SMS News

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March 30, 2015

Maestro PMS Add SMS to Customer Service Platform

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Maestro PMS Enterprise Property Management recently announced the addition of SMS messaging to its customer service platform. The communication module is meant to make personal guest communication that much easier, and is fully integrated with Maestro PMS. It offers convenient messages for early check-in room availability, as well as spa appointment notifications, group message alerts, concierge services, and property promotions. The text message module is available thanks in part to Maestro PMS’s partnership Swift SMS Gateway® Inc., a global company supplying mobile text messaging services since 2007.

"With more guests relying on their mobile devices, Maestro launched proactive SMS communications to serve guests on property,” said Warren Dehan, President of Maestro PMS. “We partnered with Swift SMS Gateway to provide the platform to allow Maestro PMS to communicate directly with cell phone networks. Swift SMS Gateway supports international phone protocols which enables Maestro operators to reach their global visitors regardless of their phone carrier.”  

Celebrated as a highly-flexible guest engagement tool, the SMS text solution allows “independents” to update individual guests directly from Maestro PMS, such as when their rooms are ready for check-in. The tool also instantly reaches all guests in the event of an emergency, as well as specific guest populations, such as those on a business trip. 

An ideal option for independent operators looking to cultivate more personal relationships with their guests, the system also includes an app that allows housekeeping teams to efficiently coordinate their tasks. Considered perfect for any operation, no matter the size, the app provides protected access to staff and includes room attendant and supervisor modes that limit views to relevant assignments.  

“All room statuses are updated in real-time,” Dehan remarked.  “The system helps housekeeping teams coordinate their tasks with updated room assignment information to work more efficiently. Our mobile housekeeping platform puts clipboards and telephone room reporting in the rearview mirror.”  

Maestro PMS provides over 20 hotel and reservation software solutions for the industry’s “leading independent hotels, resorts, and multi-property groups.” 

Brian J. Johnson, President, Swift SMS Gateway Inc., said his company was delighted to partner with Maestro PMS.  

"Our system provides a simple seamless integration of text messaging into Maestro's front desk Guest Messaging and its back of house systems,” he said.  

Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Blackberry handheld and tablet devices, hotel groups may supply their employees with handhelds, though room attendants may also use their own devices for greater ease of use.

March 26, 2015

Pace is Using SMS to Tell People When Their Bus is Arriving

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The speedy reliability of the text message has proven useful to all sorts of businesses. As a long term mobile marketing strategy, SMS messaging is capable of nurturing the loyalty of existing customers and winning over new leads, but it also happens to be the most effective method for issuing time sensitive messages.

Bus arrivals and departures information falls firmly into this latter category, a fact not lost on Pace, who have followed the example of countless bus companies around the country by establishing a text message service for riders. The Chicago-based company had, until recently, been relying solely on its online bus tracker to disseminate information, but gave in to high demand from customers for an SMS program similar to that offered by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  

To use the service, riders must send a text message containing the word “Pace” followed by the relevant bus stop number. The bus tracker is available as both a pure text format (for people with feature phones) and a rich graphic version for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

A spokesperson from Pace said the firm had held off launching a text message service when CTA unveiled theirs. The success of CTA’s venture - and the increase in bus rider expectations it prompted -  convinced Pace that the “availability of real time information is a key source of customer satisfaction.” 

Pace makes no bones about directly following CTA’s lead, even using the same company to provide the service, and for a while considering joining the same contract. 

With a bus system that covers more than 25,000 stops and six counties, their reticence to undertake such a huge task is understandable. Even post-launch, Pace admits to having no timeline for completing the replacement of old signs with new signs featuring the shortcode and bus stop numbers. In the meantime, riders can access this information from the Pace website.

March 20, 2015

Did American Idol Help Kickstart the Text-to-Donate Fundraising Culture?

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Aside from launching the music careers of several aspiring singers, American Idol can also be credited with inspiring a new way to raise money for disaster relief. 

The show’s primary voting system, which allows viewers to cast votes via their mobile devices, became a springboard for AT&T engineer Marin Croak who realized a similar use for the technology as hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. 

