We briefly touched on this subject last year in our May newsletter, but we've taken a quick poll round the office, and after a show of hands (well I liked the idea) we thought we'd revisit it.
As we asked then, "Why can't people vote using SMS?". This is a time when everyone's conscious of diminishing turn-outs, and asking whether getting through on a 30% showing really gives you a mandate to govern. Until recently, the lowest peacetime turnout in the UK was the 23% that attended the MEP elections in 1999.
But this was broken by the 15% overall turnout for last November's Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The Electoral Reform Society called the organisation of these elections "chaotic" and "bungled", and strongly advised against ever holding elections in the winter. After the government had spent £75m, a survey revealed nearly 90% of respondents still had no idea who their Police and Crime Commissioner actually was.
So surely allowing us to vote with our mobile - when and where it suits us - makes sense?
One immediate question is whether SMS voting would simply encourage the type of fraud we've already seen with postal votes. Some time ago Australia's largest SMS platform provider suggested their government adopt an e-voting system, which would appeal not just to the younger voter but also to those living in more remote areas. They claimed that a system of pre-registration would easily match the current level of fraud prevention built into postal voting, and that additional features like passwords and message tracking would improve security even further.
As they noted at the time, Australia's mobile phone subscriber base amounted to 98.4% of the population. It was claimed that not only could SMS voting reach virtually the entire electorate, but that they could have a result within an hour.
With these advantages, has any government been tempted to give it a try? As it turns out, it's apparently been tested in Switzerland for some years. One such e-voting system, used in the canton of Zurich and devised by a member of their School of Economics, actually won a UN Public Service Award "for fostering participation in policy-making decisions through innovative mechanisms". Despite this, the Swiss government restricted its use to just 10% of the electorate, in the hope that should something go wrong with the system, the final result wouldn’t be affected. Another Swiss town has also used SMS to vote on speed limits.
This week, like Sarah "I lost my heart to a Starship Trooper" Brightman, we're going into space. To celebrate 12 years of continuous human habitation of the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has announced its 'Spot the Station' service. Sign up and NASA will send you an SMS a few hours before the space station passes over your house.
This is expected to happen anything from once or twice a week to once or twice a month, depending on the space station’s orbit. Once you've registered your location, NASA says it will notify you of good sighting opportunities.
Flying 200 miles above the Earth, and the third brightest object in the sky (after the Sun and the Moon), the ISS is visible to 90% of the Earth's population, typically at dawn or dusk. As many nationalities are represented onboard, there is bound to be keen interest wherever it happens to pass overhead.
We all know that SMS alerts are a great way to deliver timely, relevant information to customers about matters like the state of their current account, their share transactions, and when their car's ready to be picked up from the garage. While these can be critical, they're not exactly life-threatening. But there’s another type of SMS alert that fits precisely into this category.
We're talking about early warning of natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons and bush fires. Extremely topical given the devastation recently inflicted by storm Sandy.
Last year we highlighted the US PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network) system developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and participating operators AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
A similar emergency alert system, which has been in place in Australia since 2009, has been used 500 times nationally, with more than 7 million messages being sent out to warn of storms, flood, tsunamis and bushfires.
It was recently expanded to include location-based texting over the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks, and is expected to be rolled out nationwide from November 2013. Such a system was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires which killed 173 people in the state of Victoria.
Following on from the 'We win if no-one notices anything' comment by the treasurer of the UK Internet Service Providers Association in our last newsletter, it might be interesting to see what we actually did notice about the London Olympics from a mobile point of view.
We highlighted the slowdown in race data delivery for the cycling caused by social media use by mobile phones in the Surrey and South West London area.
But there was another problem which hit the paying public in one area mobile providers should never mess with. Their half-time pie and pint.
As a global sponsor of the Olympics, and the only brand of card payment accepted at these venues, Visa had hoped to use the occasion to push a new contactless form of mobile payments using near field communications (NFC). Olympic athletes were given a special edition phone which, together with a Visa card, could be used to pay for items up to £20 in value anywhere that accepted NFC payments within the Olympic areas.
27 Link cash machines at Olympic venues were decommissioned, to be replaced with 8 Visa-only ATMs, as Visa took steps to ensure theirs was the only card that could be accepted. With up to 800,000 spectators expected every day, this was hardly going to be sufficient. Some venues, like Wembley, Earl's Court, Greenwich Park, Lords and Wimbledon would be left with no machines. Others, like the 10,000-capacity Excel centre, would just have the one.
Once again we've seen a government supressing mobile phone services in a bid to control civil unrest. This time it was the turn of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which forced network operators to suspended text messaging on their networks following the recent election in this country.
