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November 15, 2014

The Potential of App-to-Person SMS for Mobile Network Operators

App-to-person SMS represents a major revenue opportunity for mobile network operators. Globally, app-to-person messages are expected to hit 2.19 trillion by 2018, generating predicted revenues of $60 billion.

The figures come from wide-ranging research conducted by UK-based industry analysts mobilesquared. They surveyed more than 50 international mobile network operators and made a number of key findings:

  • 32% of mobile network operators have experienced a reduction in person-to-person SMS over the last year
  • 50% have experienced an increase in app-to-person traffic, with a third of those reporting growth of at least 6%
  • 81% cite decreasing revenues from traditional services like P2P text messaging as their primary concern

When it comes to P2P messaging, mobile network operators have long been upping the ante on competitors, with increasingly generous – and in many cases unlimited – SMS bundles on offer as a way of enticing new users. 

They’re no longer just competing with each other. So-called ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are usurping traditional SMS providers as the go-to platforms for interpersonal communication. Half of all mobile network operators who took part in the survey expect to lose at least half of their customers to OTT services by next year. 

But while P2P text messaging is on the wane, business is booming for commercial text messaging companies. Consumers, it seems, are compartmentalizing their personal life, preferring OTT platforms for talking to friends while sticking with traditional SMS to engage with brands.

This is great news for mobile marketing campaign managers and small businesses. With an opt-in model predicated on consent and trust, the mobile marketing industry has managed to skirt the problems faced by their email-marketing forbears. Rather than filtering out all commercial messages as spam, smartphone owners are engaging with businesses via SMS because they want to, not because it’s the only option available to them. 

There’s no such low-hanging fruit for mobile network operators. They must forge relationships with OTTs and provide competitive price points if they want to leverage revenues from app-to-person SMS.

 

 

 

November 07, 2014

How to Reach Millenials with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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In the world of mobile marketing, much hay is made of millennials and how to reach them. They’re supposed to be wily, committed to free content and spendthrifts. They spend a lot of time online – but not so much money. But is this demographic really so mysterious and elusive? Are there really 12 types of millennial that you must identify and target at all costs in order to thrive?!

At this point, a group of 22-year-olds grimace, roll their eyes and go back to texting their twelve types of friend about how baby boomers ‘just don’t get it.’ The problem for boomers and Gen-Xers is that millennials have grown up in a connected world. They’ve never known anything else. Their interactions with the online world are more sophisticated and diverse than any of us can understand. There’s no point scanning the latest research paper on how long those 22-year-olds spend on their tablet. It’s more complex than that.

The ‘amount of time spent’ is such a common metric that many mobile marketing campaign managers have ceased questioning it’s validity. For millennials in particular, the amount of time spent on a specific device is far less important than what they are doing on that device. Let’s break it down:

Laptop

Millennials stand alone among the generations in their preference for laptops over desktop computers. According to Pew research from 2011, 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop. The laptop is their primary portal for shopping, web browsing and watching movies and TV shows.

Tablet

The tablet unites all demographics under the age of 65. Though only 4% of adults own one, that statistic remains constant for people of all generations. For millennials, it’s a luxury item used primarily for entertainment purposes – and often in conjunction with other activities, such as watching television. 

Television

Ah, yes, television. Lest we forget, young people still watch traditional television sets in huge numbers. The rise of prestige TV, in conjunction with an increasingly diverse array of options, may have heralded the end of the family viewing experience, but individually we’re watching more than ever. And instead of uniting the nuclear family, TV shows are uniting people of the same age. If you’ve got the budget, don’t make the mistake of ignoring traditional television advertising. The millennials have been dubbed Gen FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), an indication of the power of multimedia as a social glue.

Smartphone

The smartphone is like a fifth limb for Gen Yers. They’ll just as happily use an iPhone to watch a YouTube video, and the market is awash with apps aimed squarely at young people. There’s nothing they don’t use smartphones for, but the commonest activity – by far – is the humble text message. Time Magazine recently suggested that the average American aged 18-29 sends 88 text messages per day. For anyone devising a mobile marketing strategy aimed at millennials, that statistic is a mouth-watering one.