Instead of transmitting fan votes via text message to an operator, Croak came up with a way to pass donations via text to participating charities. The donation would later show up as a charge on the person’s cell phone bill.

However, Croak recalls, during this time, that the use of text messaging was not nearly as popular as it is today. According to an informal poll taken in 2008 on AT&T’s website, approximately 22% of respondents reported having learned to text as a result of American Idol’s voting system—an interesting perspective attributed to the powerful reach of AI. The subsequent increase in text messaging may have also helped prepared voters to become donors.  

AT&T who originally set up American Idol’s voting system in the early 2000s, placed a patent on behalf of Croak in October 2005. And although AT&T currently maintains this patent, Croak says AT&T is not seeking to make the patent propriety—which is great news for nonprofits and disaster relief programs.

For example, in 2010 text-to-donate made its first major headline debut during the earthquake in Haiti. The relief organization collected an unprecedented $30 million via impulse disaster-relief donations— a term which describes the ease and accessibility of this technology. What’s more, these donations were collected $10 at a time. Other significant text-to-donate relief campaigns have included Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.  

Aside from generating these donations through a streamline system, nonprofits are now able to acquire donors, not just cash donations. Opening up this intimate communication channel may be more valuable than a $10 donation. Organizations can engage donors over time, build a relationship and collect future contributions. 

Notable organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, GlobalGiving, Mercy Corps, and Saving the Children have all established similar text-to-donate programs. 

Although Croak holds dozens of patents, she is particular proud of this one, which has made an enormous difference in the way people interact with their mobile devices as well as in the world of philanthropy.

 

March 10, 2015

SMS Helping Sierra Leonean Become 'Citizen Reporters'

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Advances in text messaging have extended to social causes, including those fighting disease and providing assistance to third-world communities. 

International development charity Christian Aid launched “SMS Voices” in January of last year, working in partnership with ENCISS, a Sierra Leone-based governance program funded by U.K. Aid and the European Union. The program is designed to help elected officials and citizens maintain an open dialogue, and was created by Radar, a U.K. communications nongovernmental organization.

SMS Voices trained 45 volunteers from Sierra Leone’s Bo and Koinadugu districts, including farmers, traders, students, and teachers, to become “citizen reporters.” Throughout 2014 they used text messaging to report issues of concern to their local councilors via anonymous micro-reports. Issues raised included the lack of teaching materials in schools, conflict among local groups, unsafe roads and bridges, clean water access, female genital mutilation, teen pregnancy, inefficient waste management, and violence against women and children.

Messages were received by nine participating elected officials, who were instructed to respond to micro-reports through text messaging and explain to reporters their plans to rectify these issues in their respective communities. Some said they would investigate, while others claimed they would bring the issues up at council meetings or alert the relevant police officer or mayor. Whatever the decision and outcome of the reports, an effective dialogue was indeed created between officials and citizens. 

Over 300 reports were sent during the 12-month period, and towards the end of the year some two-thirds concerned the Ebola crisis. Volunteers discussed how households were affected by quarantine regulations, reported regulation breaches, and shared concerns about infection.

“During the rebel war there were no mobile phones; now with Ebola, communication is possible,” remarked Martin M B Goba, deputy chairman of the Bo District Council. “During my time in quarantine, I was able to communicate with my ward development committee with an immediate response.” Goba lost several family members to the disease.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s helping me to improve on my job and to know the problems in my community, so that I can find solutions to them,” he added. “It has improved my interaction with civil society and shown me how to act immediately and promptly to community concerns.” 

The project has demonstrated the possibility of running low-cost, innovative programs in low-resource environments, such as within Sierra Leone, where less than 10 percent of the population have access to electricity, and a mere 2 percent use the Internet. 

“I have seen change,” remarks volunteer Evelyn Turay. “I have now seen council officials in the community raising awareness on issues around teenage pregnancy and early sexual activities [of young people] which I have been reporting on.” 

As the program progresses, it’s increasingly obvious that text messaging provides a powerful tool for helping third-world communities stay engaged and empowered.