As you may expect in a country that has had a recent and very violent civil war, moving towards a democracy has been a bumpy road, with these elections being only the second time the Congolese have taken to the polling booths since the end of the civil war. The official results of the election claim that the serving president --Joseph Kabila – won the election with 49% of the vote. However the opposition --Etienne Tshisekedi—refutes these results saying that the election was "rigged" and has taken to the streets in protest. To help maintain order, the authorities have instructed Congo's network operators to suspend SMS services to prevent political disturbances by the opposition.
Last month RIM (makers of the Blackberry mobile phone) had a server crash with the result that millions of its mobile phone customers around the world were left without access to email, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and the internet for several days. The failure even prompted a few companies in North American to start lawsuits against the company for breach of contract due to the loss of service. The outage of Blackberry’s service seems to have been caused by core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure, which in turn was compounded by the failure of its back-up system. Not only did this outage anger and annoy millions of the mobile phone manufacturer’s customers, it has also done untold damage to RIM’s brand image in the highly competitive smartphone market.
Although RIM’s outage has been a tremendous setback for the company, I believe that it has also raised another issue and brought into question the reliability of program such as instant messaging for mobile phones. This issue seems particularly relevant at the moment, as several companies have recently entered the mobile instant messaging market, including Apple’s iMessenger and Facebook’s Chat.
Now there are many in the industry that have predicted that as more of these instant messaging programs are introduced there will be a steady decline in SMS usage in the developed world. Yet, I can’t help thinking that given that these systems are not fool proof (as we’ve seem with BBM) there is definitely still a role for text messaging as a part of the mobile communication mix.
Have you seen the latest usage figures for mobile phone usage in the US from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project? Well it seems that they really are a nation of texters, with nearly three-quarters of mobile users there using text messaging as well as voice. Of those that do text, just over 30 percent of them would prefer to be contacted by text, rather than a phone call, though these tended to be the really heavy users of SMS—those people sending more than 55 messages a day. The rest prefer to be called (53 percent) or said that it depended on the situation (14 percent).
Unsurprisingly, once again those aged between 18 and 24 years-old are the keenest users of SMS. Some of them can exchange a massive 100+ messages a day, which works out at more than 3,200 texts a months. On the other hand, the average American texter uses SMS about half that much, with around 50 messages per day or 1,500 per month.
With the announcement that iOS5 will be released this month and that it will include iMessenger, Apple certainly looks set to take on RIM Blackberry and its Blackberry Messenger (BBM). Supposedly, iMessenger will allow anyone with an Apple device (be it an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch) to send unlimited free text messages to anyone else using an iOS mobile device, working on 3G and Wi-Fi. Of course, the application doesn’t stop at just text messaging-- you’ll also be able to send photographs and video. It even does group messaging, as well as delivery receipts and it even has the option to get receipts when the message is read.
Now what I find interesting is how the new application handles the text messaging. It will automatically select iMessenger and use this messaging system with those that have an Apple device. For messages to non-Apple fans, iOS5 and iMessenger will send a “message failed” notice and advise you to retry or to use SMS.
As we all know, some European countries have been hard hit by the recent economic downturn, including Ireland. Given that they desperately need to reduce costs and raise revenue, the Irish have been thinking “outside the box” with regards to taxes. One possible solution that the Irish Government considered was to introduce a new tax on text messaging.
You see the Irish are very keen texters, sending up to 25 million SMS messages each day. I guess some bright spark figured that if the Irish Government was to put a small additional tax (say 1 Euro cent) on all texts, then it could amass quite a considerable sum. This would be in addition to the 21% VAT that Irish mobile phone users are already charged. This new additional tax was one suggestion put forward by the Irish Labour Party in its 2009 pre-Budget report. Now that Labour is in a coalition Government with Fine Gael, there was some suggestion that this policy of further taxing text messaging could be implemented.
The American government has decided to introduce an SMS emergency alert service to compliment the announcements that it already issues via the radio and TV. This new service is called PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network) and is designed to inform those who need to know about emergencies, as well as individuals that prefer to be notified about an emergency situation by text . The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed the new emergency alert system, and all the customers of the participating mobile network operators (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) will be able to participate in PLAN. Importantly, the emergency text message alerts service will be free of charge and individuals do not need to opt into the system.
However, there’s a bit of a catch. In order to receive the emergency text message alerts, a mobile phone must have a particular hardware chip. Of course, these are usually found in high-end cell phones, such as the latest iPhone. Plus, a software upgrade for the cell phone is also required. Phones that already have the PLAN technology built-in will be able to receive alerts by text straightway, though they can of course opt out at any time.
