know you could do via text

Posted by Admin on March 4, 2009

There’s a great post over on Technokitten’s blog (inspired by one from Mobile Maven) about the various different things that you can do via text message – aside from sending a note to a friend.

Many people in the industry forget that the humble text message is an incredibly important tool for two main reasons. The first is the ubiquitous nature of it – ‘everyone’ uses text messaging and there is no learning curve or education to go through with regards to a new service on text. Even my mum regularly occasionally sends me texts and would be happy to use relevant SMS-based services.

For me, I use SpinVox all the time (or at least as often as people leave a message) and if I’ve got any niggling questions  to be answered then I drop AQA63336 a message and am certain to get back an astute or humourous (or both) response. I also, as Technokitten points out, really like it when people use text messages for customer care – telling me a delivery is on the way, letting me know that a cab has been dispatched, that kind of thing.

One of the other uses that I’ve seen around a lot, but haven’t used yet, is creating a ‘real’ social network of your friends or colleagues for important and immediate updates – eg sports teams confirming the kick-off time, or that the venue has moved. The kind of service that allows many-to-many messages to be sent and received easily and intuitively. I also think that the use of SMS in helping me to automate my life will grow – eg allowing me to turn on my heating as I’m on the train home etc.

Have a full read of the original post and comments here.

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FrontlineSMS – helping NGOs communicate

Posted by Admin on February 3, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write about FrontlineSMS for a little while now, ever since TechnoKitten pointed it out to me. However, it’s one of those services that almost defies being written about – because it’s just so good. Once you’ve wriiten – ‘it’s amazing’ – what more is there to say?

I suppose I could start with a bit more of an explanation – it is software that creates an SMS delivery tool for you so that you can send out multiple SMSs to people out and about. It’s been specifically created for charities and NGOs, so the people that receive the messages would typically be people in the field, working at the cutting edge of the charity’s good work, but without access to a computer (and therefore email), but of course with a mobile phone.

What’s great about it is that it makes this form of communication a completely mass-market medium. People, volunteers, local support workers, activitists etc etc, they all have a mobile phone and they all know how to use SMS. So by using FrontlineSMS you are able to keep them updated, warn them, mobilise them – whatever it is you need to do.

FrontlineSMS is currently being put to use in almost every corner of the world. Here’s a map they’ve created of where and how it being used.

frontline-map1

If you are from a charity or NGO, I suggest that you go here and download it for free.

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Most first dates are arranged over SMS

Posted by Admin on February 2, 2009

I saw this great post at news:lite. It follows some research from Envirofone.com which says that text message is now the most popular way to ask someone out for a first date. The full breakdown is:

– Text Message 35%
– Face-to-face 26%
– Social Network 20%
– Email 13%
– Telephone 6%

For me, it was email, but I can see why SMS is so popular for this. As a spokesperson for Envirofone.com said:

“I think people still feel the mobile phone is a more personal form of communication, and sending a text message is potentially far less embarrassing then making a phone call!”

What about you? If you’ve got any great texts you sent to get a date, or any naff ones you received asking you out on a date, then enter them in our competition.

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Schools shut due to snow – 100,000 parents are told by text

Posted by Admin on February 2, 2009

For those of you not in the UK, then perhaps you won’t appreciate how just few inches of snow can bring this country to its knees – the roads get near gridlocked, trains don’t work, people don’t go to the office and best of all (for the kids) … schools are closed. It’s madness really, especially as so many of you will be used to real snow (for a bit of a rant about it all check out Ewan’s post on Mobile Industry Review).

Of course, those of you in the UK won’t be reading this for a couple of days anyway as you’ll all be off work making snowmen!

Anyway, as I mentioned, many schools are shut today – either because teachers and staff can’t get there, boilers and other infrastructure breaks, or because the snow is determined as a health and safety risk. The kids don’t really care what the reason is. But there’s nothing worse than walking all the way there, or digging the car out to drive there, only to discover once you reach the gates that school is closed – what valuable sleeping or snowball fight time has been lost.

This year for at least 100,000 kids, that didn’t happen thanks to Groupcall.

Schools on the system can access Groupcall’s Messenger system remotely via a secure web site and then use the system to send a message (SMS, email or voice message) to the parents’s contact information which is stored on the schools’ management information system. Amazingly the system only costs c. £1 per pupil per year. Groupcall’s Lawrence Royston said of the system:

“Parents really want schools to embrace systems like Groupcall Messenger both to improve the flow of routine communication and to ensure that they can be quickly contacted in the event of an emergency.”

I’m sure they do, it sounds great. In my day we had to tune into local radio to see if your school was closed. My school was closed every year as the boilers always broke down at the first sign of snow – until the year I started going and they fixed them!!

