We now turn our attention to existing SMS applications. Earlier in this chapter, we quoted the number of short messages sent via SMS. What types of applications are supported by SMS that result in a worldwide acceptance of the service, leading to its success? Our research shows that operators and service providers have come up with various innovative services that appeal to the users by making it convenient and easier for their subscribers to access various information and services that they require in their daily life, e.g., access to banking services without requiring customers to be present physically at the bank in order to execute a transaction. Below are a few examples of SMS applications, moving from those that are noncritical to the more critical ones, followed by a discussion on the issues involved in providing these services.
An instant messenger is a way to communicate with friends on the Internet. It provides a facility for two or more users to exchange text messages in real time, very much like having a real conversation. One popular instant messenger service is Yahoo! Messenger. Instant messenger applications usually run on desktops, but Yahoo! introduced a new instant messenger service that allows users to run the application on their mobile phones, thus, allowing mobile phone users to send and receive messages with friends online anywhere , anytime . Users are no longer restricted to their desktops, as they can now send messages while they are on the go.
The concept of Yahoo! Messenger is that you have a personalized private list of selected friends, organized in your own custom groups. It indicates when your friends are online or offline and gives you an opportunity to send them messages. Basically, it is a messaging and presence awareness application.
In order to use all the features on Yahoo! Messenger for SMS effectively, you first need to be a Yahoo! Messenger user and have at least one "friend" on your messenger friends list associated with Yahoo! ID. Once you have a Yahoo! ID and at least one friend on your Yahoo! Messenger friends list, you can start sending and receiving SMS messages from your Yahoo! Messenger friends. Among the benefits of the SMS support by Yahoo! Messenger are:
Round-the-clock access to Yahoo! Messenger anywhere, anytime via your mobile phone.
Flexible and fun: You can stay in touch with friends and family regardless of where you are. You can keep your self updated on the latest news of your friends.
Convenient: The cost of using Yahoo! Messenger SMS is billed directly to your mobile account.
Useful: Send and receive messages with people who are logged in to Yahoo! Messenger.
Each message is charged according to the standard SMS contract rate, but there is no charge for receiving system messages such as "friends list help information".
There are two types of SMS chat, i.e., public chat and private chat. A public chat room gives users access to randomly generated lists of active participants in a chat room. A user can also request a description of each user. Alternatively, a user can set up her own private chat room via SMS and send out invitations for other users to join her. A maximum of five people can be in a private chat room at any time. Users may choose to chat with all members in the room or with selected user(s) behind the scene.
What are the benefits of SMS chatting? As far as operators are concerned , the service increases SMS, GSM data, or general packet radio service (GPRS) traffic, which is good for business. It also creates a sense of community among subscribers, which in turn increases subscribers' loyalty. There is a growing market of users from the teenage group and this service caters to their need to combine different types of communication using mobile phones and desktops.
From the consumers' point of view, this service provides yet another means of communicating with their communities in addition to the conventional Web access via PC and advanced PC-client with mobile PC. The service provides support for personalization features, where the appearance and sound effects of the chat client can be customized with downloadable screens and sounds. To many, chatting is a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family.
Figure 5 shows a few examples of chat instructions.
TransSMS is a multilingual SMS solution developed by the Faculty of Computer Science and IT, University of Malaya, under the Intercultural Collaboration Experiment 2002 (ICE 2002) project, which is headed by the Department of Social Informatics, Kyoto University. Other participants in the experiment are Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, and Handong University, Korea. Because one of the unique characteristics of this experimental project is the pursuit of collaboration among heterogeneous groups across country borders, English was not used as a standard language. One of the objectives of the experiment is to see if the participants are able to break the language barrier through the use of machine translation tools.
One of the observations made during the initial stage of the experiment was that lengthy messages are often not translated correctly, and hence, the other parties were unable to comprehend the messages. On the contrary, short messages are more likely to be translated correctly. At the moment, SMS messages are limited to 160 characters (a standard in mobile devices). Taking into consideration the feedback from other teams and the current state of the translation engine, SMS would indirectly limit the length of messages and hopefully result in better translation quality.
Another motivation is due to the fact that SMS usage has increased tremendously in Asia, especially in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and China. TransSMS will further enhance this service by providing a translation tool that not only allows people to send and receive messages in different languages but also doubles as a pocket translator for a tourist who does not speak the language of a country s/he visits .
TransSMS provides features that enable users to send and receive text messages in different languages. At the moment, the languages supported are Malay, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English. The first phase of the experiment has been completed recently and provides a fully functional Web-based interface that allows users to send multilingual messages via the Web browser to hand phones around the world (see Figure 6). The current constraint is users have to use the Web-based SMS to send messages to other mobile users.
Figure 7 shows the main screen of TransSMS. The network option allows the user to select a supported network and it helps ensure that the telephone number is in the correct format. The telephone number consists of the country code + network number + hand phone number, e.g., to call a MAXIS line 888 3242 in Malaysia, you would key in 60128883242.
The message language combo boxes allow the user to specify the language of the original message keyed in the message area and the language it is to be translated to. Figure 8 shows an example of a message in English that is to be translated to Chinese. Upon clicking the Translate button, the message is translated into Chinese as shown in Figure 9. Clicking the Send button sends the message to the intended recipient.
In the second phase, several additional features will be incorporated:
A service to allow users to not only receive multilingual messages on their hand phones but also to send multilingual messages using their hand phones, thus, eliminating the current constraint that requires users to use a Web browser to send an SMS message.
A WAP interface of the HTML version will also be provided for mobile users with WAP access.
A security feature to avoid message tampering.
A text-to-speech engine will be included to permit the translation to be "read" to the user by the hand phone.
Incorporation of a Unicode converter into the sending process itself so users do not have to manually convert it as in the prototype version.
Figure 10 shows the proposed enhancement to the existing TransSMS. The main objective of this project is to develop an enhanced SMS service that can be used by telecommunication companies in the four countries to provide a value-added service to customers. Eventually, this technology can be used by telcos all around the world to improve the quality of their service as well as increase the number of subscribers. The enhanced service will give an upper hand to telcos that have a vision of bringing the citizens of the world closer together.
Online SMS Business is a full featured messaging system targeted for businesses. It provides support for customized corporate logos and design. It incorporates a full address book functionality that provides users with all vital contact information and the capability to mass upload mobile phone numbers , which guarantees that messages are delivered quickly. It allows a user to send a message to several parties simultaneously , quickly, and easily using their mobile phones. This is especially useful, for example, when one needs to get in touch with teams dispersed on different locations. A single message can reach thousands of your colleagues in the time it would take you to call one person. In the past, you would have to type the same message over and over again or call each person. On the contrary, Online SMS Business provides an inexpensive means of communicating directly with one or several persons wherever they are.
Since charges are made to the company's Online SMS Business account, this application also provides functions to allow management to keep track of SMS usage by its employees . Among the functions provided are a complete online account administration report, access control, selection of recipients, and a function to restrict the number of messages that can be sent by individual users within a company.
Online SMS Business provides advanced messaging features designated to keep message management effective and efficient:
Complete mail merge using Online SMS Business and Microsoft Excel that can be used to customize and personalize messages, for example, to advertise special offers and results.
Message templates make the sending of messages more efficient by creating templates for frequently sent messages.
Create recurring, scheduled, and delayed messages to make message management more effective.