 

March 06, 2015

Ignorance of the Difference Between SMS and MMS Could Cost You Big

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 is less than two years old, but it’s not equipped to send emojis without first converting them into picture messages - costing unwitting senders hundreds on their phone bills. Older handsets - including the Galaxy S, S2 and S3 - are also thought to be affected. 

Picture messages are also known as MMS messages, and can cost up to three times more than an SMS. Once upon a time, the high cost was somewhat justified, as MMS was the only way for people to exchange rich content between phones. Now, with a slew of apps designed to send and receive rich data (often, as with WhatsApp, for free) the MMS is anachronistic. 

A recent article in the Daily Record reported the case of a woman from Airdrie, Scotland, who ran up a £1,200 bill in just four months after sending emoticons that automatically converted to emojis which, in turn, were sent as MMS messages.  

Similar reports have appeared on internet forums, with many claiming their iPhones are affected by the problem. HTC phones are also affected, but they at least send a warning message to users that the SMS they think they’re about to send is in fact an MMS.  

UK mobile phone network provider O2 have been quick to point the finger at manufacturers, saying the issue is ‘down to the handset and not as a result of the O2 network or the settings used for the O2 service.’

O2 also said that some apps - including Facebook - that integrate a contact list from the handset may result in MMS charges as well. People are advised to disable integration between such apps and their contact list. 

There’s still no complete picture regarding which handsets are affected, but Samsung told moneysavingexpert.com that every device launched since April 2014 has a default setting classifying emojis as SMS and not MMS. For the Galaxy S4 and earlier devices, emojis will continue to be converted from SMS into MMS. Apple has declined to comment on the susceptibility of their handsets to the problem. 

The problem is one of transparancy. Are operators doing enough to inform their customers how their pricing structures work? That remains to be seen. According to Ofcom, the UK’s communications watchdog, 4% of people said they had received a high bill caused by unexpected charges for emojis, but it’s likely to have affected significantly more. Like the SMS-MMS conversion itself, not everyone will have noticed. Take a careful look at your next bill to see if you’re being charged for a service you didn’t know you were using. If it was not made clear to you when you sent the message that it was converting it to an MMS, it’s well worth complaining.

 

March 05, 2015

SMS Alert System for Pregnant Cows is Up for Design of the Year

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There are some weird and wonderful uses for SMS messaging out there, but one of the innovations up for this year’s Design of the Year award is milking the technology for all its worth.

The 76 nominees were announced last week by London’s Design Museum; they will go on display from March 25 to August 23, with the winner announced in June. Designs range from new Norwegian banknotes to high-profile projects like Google’s self-driving car.

But the gadget that’s got us most excited is a new SMS-based monitoring system that tells farmers when their cows are going into labor. If you’ve never had any experience of dairy farming you’ve probably never even realized such a gizmo was necessary, but the brilliantly-named Moocall is a promising solution to a problem that’s largely invisible to the general public.

The gadget hooks onto the tail of a pregnant cow and sends a text message to the farmer when the animal is within an hour of giving birth. It uses 3-D motion sensors and a roaming M2M SIM card to ascertain when a cow is going into labor. Other birthing monitors exist, but they are notoriously invasive and uncomfortable for the cow. Most farmers simply opt to keep vigil over pregnant cows in order to maximize the chances of a live birth. Moocall promises a reliable alert system that causes minimal discomfort and frees up vital resources that would otherwise be spent on watching and waiting. 

Designer Niall Austin first conceived the device for use on his own farm in County Offaly, Ireland, and hopes to break into cattle markets in North and South America. He told Irish Tech News: “Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable.” 

Created with the help of Irish tech firms Motech Engineering and Dolmen, Austin’s innovation went through a long development process, with a series of prototypes - tried ‘in the field’ so to speak - helping them shape the design to withstand the elements and the animal’s clumsy heft (sorry, cows - no offence).

Moocall is another example of the diversity of SMS messaging. If it didn’t send a text message it would require some other pieces of hardware for farmers to receive the alerts. That would drive the cost up and give farmers more hassle. It would also make the gadget a much less marketable product. By combining sophisticated birthing monitor technology with the simplicity and near-universal availability of text messaging, Moocall seems to provide a solution to a major setback facing dairy farmers worldwide.