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Reports of Text Messaging Demise Still Premature

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2009

A number of people have been writing about the growth of Mobile IM and how it is now eating into the numbers of SMS sent and received – although this blog isn’t one of them! William Dudley, the Group Director, Messaging & GRX Products at Sybase 365 has written an article that disproves that. He argues that SMS is still alive and well.

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william-dudley-sybase-365Recently, industry media have been abuzz with headlines, blogs, and articles regarding the imminent demise of SMS due to cannibalisation by Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM). Most often, they were quoting a study from TNS Global Telecoms Insight (GTI) that states that instant messaging will ultimately displace SMS (and to some extent, email) as the primary non-voice P2P communications medium for mobile phones.

While the study and its methodology are both sound, the conclusions drawn may be slightly flawed. MIM has yet to take on the viral attributes of SMS. For those who use MIM frequently—likely within their own community of friends and associates—it may work well, and these particular users may very well use less SMS and more MIM. However, the simple fact is that until MIM and instant messaging overcome their fractured, mass of incompatible communities (e.g. AOL IM, MSN IM, Google Talk, ICQ, and of course the GSMA’s Personal Instant Messaging [PIM]), they will not have the same mass global appeal that SMS has enjoyed for the past few years.

In the United States, SMS continues its solid traffic growth–with a doubling of traffic volumes from first quarter 2007 through first quarter 2008. M:Metrics reports that SMS subscriber usage in the USA has reached approximately 50%. In Western Europe, subscriber usage ranges from the high 70% to mid 80% rate. Mobile Instant Messaging usage rates, on the other hand, are still quite low, averaging less than 5% of the Western European subscriber population, with a better showing at 8% of the US subscriber population. Drilling down even further, one can find that the MIM usage among surveyed subscribers is even lower for operators purported to have launched the GSMA’s PIM, with the highest service usage usually MSN’s instant messaging service.

Still, according to the M:Metrics data, when looking at the growth of the US subscriber population using MIM at least once per month over a one year period, we see a growth rate of 21%, while over the same time period, SMS grew 23% to almost 50% of the subscriber population using it at least once per month. Given the substantially larger base of SMS users, the 23% growth rate is essentially non-comparable to the 21% growth of MIM use with regards to the numbers it represents. Additionally, accounting for a doubling of volume, while the number of subscribers that use SMS only grew 23%, it is evident that the frequent SMS users are sending even more messages. While several other countries have even stronger MIM usage among subscribers (for example, China grew to 11% of their subscribers using MIM in February 2008), this does not show signs of the viral growth patterns that SMS has demonstrated previously and still does in many markets. Consequently, any talk about the demise of SMS as a simple, non-voice medium is speculative at best and misleading at worst.

SMS provides a level of ubiquity that MIM will struggle to achieve. While Internet access from mobile phones is not yet universal (but becoming more so with the greater prevalence of 3G networks), one would assume that this does in fact, bode well for MIM, and badly for SMS. In fact, the TNS GTI press release states:

“The cost of instant messaging is next to nothing, as the only cost is a very small data transfer fee. With consumers being accustomed to instant messaging from their PC from companies like Yahoo and MS, and more mobile operators offering unlimited use of Web browsers, the take up of MIM is going to increase significantly–leaving SMS and fixed email from PC behind.”

However, if one takes a look at some of the 3G-only operators, such as Hutchison-Whampoa in the UK, M:Metrics shows the MIM usage as 11.4%–one of the highest in Western Europe, which appears to support TNS’s conclusion that SMS and email are left behind as MIM increases. We equally see that Hutchinson-Whampoa’s SMS usage by subscribers is also amongst the highest in Western Europe–as are email, MMS and other Internet-driven services–meaning that the 3G-only network subscribers are heavy users of both Internet and traditional mobile messaging services. While the Hutchinson case is only one operator example, this type of higher MIM usage shows that the reality is such that even where MIM is well-used among subscribers, it still hasn’t and will not cannibalise SMS traffic anytime soon.

Finally, as we look to the future, we are already seeing IM-like features creeping into the SMS ecosystem, combining some of the desirable features of IM, such as presence and threaded messages, with the ubiquity, reach, and simplicity of SMS–further discrediting the notion that MIM will displace SMS at any time soon.

William Dudley, Group Director, Messaging & GRX Products – Sybase 365

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Text reminders sent to hospital patients

Posted by Admin on January 29, 2009

A new service has been set up by the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro that sends out a text message to remind patients of their appointment. The texts, sent to patients’ mobile phones, list the date, time and location of appointments and include a number to call if there is a problem.

Apparently a total of 37,289 outpatient appointments were missed in 2008 – which is just under 9% of all appointments – costing the hospital thousands of pounds.

