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Making more of SMS – much more

Almost everyone knows about text messaging, and sometimes it seems that everyone is texting someone somewhere all the time. Perhaps less familiar, but equally ground-breaking in many ways, is the new ingredient that has been added to the ’recipe’ to make SMS even more dynamic – BookIT’s iSMS.

Matti Makkonen, the father of SMS.
Back in the early days of mobile technology, some 20 and more years ago, no one really anticipated that SMS – or Short Message Service text messaging, to give it its official name – would become the runaway success that it has. Young people, in particular, love the convenience of text messaging, and love the low cost as well. The popularity of SMS goes much further, though, and extends to virtually everyone, from the under-10s to the over-80s.

In fact, not even the ‘father’ of SMS, Matti Makkonen, who was also closely involved in many other aspects of defining the technological foundation for today’s mobile world, fully realised how popular it would become – although he was among the first to add it to the ‘wish list’. Although he never became a multimillionaire on the basis of his pioneering idea, as it was shared among operators rather than patented, Makkonen has received widespread recognition over the years, including an Innovation Award from The Economist in 2008.

Despite the already massive usage of text messaging, Matti Makkonen believes that there is still a lot of potential left in the technology, and a lot of his time today is spent in promoting the importance of new applications and services. One of the companies that he is involved with, as a shareholder and a Board member, is BookIT.

BookIT has made a name for itself by developing iSMS, an interactive, easy-to-use platform for SMS-based transactions. Perhaps the most prominent customer to make use of the technology so far has been Finnair, and it has proved very popular with its frequent flyer passengers. The service is simplicity itself to use and enables passengers to go directly to their gate with an iSMS boarding pass on their mobile phone.

Finnair’s passengers have really taken to mCheck-in, based on BookIT’s iSMS technology, as it allows them to go straight to their gate without queuing.

The added ingredients

BookIT’s patented iSMS technology provides mobile push services and interactive dialogues that go well beyond the limitations of ‘vanilla’ SMS.

BookIT’s ‘One button response’ method keeps everything very simple for the user, who is not required to remember service numbers or identification codes, which can often be the Achilles heel of conventional solutions. iSMS does this by adding message-specific ‘fingerprints’ to each message that are transparent to networks and enable the technology to be used anywhere text messaging can be used. Messages are delivered as standard SMS messages, and authenticated by iSMS servers using these fingerprints.

BookIT DDM (Dynamic Dialogue Matrix) technology – the heart of iSMS – enhances the standard SMS infrastructure with a unique Intelligent SMS capability that includes session management and automatic secure authentication to enable easy-touse and secure communications between applications and mobile phones. Application-to-person dialogues and transactions, and asynchronous iSMS sessions, are managed via industry-standard server platforms and standard Internet protocols. Together with universal SMS connectivity, this enables applications to be deployed very rapidly.

Working with BookIT, the Helsinki Rescue Department has developed mRescuePlanner to cut delays and alert personnel more effectively. Photo: Tekes, Susanna Lehto 2008.

Sounding the alarm more effectively

Working with BookIT, the Helsinki Rescue Department has developed mRescuePlanner, based on iSMS technology, to cut delays and alert personnel more effectively.

The department’s personnel and workflow management software can now call personnel in to work automatically by sending them an iSMS message. All personnel need to do to acknowledge is send a ‘One-button’ response.

The department’s personnel management application prompts BookIT’s iSMS centre to send confirmation messages, request more personnel, and to indicate real-time status on the screen of the personnel management application. The data generated during the process is automatically stored in the application’s database to be used for things like salary payment and planning shifts.

mRescuePlanner eliminates unnecessary phone calls and other time-wasting operations, and is easy to use because personnel are not required to activate the system or remember any service numbers, passwords, or other instructions.

 

Finnair’s mCheck-in

Finnair was the first airline in the world to enable passengers to check-in in advance for flights via SMS. The company’s mCheck-in service enables Finnair Plus frequent flyers to go directly to their departure gate when travelling with hand baggage.

Before departure, Finnair’s iSMS-based system sends passengers a check-in text message, which passengers confirm simply by answering with a letter A, after which Finnair sends a reply detailing gate and seat information.

The mCheck-in service has proved very popular with passengers because of its ease of use, time savings, and the fact that it works on any GSM phone and with any operator. Over 75% of frequent fliers given the iSMS option use it today. The service is complimentary, with passengers only paying for their reply SMS.

The success of the mCheck-in service has seen Finnair use BookIT DDM technology to launch a check-in service for Finnair Plus customers using a 2D-barcode boarding card delivered as a multimedia message (MMS). Initially available for passengers flying from Copenhagen, the 2D-barcode replaces traditional paper boarding cards and can be used in airport shops, security checks, and at gates.

Finnair has also recently started using iSMS to update passengers on departure and luggage delays, as well as cancellations.

> Jukka Salonen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)