February 08, 2015

Former Ad Tech Exec Investing Millions in Mobile

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Longtime mobile ad exec Nihal Mehta used to focus on ensuring advertisers invested in mobile ad platforms. Now he’s interested in assisting the new generation of mobile businesses. 

Mehta retired from mobile ad tech firm LocalResponse in 2013, now known as Qualia, where he served as CEO. He wanted to focus on mobile startup investment full-time via the firm he co-founded in 2009, Eniac Ventures. The firm raised $55 million to invest in the mobile tech landscape, and is looking to put the money into early-stage mobile startups. Mehta noted his firm is especially interested in companies who have not yet “raised a funding round,” are still in product development, and probably haven’t generated revenue. 

The areas that piqued the interest of Mehta and crew in regards to mobile startups include connected devices, personal utility, app development tools, messaging and communications, enterprise, marketplaces, and commerce. Mobile ad tech that “spans several categories” will also be high on the firm’s to-do list according to Mehta, who pointed out the increase of free ad-supported mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, neither of which run standard display ads.

"The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we've ever seen because they're going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory. It doesn't live anymore in banner ads; it lives in messaging, communications, interstitials, natively," Mehta remarked recently. He sold his mobile-marketing firm ipsh! to Omnicom in 2005.

Eniac Ventures was co-founded in 2009 with three fellow University of Pennsylvania graduates. It has stakes in Airbnb, Circa and SoundCloud, and also invested in several ad tech companies, including Mehta's former company Qualia, as well as Adtrib, mParticle, and Localytics.

As of now the company has made eight investments, including in password replacement tool LaunchKey, on-demand parking service Luxe Valet, and social commerce company Strut. Mehta and the Eniac Ventures team want to invest in at least 15 more companies by the year’s end. 

Eniac Ventures plans to initially invest $500,000 in each of the 35 startups, which equals more than the $250,000 per company. Mehta noted Eniac Ventures is setting aside two-thirds of the $55 million fund as “follow-up money”, which he plans to reinvest in the companies as they grow and become successful.

The follow-up money is essential because "in today's market you can get money from anybody," said Mehta.  "Funds that can't follow can create a negative signal to the marketplace. And oftentimes entrepreneurs want to know they're getting in bed with somebody who can support them all the way.” 

Companies Eniac Ventures invested in and have subsequently been acquired include Mobile ad-targeting specialist Metaresolver, which was sold to mobile ad-tech company Millennial Media in 2013. Ad-tech firm Beanstock Media bought mobile publishing technology company Onswipe in 2014, while Twitter acquired mobile retargeting firm TapCommerce the same year. 

 

February 05, 2015

Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Marketing Startup

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If you’re a mobile marketer, your marketing message might just be the next big thing in India, all thanks to a microblogging site’s ambitious investment abroad. Last week, Twitter purchased a startup corporation in India, called Zipdial.  

Indicative of the current ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and the decrease in their manufacturing costs, India has grown to one of the largest users of mobile phones worldwide. But the country has yet to get fully connected to the internet via mobile technology. Many people still use the mobile internet on a pay-per-site basis, with fewer than 40% of the populace having any kind of mobile internet access.

Zipdial, however, has revolutionized advertising for the burgeoning economy of the developing country. The startup allows its users to call a business’ phone number, then simply hang up. The business then registers the incoming phone number and responds with free text messages, app notifications, and even voice calls with advertisements.

This method of advertising has been dubbed “missed call” marketing. It allows users of Zipdial to receive advertisements from businesses they are interested in without having an internet connection. And best of all, there is no mobile cost to the consumer for receiving these ads. It's an effective way in, providing solutions in places many mobile marketing campaigns cannot reach.

So why is Twitter so interested in India? Because it is now one of the most rapidly growing mobile markets in the world. As cited last week in a Mobile Marketing Watch article, the Internet & Mobile Association of India and IMRB International report that the mobile internet industry of India has had unprecedented growth in 2014 – and 2015 is on par to surpass even that. Mobile internet growth increased over 25% in all of 2014, and is forecasted to grow another 23% in just the first half of 2015. Also reported in the article, rural use of mobile phones in India is expected to grow another 18%.