Millennials are by far the most likely group to own more devices and to use more functions on them. From a marketer’s perspective, there’s little point just blithely shifting budgets to digital. In order to reach millennials, you need to understand how they engage with the digital world, and recognize that they are calling the shots.

November 05, 2014

Can I Start a Business in Canada if I’m Not Canadian?

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Yes.

That’s the short answer. Now for the caveats. ‘Starting a business’ can mean a few different things. How much red tape you have to wade through before getting your enterprise off the ground depends on what your current situation is. Are you launching a brand new company? Or are you simply looking to expand an existing operation into the Canadian market? 

If it’s the latter, you can do it without even setting foot in the country. The rules for established foreign businesses vary from province to province. Even if you don’t currently have a preference for which part of Canada you register in, it’s imperative to compare the rules and regulations for each province - you may well change your mind. Visit the corporate registry for starting extra-provincial companies in British Columbia and see how it fares against Ontario. Rinse and repeat with the other eight provinces. If you wish to do business in more than one province, you will need to register separately with each. Here’s a list of provincial registrars across the country.

If you are starting from scratch, things get a little more complicated. Broadly speaking, there are two options for launching a brand new company in Canada as a non-citizen: become a citizen or form a business partnership with one. Let’s take a look at each option.

1) Immigration

If you want to live in Canada anyway, you can incorporate your business interests into the immigration process by applying for business immigrant status. There are two types of business immigrant: self-employed persons and start-up entrepreneurs. Again, you can’t be too thorough in your research here. Look into each type of immigrant status and decide which is most appropriate for your situation. 

2) Partnering with a Citizen

If you have no intention of moving, you can team up with one or more Canadian business partners. At least 25% of the company directors must be resident Canadians. If your company has fewer than four directors, at least one must be a resident Canadian. Contact the provincial registry for the territory in which you want to do business and follow the requirements therein. The key thing to note is whether or not you plan to incorporate your business federally or provincially. Consider how far your business could expand – it might be worthwhile registering federally from the get-go (bear in mind you still have to register with each province individually if you incorporate your company at the federal level).

There are numerous benefits to launching a business in Canada. Government subsidies for tech startups are much talked-about, and can make all the difference during those crucial first 18 months. If you’re lucky enough to get it. However you go about it, research all the options thoroughly to ensure your Canadian adventure will pay off.

November 04, 2014

How Spamming is Helping Fight Ebola

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Spamming is aiding the fight against Ebola.

Operators of text messaging system Tera, which provides advice and help to people fighting Ebola in the Sierra Leone region, are looking to extend the service to seven other African nations—Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Burkina Faso. Ebola kills victims via dehydration and multiple organ failure, and more than 4,000 West Africans have perished from the disease.

The network allows Red Cross and Red Crescent charities to “send SMS messages to every switched-on handset in a specific area by drawing its shape on a computer-generated map.” Automatic, appropriate replies to incoming texts are also featured. Both charities aim for expansion completion over the next nine months, but cooperation of local mobile authorities and networks is needed.

"It's been doing an excellent job in Sierra Leone, sending out in the region of 2 million messages per month, helping the communities there to prepare themselves, try to avoid getting infected, and then if they do, to know what to do about it," notes Robin Burton from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Unlike TV and radio, if we send them a text message it's retained on the phone."

The trick is quelling each nation’s concerns or fears about joining the network.

"The thing operators might have a problem with is that they are basically being asked to spam millions of their customers, and people often object to that," says Ken Banks, an SMS expert who advises the UK's Department for International Development. "When people in Haiti received messages asking them to donate blood [after the 2010 earthquake] that were blasted out willy-nilly some were not in a position to do so, and they found it annoying.”

However, Banks notes operators can’t really argue this one, as no one wants to be accused of blocking potentially life-saving messages during an epidemic. He adds that the significance of the Red Cross as an organization will also fuel the proverbial fire. The IFRC also wants Tera to appear as "network friendly" as possible, and allow individual subscribers to opt out and operators to apply exclusion lists.

The network is specifically designed to send texts to powered-up handsets. This avoids build-up of millions of undelivered messages, and therefore potential network strain. Staggered texts are yet another way the network is preventing overload, and the system is location-sensitive, so messages are sent to affected areas only.

