Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peer-to-Peer vs. Universal Access

There's a lot of discussion - and rightly so - about the ability of smartphones to circumvent the use of SMS apps to communicate from person to person.  Taking the new iPhone 4S and it's companion iOS5 operating system as an example, Apple has now embedded a native app called "iMessage" that will allow one iPhone user to talk to another.

This isn't exactly a headline-worthy innovation when you consider that Blackberry has had a nearly identical function called Blackberry Messenger (or just "BBM" by the digirati) embedded in their devices for years.  Then there's Skype, WhatsApp, Pinger and so many more that there's a whole category of "messaging apps" on app stores.  They all share a couple of things in common:
  1. You and the person you want to swap messages with both have to have the app on your own devices.
  2. Messages can only be sent from device to device, not from a machine or alerting mechanism of any kind. 

There are pros and cons here, to be sure.  It means that you'd have to convince your friends and family to all use the same apps - otherwise you'd quickly be in app overload if one preferred Skype and the other insisted on WhatsApp and yet another couldn't live without Pinger.

Then you'd have to deal with all of the alerts, notifications, app differences, etc., and know which app to use to communicate with whom.

Crazy?  Maybe.  But people like to avoid costs and SMS, when used in bulk, can cost money. 

Carriers have a vested interest in keeping SMS alive, obviously.  After all, they must certainly view SMS as a cash cow, charging $30/month in most cases for a "family unlimited" plan.  Even with, let's say, two teens in the house thumbing at a furious pace there might be four or five thousand messages per month.  At a cost analysts guess at one or two ten-thousandths of a cent per message the profit is pretty high.

(If everyone on the family plan goes completely wild and there are 10,000 messages sent in a month the carrier's cost is still only $2 - a pretty good return on the $30 charge.)

But there are a host of things that these individual apps can't do that make them inappropriate or downright unusable for the vast majority of business situations. Can you imagine a business trying to communicate with thousands of people who have signed up to receive alerts, notices, emergency notifications, etc., and having to coordinate the sending to a hundred different devices using dozens of different apps?

Even crazier.

So what's a business to do?  Simple.  The universal app that covers every phone manufactured by any maker, without having to install anything or download anything, is already here.  It's SMS.  Smart businesses are using it to send out event-triggered messages without concerning themselves about the various apps available by simply using the SMS channel.

TextPower's customers are using text messaging for a variety of things that these other apps simply can't do:
  • A valet parking company sends an automated welcome message to fliers that arrive back at their home airport telling them where they will be met with their car.  The system interfaces with both the FAA's flight tracking system and TextPower's gateway.
  • A wholesale food distributor uses text messaging to coordinate field service calls amongst hundreds of personnel who all carry different devices, on different carriers in different parts of the region.  With TextPower's API they were able to integrate it easily into their own workflow.
  • The premiere provider of felon and parolee electronic tracking bracelets uses the TextPower system to send text messages that tell the device to lock or unlock, release the battery, etc.  
Try some of that with a downloadable app.  Well, don't bother because it just can't be done.

SMS isn't perfect, of course, but it's universal, in existence worldwide, available on every single phone anywhere, and incredibly easy to set up.  It's inexpensive and can trigger actions on computers or be triggered by events that occur (utility outage alerts, anyone?) with ease.

So the next time someone wants to meet you at the local Starbucks and sends you a message through some downloadable app that shows smiley faces and sings to you when you open, we say more power to you.  But when you actually need more power, the best approach is with TextPower.

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