Zipdial boasts that its campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users, and the company is run by just over 50 employees. Mobile journalists have predicted that this technology will be effective in other countries as well, like Brazil and Indonesia. And according to reporters, these markets are key for Twitter, as 77% of Twitter’s monthly active users hail from outside the United States.

Twitter did not disclose how much they paid for the firm. But this purchase certainly exemplifies the notion that mobile technology and text marketing are proliferating immensely throughout the developing world. 

 

February 04, 2015

New App Puts Contacts in Context

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Last week saw the launch of an app that aims to to bring contextual information to existing messaging platforms. 

Rather than offering yet another variation on the seemingly endless array of messaging apps available, Blinq augments the apps people already have. Appearing as nothing more than a small white dot, Blinq subtly makes its presence felt within the interface of messaging apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and SMS. From there, it alerts you to incoming information on the person with whom you’re communicating by pulling data from a variety of social and business networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The app prioritizes this information, only alerting you to the more important updates (favoring, say, the beginning of a new job over the latest Instagram snap of breakfast).

It’s a brilliant solution to the problems caused by the multi-platform, multi-site web presence that’s now standard for many individuals. It gives you quick access to information on a person, when you need it. If, for example, a potential business partner calls you and you can’t quite recall every detail needed to avoid embarrassment, Blinq throws you a few bones to help you construct a full skeleton of their online identity. 

The app has been launched primarily as a consumer product - but the potential as a CRM tool for businesses are obvious. Other aggregator software already performs similar tasks for email exchanges - Blinq simply brings mobile in line. As a mobile marketing tool for small businesses, Blink could provide an affordable, effective solution for keeping track of customers and providing the best, most personalized service possible. 

Only available on Android right now, the developers plan to bring Blinq to iOS in the future. To do that, they have to create a more standalone experience than the one available on Android. But with half a million already raised by investors, and the product now available for perusal, Blinq hopes to expand its operation and bring the security and reassurance of contextual communication to more people.

 

January 26, 2015

What's With the Round Smartwatch Craze?

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Round smartwatches are increasingly popular, and new offerings are providing consumers with an array of fun and practical features, including those designed to keep users healthy and fit. Let’s check out some of the smartwatches on the market today, as well as those in the soon-to-be-released file: 

 

Alcatel Onetouch Watch

Available in March on Amazon, the Alcatel Onetouch Watch comes in four style options, two metal and two micro-textured resin. It supports both iOS and Android devices, which sets it apart from just about every other smartwatch currently manufactured. Controlled through a companion iOS or Android app, the watch makes it easy to a) view all the health information it’s collected about you, b) pick which apps you want to notify you, and c) manage the various ways the watch communicates with your phone.  

While watch reviews indicate the device does not provide as appealing an interface as other Android Wear options, it makes up for it in battery life. The Alcatel watch is designed to last for two to five days, under the right circumstances. Plus, health features include a built-in heart rate monitor, gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter and e-compass to measure metrics such as sleep cycles, steps, distance and calories burned. It’s also possible to make the watch ring if you misplace your phone, while tapping the screen brings up multimedia controls. The USB charging port is conveniently hidden...and small. 

The Alcatel Ontouch Watch will feature an entry price of $149, making it less expensive than some of the other options currently available. 

 

LG G Watch R 

Arguably one of the most popular round smartwatches on the market today, the LG G Watch R is a stylish option featuring “Ok Google” voice commands with Android wear, the “world’s first” full-circle P-OLED display, and fitness integration that includes a built-in heart rate monitor. The watch is compatible with most devices housing an Android 4.3 or later operating system. 

 

Samsung Smartwatch

Samsung is set to unveil a smartwatch around the time it launches its latest Android offering, the Samsung Galaxy S6. A round watch believed to be similar to the Moto 360, the Samsung S6 is currently known as  “SM-R720,” and is referred to by the codename “Orbis.” It will run the technology giant’s own Tizen OS system, and the device is expected to make a huge splash at the Mobile World Congress this March. 

Any of these round smartwatches appeal to your sensibilities?