An inexpensive system to operate, Tera may be utilized during natural disasters and for relief effort feedback, potentially emerging as one of the key factors in helping to limit the damage from both natural and human-spread calamities.

November 03, 2014

Text Messages Now Considered 'Official Government Documents'

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Imagine getting fired over a text message.

The United States House of Representatives decided in September of this year to include text messages “among the electronic communications federal employees could be fired for improperly destroying.”

Called the Federal Records Accountability Act and introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., it addresses any federal employees an inspector general found knowingly “concealed, removed, mutilated, obliterated, falsified, or destroyed any record, book, or other thing” controlled by the offending employees. Republicans and Democrats alike supported the bill, which was approved unanimously by voice vote.

The bill also prevents federal employees from using personal devices to conduct official business unless an electronic record of the communication is created. All email, instant messages or text messages sent from a personal device regarding agency business must be officially recorded. A worker found guilty of manipulating records would face suspension and receive a written statement of the charges within 15 days. The worker can defend him or herself in the 15 days after receiving the notice, and has the right to a Merit Systems Protection Board hearing and appeal.

Meadows says the bill is “common sense legislation,” and that it will improve transparency and historical preservation.

“Intentional destruction of records is a criminal act,” Meadows noted. “Federal employees found guilty of such a crime should be fired.”

Scandals at the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency prompted the bill, as employees of each were charged with purposefully destroying records. Criticisms by lawmakers concerning federal managers using personal devices for official business is nothing new, however.

“It wasn’t one agency,” Meadows said, “it was plethora of agencies that have communication going on a regular basis that isn’t being preserved.”

Yet the Project on Government Oversight does not fully support the bill as the optimal way to deal with the transparency issues raised by the IRS and EPA scandals. Joe Newman, a POGO spokesman, told Government Executive the bill was “too narrow” and mainly punished “whistleblowers.”

“We're always happy when Congress moves to increase transparency and accountability but we're not sure this bill is the best way to do that,” Newman said. “There are long-standing problems with federal record keeping practices that need to be addressed but it might be a better approach if Congress looked at the system as a whole, rather than tailoring legislation to address a specific scandal.”

Some government agencies, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, are expanding use of Short Message Service (SMS) technology to provide better services. It has also been suggested that government text messages should be used in other ways. Texting is most popular among young people, and could be a vehicle for the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send anti-smoking messages.

 

 

October 28, 2014

Send a Spooky SMS for Halloween

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As the Halloween marketing machine moves into fifth gear, the usual glut of ghostly products and services have hit consumers like a ton of pumpkins. This year, everyone’s talking about paranormal text messages.

SMS is the perfect medium for mediums. But while this very modern iteration of the spine-chilling prank is new, it has its roots in much older technology. Spooky calls from the dead have been cited as proof of an afterlife since the advent of the telephone.

The first phantom caller was reported in 1886, a mere decade after Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. In 1915, an S.O.S. was apparently received by a Norwegian ship. The troubled vessel? It was, the story goes, the Titanic – which famously sank three years earlier. The incident was the first ghostly Morse code – but it was far from the last. 

In the 80s, fax machines got in on the act, with supernatural warnings blipping and honking their way into offices and homes – usually around this time of year. Everyone with an email account has received some kind of ‘pass this on or terrible deed x will befall you and your family’ message. No doubt there have been tweets purporting to be from the Other Side. Wherever there’s a new technology, the dead are using it to reach out to their loved ones.

Whether or not you believe these fanciful tales, sending a spooky text message around Halloween is tremendous fun. If you’re looking for ideas, there are plenty of scary suggestions online. Many of them suggest that the long-dead are remarkably tuned in to youth slang. Even better, with this app you can send screams along with your message to heighten the atmosphere of dread.

If creeping your friends out isn’t really your scene, but you still want to get into the Halloween spirit, there is a veritable encyclopedia of poems and epitaphs out there, all relating in some way to the scary season. For a classier Halloween text message, throw out some lines from Shakespeare’s doom-laden Macbeth – ‘The Witches Spell’ is the obvious choice here. Or there’s John Donne’s 17th Century classic, ‘The Apparition’ – perfect for summoning that Halloween spirit. For Scots, what better than the Robert Burns epic, simply titled ‘Halloween’?