Every now and then you hear about some new technological development which sounds more like something from a Hollywood movie than real life, and certainly the Indigo SMS™ upgrade for your text messaging applications fits the bill. Developed by Aumne, the product is designed for use by businesses, organizations and individuals for whom security is paramount. What Aumne’s upgrade for the SMS applications on cell phones does is automatically scramble a text message when it is send and descrambles it on the receiver’s phone. The application also incorporates a password lock to prevent prying eyes from reading the text messages on an unattended cell phone. But it gets better...the system can automatically delete a message once it has been read, so there is no chance that it can be read if the cell phone gets into the wrong hands.
Of course to work, the upgrade needs to be installed on both the sender and receiver’s cell phone, but the system doesn’t use any serves in the process, so no data is held at any time during the process. The encrypted texts are simply sent as an ordinary SMS message via the customers’ mobile operator’s network. Even the texts that are stored on the phone’s SIM card are held in a scrambled mode, and only the upgrade can decrypt them.
In the States they seem to be getting hot under the collar about the increasing cost of sending text messages. The dramatic increase in SMS costs has some people claiming that the network operators are banding together to keep cost artificially high. Given that SMS only uses a fraction of the network's bandwidth, they are asking for a justification for the prices charged.
Even the American Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee is examining the fees for sending text messages, and is trying to establish if network providers are abusing their market dominance to inflate prices artificially. Those claiming it is an "antitrust" issue argue that competition should force down prices, but that the cost of sending a text message with some providers has doubled in the past five years. And this rise does not seem to be based on an increase in the cost of transmitting text messages.
In the States they seem to be getting hot under the collar about the increasing cost of sending text messages. The dramatic increase in SMS costs has some people claiming that the network operators are banding together to keep cost artificially high. Given that SMS only uses a fraction of the network’s bandwidth, they are asking for a justification for the prices charged.
Even the American Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee is examining the fees for sending text messages, and is trying to establish if network providers are abusing their market dominance to inflate prices artificially. Those claiming it is an " antitrust " issue argue that competition should force down prices, but that the cost of sending a text message with some providers has doubled in the past five years. And this rise does not seem to be based on an increase in the cost of transmitting text messages.
I love to hear about new apps that simplify things, such as the new mobile messaging system Tokes (it’s a play on a Spanish word for to touch – toque). Developed by the Spanish network operator Telefónica, the system is designed to be used for frequently sent short text messages (such as "OK" or "I've arrived"), and will send these short texts along with an icon. So for example the word “yes” comes with an icon of thumbs up. Best of all, when a user gets a 'toke' message the handset will vibrate in a particular way for each type of message so that the receiver doesn’t need to look at the handset. The system will even let the receiver decide how they want their notification to be played. And if a receiver hasn’t yet signed up for the service they will be sent an SMS inviting them to join.
Senders also benefit from the new mobile messaging system as these commonly used text messages can be written using fewer keystrokes. For example, the keystrokes used for " hello " can be reduced from 16 down to just four. Plus, the cost per toke text message is less than a standard text - you’ve just got to love that.
I am always interested in keeping tabs on technological developments - not just because it is part of my job - but also because I have a genuine interest in it. And, if it involves the mobile messaging industry so much the better. A case in point is femtocell, a cellular base station that was originally developed to help boost cell phone coverage and capacity in the home.
As any cell phone user can tell you, getting consistently good coverage indoors for your handset can be a challenge. I certainly have black spots in my house where I struggle to get adequate coverage – especially for voice. The idea is that a femtocell device would do away with these black spots, and so it has been added to a long list of gadgets that I would love to have at some point inn the future.
As if being a teacher wasn't hard enough already, it seems that more and more students are picking up their mobile phone and texting if they are bored during a lecture.
Recent research in the States by two psychology professors found that a staggering 90% of students were discreetly texting friends if they were bored during class. The students viewed it as perfectly acceptable to text a friend during class if they were bored or disinterested in the lecture. Some students are so adept at sending text messages that they can text while still watching their teacher...they don't even need to see the screen!
The recent economic downturn has us all tightening our belts and changing our spending habits. And it would seem that even the police are not immune from taking cost cutting measures. In a bid to reign in spending, the police service in Dorset in southern England has asked the ''bobbies on the beat'' to send SMS messages instead of using their two-way radio. Supposedly, the punitive tariff charged by their communication network operator if they exceed their quota of calls has put a severe strain on the police budget. Police officers have been given 16 numerical codes that correspond to buttons on their mobile phone. By texting certain combination of the codes the officers can report to the control room their location, and what they are doing - be it making an arrest, taking a break or heading back to the station. The information gathered by the messaging facility is then automatically sent to the control room''s computer.
