Companies should be careful of buying into the doomsday predictions around the demise of SMS. If they do, they will risk missing out on the excellent business opportunities that the SMS channel offers them.
There is no doubt that person-to-person (P2P) messaging has been impacted by the rise in popularity of mobile instant messaging (MIM), particularly iMessage, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), WhatsApp and Mxit. While these MIM applications offer a far cheaper way of communicating between individuals, these messaging technologies do not provide business-ready applications to communicate with staff, suppliers, customers, or consumers. This is where application-to-person (A2P) SMS messaging becomes an important investment for businesses today.
It is in the A2P messaging space where the real opportunities for companies lie, and where we are likely to continue to see growth in SMS business communications. The ubiquity of SMS as a mobile communication channel, its ability to verify mobile numbers on registration for a service, its use for one-time-passwords, and its value as an alert mechanism will ensure its longevity in the market.
Using open standards
When building business applications it is beneficial to use open standards where possible as opposed to closed proprietary services offered by individual companies.
SMS is an open standard adopted by all mobile operators and all phone manufacturers worldwide. This is unlike most P2P messaging channels such as BBM, iMessage, WhatsApp and Mxit which are all proprietary messaging services run by individual companies. If any of these companies fail, the messaging solution will disappear as well. In contrast, any number of mobile operators could fail, and SMS would continue.
One of the biggest growth areas for A2P messaging currently is in the use of SMS with smartphone applications or mobisites. For most services on the fixed internet you have to register and create a username and password. Eventually you will end up with multiple usernames and passwords for multiple services. With smartphones and SMS this is avoided. Your phone number is your "identity", and this can be verified by SMS.
Viber, a mobile VOIP service launched in late 2010, used phone numbers as the identity of users and as a means to verify users, and quickly rivalled the more established Skype, which works with a username and password.
SMS to trigger a remote event
Other applications of SMS include the use of SMS to trigger a remote event. This can offer both a cost saving and a public service. For example, in some German towns, SMS is used to control streetlights to conserve electricity costs. The streetlights are off by default, but if you need to walk home at night, you simply send an SMS to the utility provider to turn on the streetlights for 15 minutes.
Another original SMS service is offered by www.supalocal.com
which uses SMS technology to manage queues. Instead of waiting in a queue for hours, you simply register for the queue via SMS, continue with your daily tasks, and you will be alerted via SMS 10-30 minutes before it is your turn. This virtual queuing solution could be particularly beneficial for government services, such as Home Affairs or SARS, where one can end up queuing for many hours.
So, with A2P messaging used for business communications, SMS is clearly far from a dying, legacy technology. Once companies stop thinking in a PC-based internet way and start looking at the mobile eco-system in its entirety, opportunities abound for businesses to communicate better and offer improved services to their customers via SMS.