October 27, 2014

Integrity of Whisper App Questioned

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The firm behind social media app Whisper is tracking the location of its users – despite claiming to be ‘the safest place on the internet’ in terms of anonymity. The company is also sharing information from phones known to be used in military bases with the US Department of Defense, according to a recent Guardian expose.

Whisper users currently publish around two-and-a-half million messages a day. Their principal selling point is anonymity, but the Guardian report alleges the company has developed an in-house mapping tool allowing them to locate users to within 500 meters. The British newspaper also claims Whisper has been handing user locations to the Department of Defense. 

According to the Guardian, Whisper has been storing data since their 2012 launch. At that time, much of their brand image was predicated on a policy of holding data only for ‘a brief period of time’ and allowing those who don’t wish to be tracked to opt out of geo-location.

But the Guardian claims Whisper has been storing data even on users who specifically opted out. The news will be particularly alarming to military personnel who have used the platform to unburden themselves of traumatic events witnessed or experienced in the line of duty. Many soldiers use the app to share suicidal feelings and symptoms of PTSD and to discuss other topics they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about on social media outlets like Facebook. 

The Guardian says Whisper has shared user data with law enforcement agencies, the FBI and MI5, a practice Whisper contends is standard in the tech industry – and only in situations where there is evidence of criminal behavior or imminent suicide.

Whisper has denied the allegations, saying it ‘does not follow or track users’ and dismissing the suggestion they were monitoring people without consent as ‘false’. CEO Michael Heyward issued a ten point riposte to the Guardian and suspended his editor-in-chief when the allegations came to light. He insists Whisper is only sharing information with the DoD when there is an investigation into frequent mentions of self-harm, adding “[We] are proudly working with many organizations to lower suicide rates.”

Heyward has been summoned to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about the app’s privacy policy.

Whisper has experienced rapid growth over the past two years and is now valued at more than $200m. The app tapped into a growing demand for private, confessional platforms which purport to foster more candid public discussions about sensitive issues like suicide.

Whisper has updated it’s terms and conditions since the story broke. 

October 23, 2014

Smalltown America: The Tech Industry’s New Home?

 

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The internet revolution has worked wonders for entrepreneurs with big ideas and small wallets. And while the tech giants are still keen to project a certain cache by basing themselves in huge economic centers like Tokyo and California, start ups are finding fewer financial impediments to realizing their dreams in less illustrious surroundings.

One of the tech industry’s new suburban outposts lies to the far west of Chicago, in and around the Fox Valley. Towns like Naperville, Aurora and Elgin are fostering the new bright young things of software development, web marketing and business.

These places have a centralized support network designed specifically for tech workers, mimicking the ‘all in it together’ mentality of their Silicon Valley counterparts.

If the spirit of technological collaboration is alive and well in Illinois, it’s positively thriving in Colorado. The state’s tech industry employed 162,600 people in 2012 (according to a TechAmerica Foundation report). That’s 8.7% of the private sector workforce, making Colorado the third biggest contributor to the national tech economy. In 2012, Colorado’s tech payroll amounted to $15.8 billion.

Tech wages are 98% higher than the average private sector wage, and the industry is the 7th-best paid in the United States. This skilled workforce is generating solutions to everything from the energy deficit to space travel. The further out of the big industrial centers tech companies base themselves, the lower the overheads - and the higher the potential wages. No wonder talented tech workers are eschewing the glamor of Silicon Valley in favor of better paid jobs in surroundings that are perhaps less illustrious - but also less cut-throat.

This tech diaspora has been facilitated in part by SEO campaigns that are increasingly targeting niche markets for highly specialized - and regionalized - products and services. Most tech companies are no longer aiming for world domination; they simply want to maximise their ROI by advertising only to those people with a high likelihood of purchasing their product.

Industry analysts are convinced that towns like Naperville have the capacity to become key tech hubs. Tech workers are starting to see the benefits of working in smaller towns, where they can commute quickly to and from work - without sacrificing their resume or salary. And why not? After all, their products and services are opening up a global village in which everybody can be a major player, irrespective of geographical location. To sell this new reality without believing in it is a contradiction too big for the bright young things of tomorrow’s technology industry.