It is easy to be tempted by new technology, believing that only the latest and fanciest gizmo will do. Mobile marketeers too can be lured into thinking that their campaigns must use up-to-the-minute technology to be a success. The current trend by many businesses is to put all their mobile marketing efforts into creating mobile application and to cater to the mobile web browsing. Yet I can't help but wonder if they may be overlooking the potential of SMS marketing. There is a tendency by some brands to concentrate on complex mobile marketing solutions creating ever richer mobile marketing content and fancier applications. Yet these brands may be "throwing the baby out with the bath water" by forgetting about the humble - yet universally popular text message. Sure, the latest technology has a "wow" factor, but I can't help wondering if sometimes businesses are missing a trick by ignoring the simplicity of SMS marketing.
Following on from Matthew's safety theme, I though I would share with you a new text message-based initiative that taxis in London have launched recently. It is designed to make taxi journeys both more enjoyable and safer for customers, and is available on either a pay as you go or monthly service. The new service is called SaferTaxi and it provides user ratings and feedback on customers' journey experiences through its SMS service - the idea being that users send a text message with the taxi's license plate number to SaferTaxi. They will then receive instant feedback on the taxi driver and details of any reported problems before they start their journey. Once they arrive at their destination they are encouraged to leave their own feedback on the drive and the taxi ride. The SaferTaxi service also offers a DoubleSafety service which lets the passenger send a text message to confirm that they have arrived safe and well at their destination. If after an hour they fail to send a confirmation text message to SaferTaxi a call is made to whoever the users has chosen as their emergency contact, be it a friend or family.
t would seem that the US State Department is getting busy with text messaging. Foggy Bottom (as it is colloquially called) has confirmed that it plans to continue its use of text messages as one of their diplomatic communication channels. Supposedly, it has also been experimenting with a few public diplomacy programmes which make extensive use of text messaging. Given that on global level cell phones are more common and widely used than PCs and the internet, the potential for using text messages as a communication tool makes eminent sense – even for the US State Department. A case in point was trip to Africa by President Obama last year, where the State Department collected thousands of questions for the President from ordinary sub-Saharan African via text messages. The questions were later put to President Obama by African journalists on a podcast.
Ever since smartphones were launched, first with Blackberry in 2002 and the iPhone five years later many businesses have put their mobile marketing efforts into applications for 3-G phones. iPhone in particular has seen a plethora of applications developed, with more than 100,000 available to download. While this many be great news for the industry that was developed around the creation of these niche applications, is an iPhone application (or any app for a smartphone) the best use of your mobile marketing budget? Although applications have a high media profile they simply do not have the breadth of reach of SMS marketing. Most mobile phones these days have access to SMS and nearly all users are familiar with its use. By contrast, it is estimated that globally smartphones will account for less than a quarter of all the mobile phones sold each year by 2013. So, for brands that want to attract mass market appeal for their products and services, using SMS marketing will give them greater reach to a broader audience.
I often find that companies trying SMS advertising for the first time are a bit unsure about what approach to take. And, to be honest, they can be a bit overwhelmed by it all. While there is no definitive right or wrong way to approach your campaign, if you are trying SMS marketing for the first time you may find the following insights useful. Your SMS list should be well targeted The list you use for your SMS advertising is vital. Make sure you target your receivers well and send the right type of message to them. It's no good sending a guy an offer on manicures - well not usually anyway. So, consider the people on your list carefully. Bear in mind gender, region, age and any other information you have on how they interact with your business. Your SMS advertising should deliver a message to the right audience with right offer.
No one likes getting spam of any sort. And now that there are moves afoot in American to tighten up the rules on unsolicited SMS advertising, as well as it being out of bounds in Australia and Europe it may be worth reminding ourselves that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Legal requirements aside, it makes sound marketing sense to ensure that your SMS advertising campaign is well targeted and working for you. This means getting user’s consent and giving them a chance to opt out, as well as ensuring that the message is branded and relevant to the receiver. SMS advertising is about creating an immediate connection and interaction between consumers and your brand and business. It lets you deliver concise, targeted messages that customers are willing to receive. So use SMS advertising to drive consumers towards your marketing initiative.
It is a self-evident truth that the most successful campaigns are those that use the right media to drive home their message to the right audience. And these days if you are trying to target the younger technology savvy market you need to reach them where they “live” – on social networks and mobile phones. So it was interesting to read recently that SMS marketing has a new advocate. This time we see the self-styled actress, socialite and hotel heiress, Paris Hilton (who has teamed up with Hair Tech International to launch her new line of hair and beauty products) using SMS technology to help boost her ‘huge’ brand. While it is true to say that Ms Hilton hasn’t always been the best role model, the use of SMS to reach out and connect with the valuable Gen Y (aged 18 – 34) market is a well targeted coup for the celebrity.