Today SMS will celebrate its 25th anniversary. On this date in 1992, Neil Pappworth a developer at the time at Sema Group working on Short Message Service Centre (SMSC) technology for Vodafone UK.
Initially the idea was for Vodafone UK to utilise the technology as a paging service and since mobile phones at the time lacked keypads and touchscreens Neil typed the first message on his PC with it reading “Merry Christmas”, and sent it to a Vodafone collegue who was enjoying his office Christmas party.
SMS was first adopted by telecoms operators to send information to their customers and ‘txt’ing didn’t really take off until several years later, once handsets were able to send and receive messages and users could send SMS to people on different networks. However, by the turn of the century SMS was widely used globally and well on the way to revolutionising the way we communicate with eachother.
As mobile phone technology rapidly developed and the rise of the smartphone swept through the industry on the back of affordable mobile data many consumers turned to IP messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger seeing a downturn in person-to-person (P2P) messaging.
Despite stiff competition from OTT applications in recent years SMS remains ubiquitous, and the humble ‘txt message’ is making somewhat of a resurgence through A2P (application-to-person) SMS where businesses and organisations rely upon it as the default mechanism to reach their customers.
SMS continues to save money through healthcare providers successfully reaching patients with appointment reminders and thus reducing cancellations, enabling banks and online service providers to improve security and reduce fraud via SMS authentication and charities such as the Samaritans reach vulnerable people who feel secure txt’ing over talking over the phone.
A2P SMS also has a bright future as many talk it up as an integral ‘failsafe’ mechanism within emerging industries including the exciting ongoing revolution in autonomous vehicles.
Fresh from the Messaging & SMS World show in London this week it was interesting to understand the potential fit for SMS within the rapidly developing IoT and AI landscape.
There was much discussion in terms of IoT and SMS at this year’s event, and it’s long been established that for many IoT applications SMS is, and is likely to remain as the default modus operandi, particularly within vehicle management. SMS powered IoT devices suck a lot less power than ones that rely upon constant cloud access making safety critical applications an obvious choice, and in-turn providing a multitude of opportunities from healthcare to energy for SMS growth in the future.
It was interesting to hear speakers and delegates discuss the complementary ways in which SMS can ultimately support IoT and how it’s seen as a failsafe mechanism in the event of failure to access the cloud, particularly relevant to safety critical applications.
More subtle is the use of SMS as a way for IoT manufacturers to communicate with their customers. Security is, as ever, a high priority, and with recent high profile DDoS attacks being staged from IoT devices it’s an area that IoT developers and manufacturers need to get right.
Your average consumer is not focused on network security as they install their latest IoT devices, yet manufacturers clearly cannot afford to ship all devices with default username and password settings.SMS can be effectively utilised by IoT vendors to communicate with consumers to insure they register and authenticate their IoT devices. Furthermore as evidence of network fatigue on apps that push notifications to consumer’s mounts, SMS can help guarantee the delivery of instructions surrounding ongoing critical software updates for devices.
Next up, and as ever a hot topic at the event was the big ‘AI’, specifically machine learning and bots. To be honest Artificial Intelligence is being strewn around as click bait across pretty much all tech sectors. At Messaging & SMS World we were presented with a pitch from a vendor claiming that their machine learning, artificially intelligent software would allow operators and aggregators to monitor SMS traffic, classify it, apply profiles and then the software would learn what was profitable and automatically manage this traffic, helping to block/reduce spam and low value traffic. To many this all simply sounded like big data analysis and pattern matching software, which SMS firewall vendors have been doing successfully for some time. Watch this space.
Bots again are attracting a lot of press coverage, however in the Telco sector there is cause for cheer on this front from the likes of T-Mobile who are successfully reducing churn by using bots to essentially frontend their support FAQs. It would follow that you could augment SMS interactions using bots. A vendor at the event described how they were successfully using SMS bots in conjunction with financial institutions to increase sales of their products in developing markets. The premise of this interaction seems to be that consumers weren’t always sure whether they were talking to a real person or a machine. But hey who cares, as long as you get a sale? Even the panel moderator raised the question of ethics on this one.
This leads us nicely back to the fundamentals of why A2P SMS is seeing such growth and why we must be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. My appointment reminder from my dentist, notification that my Amazon parcel has been shipped, and that there’s been unusual activity I need to verify on my bank account are genuinely useful to me. With SMS being ubiquitous across all mobile devices I don’t have to download yet another app or dive into multiple chat groups to retrieve messages, and unlike my email my SMS is relatively immune from spam. Long may this remain, and long may A2P SMS drive growth and instill confidence in this corner of the Telco market.