 

October 21, 2014

Five Telltale Signs of a Text Scam

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Email and snail mail scammers have added a new, very personal communication medium to their fraud arsenal: SMS. Text messaging scams are unfortunately becoming more commonplace, and as such it’s important to know what the indicators of such scams are. Check out five surefire signs of a text scam and know what to look out for should you receive strange messages: 

 

1) 11-Digit Numbers

Text messages from legitimate businesses are actually sent from the company’s number and do not come from unidentified mobile numbers. This is true even if the text body includes the name of the company, so don’t be fooled if a strange number claims to be a particular company.

 

2) “Winning” Raffle Prizes

Plenty of text scams begin by saying the user has “won” a raffle and includes steps on how to claim the supposed prize. Designed to trick users into handing over money or load credits in exchange for the prize, these fake winnings certainly spell scam. Remember that unless you entered into a specific contest, there’s no real prize at the end of the text message tunnel. Never, ever offer bank or similar information to “raffles” you did not enter.

 

3) “Share-A-Load”

Another way text scams extort user money or load credits is via “Share-A-Load” transactions. This scam accuses the subscriber of racking up additional charges. It gives the victim a message format to send to a mobile number for a “refund.” The message often looks as follows: [Company Name] LTE Advisory: Your postpaid account has been charged P500 for LTE use. Is this a wrong charge? Text 500 send to 2936XXXXXXX for REFUND.” Additionally, adding the ‘2’ in front of the 10-digit cell number turns the message into a “Share-A-Load” transaction.

 

4) Problems With Relatives 

Text messages claiming trouble with relatives who live abroad is one of the most common text messaging scams in existence. The “relative” has an issue while living or traveling abroad and requests monetary assistance through load credits or money transfer services using a “new” prepaid number. This new number is another way to trick users into Share-A-Load transactions.

 

5) Government “Messages”

Government agencies do not, repeat, DO NOT perform transactions through text messages. Any text message claiming to be from any government agency is a definite scam, including those that note raffle prize wins. The “agency” may not even exist.

Instead of responding to text message scams, inform your service provider of suspicious activity. Report all mobile numbers used, and never provide bank information or send money. The more informed you are, the better off you’ll be should you encounter a text message scam. 

October 20, 2014

Baltimore Maps Addiction with Text Messaging

SMS Messaging has had a major impact on healthcare processes. Everything from appointment reminders to internal communications in hospitals are being achieved more effectively than ever, and it’s all down to the humble text message.

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In recent years, one of the most powerful applications of this technology has taken place in Baltimore, where it’s being used to help addicts in recovery. A National Institutes of Health lab located in East Baltimore provides methadone and testing to the addicts who attend. Unlike many other rehab programs, addicts don’t get thrown out if they relapse. Why? Because the data they can provide is far too valuable to researchers investigating the causes of relapses.

This data is being gathered via smartphones specifically programmed to help struggling drug users track their cravings and relapse episodes. The phones beep randomly throughout the course of the day with a text message asking questions like: Where are you? How are you feeling? What are you doing? Who are you with?

The scheme aims to identify the events and situations surrounding relapses. What are the events, places and people that trigger drug use? What happens in the precise moment an addict decides to use? 

In addition to cell phones, addicts carry GPS loggers to track their movements. Researchers can see the whereabouts of participants, identifying particular blocks or parts of town that precipitate a relapse. Knowing the location of an addict when they use – or think about reusing – is helping the team better understand the patterns of behavior that lead to a relapse.

The scheme is not the first SMS-based solution to treating addiction. Problem drinkers have been helped by a text message program that monitors their alcohol intake. Participants took weekly surveys and, depending on their responses, received automated text messages containing words of encouragement or recommendations for limiting alcohol consumption. The results showed that, on average, heavy drinkers can cut their intake by up to half by using such a scheme.

The nature of the platform is well-suited to self-monitoring and the setting of short term goals. People generally carry their phones everywhere, making them the perfect tool for reminding people to stay aware of unhealthy behaviors. Even just being told to ‘hang in there’ can work wonders for problem drinkers who are trying to keep on top of their alcohol intake. Mobile technology gives addicts a pocket clinician-cum-counselor that won’t let them down.