The service has been set up as a month-long pilot for now. But two weeks in it is being seen as a success.

Karen Murray, project lead, said:

“Even if we just prevent 20 missed appointments we have had a success and it will pay for the setting up of the service. Once the trial is over the service will be reviewed and could be rolled out across other departments. We view this as a long term exercise – it could be used for other things such as letting people know that their results are available.”

Originally from BBC News.

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Esendex delivers text messages for Kiddicare

Posted by Admin on January 26, 2009

Continuing the reprise of some of the Christmas articles here is a case study from Esendex. You can check out there case study with Ocado, the shopping delivery service here.

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Kiddicare delivers every time with help from Esendex

esendexKiddicare is the largest privately owned nursery supplier to the UK public and is dedicated to first class customer service. With 80 per cent of Kiddicare’s annual turnover, which is on target for £35 million, from online sales, kiddicare.com prides itself on being the most secure, committed, reliable and trustworthy online nursery business on the net.

In order to improve customer communication further and remain an innovator in its field, Kiddicare teamed up with business SMS specialist, Esendex, to offer a tailored text messaging service. Since implementing the Esendex service, Kiddicare has reduced its missed delivery rate by 30 per cent – a vital step to help manage operating costs.

About Kiddicare
Kiddicare is a family business established in 1974 and is now the largest privately owned nursery supplier to the public in the United Kingdom. Kiddicare.com was launched in 1999 and now dispatches stock using a leading-edge, automated picking system from its distribution centre in Peterborough. Kiddicare employs over 120 full time members of staff.

Conception
Kiddicare now sells 600,000 items a year through kiddicare.com and the team at Kiddicare knew what it wanted to achieve in terms of customer communication. The idea appeared simple: text customers when goods are dispatched. The challenge was finding a comprehensive provider to integrate with Kiddicare’s existing systems and reliably handle the required amount of SMS traffic.

Early Adopters
Kiddicare selected business SMS communications specialist, Esendex, to provide a text messaging system to meet its needs. In 2005, following meetings and product demonstrations, Kiddicare trialled a two-way Email SMS product information service using the Esendex system.

The service meant that customers could text Kiddicare with product enquiries. For example: Do you have pushchair [product name and number] in blue? Customer services would then text back the answer. Although the theory behind this service was sound, the execution proved unsatisfactory for both Kiddicare and its customers. It was time consuming for Kiddicare staff and customers really did not require such a service, especially as Kiddicare.com provides all stock availability information quickly and easily. A much more important factor for success and customer satisfaction was hitting the delivery slot.

The Delivery
With 80 per cent of its business online, Kiddicare has to ensure that its delivery service is second to none. This means making the most of the systems it has available to ensure customer communication is ahead of its time.

Scott Weavers-Wright, Partner at Kiddicare, explains, “We quickly realised that the SMS service from Esendex could be put to better use with a text message detailing the dispatch of customer orders. One of our key performance indicators in e-commerce is ensuring that home deliveries are made efficiently. This means being on time and ensuring the customer is available to accept the delivery. Returned or failed deliveries cause delays and problems for our customers, our staff and the delivery company. The best way around this is prevention rather than cure.”

The Formula
Kiddicare utilises Esendex’s standard API (Application Programming Interface) to integrate with its existing systems and automate the sending of customer dispatch texts. The outbound-only text delivery system means Kiddicare customers are kept fully up to date with the status of their order and can make changes as required.

“At the point of order, the customer inputs their mobile number in the Kiddicare checkout system. As soon as the goods are dispatched from the warehouse, the customer receives an SMS to say their order is on its way. If we only have their landline number, this is not a problem as the Esendex system sends the message to this number where it is converted to a voice message for the customer to retrieve,” comments Weavers-Wright.

Example text: “Fantastic news, your goods have been dispatched from Kiddicare.com. Order no. 1234567 left our warehouse today on a next working day service (Mon-Fri).”

To validate the communication, the messages are “Kiddicare” branded rather than displaying a mobile number or shortcode to keep the customer informed about their order. A send-only service of this nature ensures Kiddicare keeps a tight handle on customer delivery changes through the appropriate order channels to save staff time and possible inconsistencies from the customer.

Walking Tall
“The Esendex API is very intuitive and integrates well with our existing business applications,” highlights Weavers-Wright. “It’s reliable and with outstanding availability. It really has helped keep our customers happy, which means we can get on with running the business and maintaining excellent service.”

Since implementing the Esendex system, Kiddicare has seen a 30 per cent reduction in its carded missed deliveries rate, which is where the delivery company has to leave a card if the customer is unavailable to receive the order.

