Feature Article

November 08, 2012

Did You Notice Your Mobile News App Couldn't Keep Track of the Election? Sybase 365 Suggests Texting

You may have noticed the push notifications that alert you to breaking news (whether your smartphone is on or off) were late during the election – some as late as 90 minutes. So when there was a big news story to push out – such as, for example, that Barack Obama had been declared to have won the state of Wisconsin – the information took at least an hour to get from the news providers to a push notification on your mobile phone.

The problem wasn’t that news organizations were slow to post election wins online. Twitter for example saw record activity. The problem is that smartphone apps are built on old Web architecture. Or at least this is what Jonas Jacobi, the CEO of Kaazing - a company very focused on HTML 5 - believes.

"The use - or I should say the lack of use - of modern Web technology to deliver live real-time information about an election to the people of the United States of America in 2012 is embarrassing. In addition, the top media outlets are using Flash-based solutions when most, if not all, smartphones and tablets are not supporting this technology - wake up, it's 2012, not 1996. It wouldn't cost a fortune with today's modern Web technology to build a system to provide all viewers and voters with an accurate and truly live view of the progress of the election,” Jacobi said.

Why is this an important issue? Well, SOASTA - a company that provides app, cloud and mobile testing, recently conducted a survey of 2,346 Americans, and found that a majority of Americans - 61 percent - admitted that they now rely on mobile apps and websites over traditional newspapers and TV. A significant 34 percent of them rely on apps for breaking news, 23 percent of them said they would rely on mobile apps for the presidential election results and 16 percent would use them for local election results.

Jacobi's perspective is, of course, somewhat self-serving, seeing as he runs an HTML5 company, but there is never the less a great deal of truth to the HTML5 story here. Not convinced? Check out this article than coincidently ran just today, with the perfectly appropriate title, HTML5 is the Best Mobile Strategy Period - Now Deal with It."

That's one approach. Sybase 365 has another.

When All Else Fails, Texting Always Works

Sybase 365 - the mobile services arm of SAP - and a major global player in mobile interconnection and mobile commerce services, reported significant text messaging (SMS) traffic between 6:00 p.m. on Election Day until 4:00 a.m. EST. The company kept careful track of traffic as Americans shared their reactions to ongoing election results. SMS peaked at more than 106,000 messages per second at just around 11:20 p.m. EST - right after news organizations began calling Ohio and the rest of the election.

As might be expected, the major battleground/swing  states saw huge spikes in SMS traffic. For example, look at Virginia, Florida and Ohio compared to national traffic and all other states to see what impact the three major battleground states had at the end of the day. As the chart below shows, Florida and the other two contributed significantly to the peaks through the evening. In fact, SMS messages from the Florida area codes were almost double the norm for that time.

The chart below shows that messaging traffic was 60 percent above normal on Nov. 6 from 11:00 p.m. to midnight, from midnight to 1:00 a.m. and from 1:00 to 2:00 a.m. timeframes and 40 percent above normal from 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. before it finally dropped back to normal levels.

On the larger national front, SMS traffic peaked at 11:20 p.m. on November 6th, at exactly the point in time when news organizations began calling Ohio and the election.

Finally, let's look specifically at Ohio. Probably the single most important swing state, Ohio saw major surges in SMS traffic - almost exactly the same arc and reaction - as the national data showed, though the peak is even higher than the national numbers.

SMS clearly remains a key means of communication, even in the face of all sorts of sophisticated smartphone mobile apps. In fact, SMS is clearly the more reliable and timely means of doing so when compared to the 60 to 90 minute delays many experienced on receiving mobile app updates, as we noted earlier.

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