Feature Article

December 18, 2012

Presidential Election and Hurricane Sandy are Useful Reminders: SMS is Still No. 1

By TMCnet Special Guest
Thorsten Trapp , tyntec co-founder and CTO

Hardly a day goes by without the media plotting the demise of SMS. But between the Presidential Election and the effects of Hurricane Sandy, SMS has proven to be the most effective and widely used form of communication. Here are a few key reasons why SMS is important.

When mobile networks are overloaded, the Internet is down and data doesn’t work, SMS is the only option to communicate with friends and family. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Twitter users with no Internet or data connectivity were encouraged to post and receive updates via SMS. When New York City phone lines were overloaded with as many as 10,000 calls per half-hour, Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked New Yorkers to send a text to 311692 for hurricane-related updates instead of calling.

Additionally, The Federal Management Emergency Agency (FEMA) advised that anyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy use text messages or social networks, not direct phone calls, in order to stay in touch with loved ones.

Image via Shutterstock

SMS is ubiquitous
The key advantage of text messaging is that anyone with a mobile phone – which is most of the planet – can receive an SMS. This not only makes it the premier method of communication in crisis situations, but also a factor that is often forgotten: You can reach (almost) everyone. 

SMS and politics
Amidst the hype of the Presidential candidates’ social media presence and Obama’s record-breaking tweet, it is easy to forget that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest et al create ‘walled gardens’ of communication. They are not accessible to everyone and rarely have cross-platform communication. 

These ‘walled gardens’ that exist in social media contribute to a fragmentation of communication that exists across devices, networks, operating systems and applications that was recently identified in a tyntec-sponsored report by Mobile Squared.

The lack of interoperability across platforms was thrust into the limelight during the recent presidential election run-up. There are simply too many isolated communication platforms. On most social media platforms, to access candidates’ messages, you need an account yourself. While the Web was once hailed as being a democratic way of allowing users access to information – the candidates’ present approach is in fact highly segmented and exclusive. 

Put in political terms: the public requires a democratic form of communication. Currently, the only truly democratic form of communication is SMS and Voice. 

Enabling SMS and Voice Through Virtual Mobile Numbers
There is still much work and education to be done to make the case that SMS should be used as the central form of communication in the business world. There is little realization in the market, that it is possible to create voice and SMS-enable applications, social media profiles, websites, etc. by attaching virtual mobile numbers. By doing so, it is possible to make a social media profile accessible from any device from anywhere in the world.

The Mobile Squared report outlines how interoperability can be achieved by using virtual mobile numbers. Currently, many carriers are still reluctant to sell mobile number ranges that are not attached to SIM cards for use in the cloud, as they fear this could negatively impact their core business. But a number of new applications using virtual mobile numbers are an indication that there is a growing demand and awareness of the potential in this field. 

More SMS, here and now
It is a fact that SMS is the native language of mobile and plays a valuable role in two-way communication from business to consumer. 

There is a growing trend in SMS donations as U.S. carriers reached agreements with both the Obama and Romney campaigns to enable donations via text messages. According to mobile payment company Payvia, social media sites for candidates will typically have text-to-donate options in the future. By 2016, Payvia anticipates a fully “mobilized electorate.” 

The 2012 election and Hurricane Sandy have served as a strong reminder of the importance of a simple form of communication that is accessible by everyone. 

SMS is the solution to our fragmented communication. Recent times have shown us that it’s important to communicate across various channels. Let’s start making communication inclusive again. 

Thorsten Trapp co-founded tyntec in 2002 together with Dr. Ralph Eric Kunz and developed the company's Mobile Messaging platform architecture. He is also responsible for tyntec's technical innovations and intellectual property. A communications and software expert, Mr. Trapp founded his own IT services company in 1995. He then expanded his experience in the development and hosting of scalable internet server platforms to the conception and implementation of infrastructure for mobile data transport. Thorsten studied computer science and biology at the Technical University of Dortmund.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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