“We have noticed a significant improvement in our delivery rates, which is excellent news for our customers, our staff and our suppliers. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive about the text messaging system and we continue to look at ways to improve this further still,” concludes Weavers-Wright.

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Alan Pascoe of Tekelec answers our questions

Posted by Admin on January 20, 2009

Over in North Carolina in the US, a multi-media mobile messaging specialist company called Tekelec goes about its business. In the heart of this US company, a Brit, Alan Pascoe, works as the Senior Manager of Product Marketing. Alan gave me some of his time to answer a few questions.

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tekelec-alan-pascoe-1Please describe your service?
SMS is one of the key underlying services that mobile operators provide. The Tekelec Mobile Messaging Solution ensures that the mobile operators continue to maintain high standards of service by ensuring a cost effective and seamless transport of mobile messages. Tekelec Mobile Messaging Solution also serves as a platform that launches a wide range of new and innovative text-based services that will generate more revenues from SMS. Operators can also use the solution to install firewalls that block spam and insert advertising in text messages.

Why use it?
The Tekelec Mobile Messaging Solution enables operators to reduce capital and operating costs (CAPEX/OPEX), which is especially valuable in today’s economy. The system also provides operators with the facility to offer consumers opt-in SMS advertising in exchange for discounts on calls, text messages and other services.

What about Consumers?
End-users, or mobile subscribers, access the Tekelec Mobile Messaging Solution whenever they send or receive an SMS. An incentive for the consumer is the fact that Tekelec Mobile Messaging Solution allows operators to offer spam prevention and advanced anti-spoofing features, eliminating any potential threats or irritating spam messages before they reach a subscriber’s handset.

What do you think is the future of mobile applications?
From what we are seeing in the market, the future for the trusted SMS is very bright. The growth in application-based SMSs has been quite dramatic and will keep on growing. The application of SMS has become far reaching, particularly in the area of machine-to-machine (M2M). For example, SMS can replace the current fixed line system that is used to communicate when a vending machine is running low on supplies of drinks or chocolate. Why not install a machine with a wireless device that sends an SMS to an application? This will allow the vending machines to be more flexible and portable, and it reduces the need for a leased transmission line.

Mobile advertising is also an early-stage opportunity to send customers relevant material, since the mobile phone offer the most personal and immediate means to interact with the consumer. However at this stage in the evolution of mobile advertising the key is to get the customers to opt in for the adverts.

Have you got anything else in the pipeline?
At the moment, SMS is a system-wide service, which means that every person gets the same level of service. Tekelec is currently working on a set of new and innovative features that will provide operators with the ability to offer SMS on a personalised level. This new approach will have two big advantages for operators: for one, it will help to reduce churn by offering differentiated services to select customers, and two, there is an opportunity for the operator to increase revenues through these new premium personalised services.

– – –

Thanks Alan. I’m particularly interested in the idea of SMS to work in the M2M area. I think this and the ability for consumers to be able to interact with machines/devices from their phones is, as yet, an under-utilised arena for mobile operators. It’s the perfect use of a mobile phone – switching the heating on while you’re on the train on the way home.

If operators can avoid talking about the technology, but really selling the benefits, I can see everyone sending text messages to the different applications in their house, giving them added control and making their lives easier.

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Indian police to send texts to fight terror

Posted by Admin on January 7, 2009

We’ve written a few times about the police’s use of text messages to help them in the fight against crime (for example in Washington DC, or to stop cocaine users). Well now police in Hyderbad, India have joined in and will be sending text messages to people asking them to be on their guard for suspicious packages or people.

To help with the initiative the networks in India have agreed to send the messages for free.  An example of the messages to be sent is: “Found an abandoned vehicle in a busy place for quite some time? There may be dangerous objects in it. Break your silence. Contact nearest policeman or dial 100 or send an SMS to 9010100100.”

And why are they using SMS, well: “SMS has tremendous reach. With people now having cell phones even when they are on the move, you don’t need a TV or a radio to receive an anti-terror alert.”

You can read more about the story here.

While we obviously support the initiative, as a recent episode of the BBC sitcom Outnumbered showed, you have to be a little bit careful asking the public to be aware of suspicious looking people.

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“SMS, can’t run my life without it.”

Posted by Admin on January 6, 2009

cd-spinvoxThat was the answer given by Christina Domecq, CEO of SpinVox when asked about her favourite mobile application / service by Mobile Industry Review.

It’s not surprising really given that Christina’s business relies on SMS so heavily. For those of you that don’t know, SpinVox is a service that converts a voicemail you received into a text message so that you can read it instead of listening to it. I use it all the time and find it very useful.

Christina answered the question as part of her profile on MIR’s Who’s Who feature. Check out Christina or any of the other gurus of the mobile industry.

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