SMS Emergency Response, text loops and tactical communications

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Best practices for sending text message blasting

Tool Characteristics

  1. exportable message data
  2. ability to set rules about who can send/subscribe
  3. short codes are way easier than 10 digit numbers for signing people up
  4. manages scale, no delays, able to handle 1000s of subscribers
  5. costs

Tool Survey

Off the shelf SMS tools

  1. TextMarks - using on current mobilization projects
  2. BeGrouped - maybe falling down a bit
  3. Cel.ly - current mobilization projects in NY; able to phone blast
  4. GroupMe - doesn't charge for SMS delivery and can use platform messaging on smartphones
  5. MobilizeUs - Cheaper
  6. Beluga/FacebookMessaging
  7. MobileCommons(mCommons) - nonprofit org

Off the shelf alternative tools

UrbanAirship - delivers only to smartphones with much cheaper GroundCrew.us to see the location of a group of trusted folks carrying GPS aware smartphones - uses google latitude - cellphone carriers all have locations LocationLabs will sell location of cell users who have "agreed" to be tracked

FrontlineSMS -- put a mobile card into a server Revolution Messaging can supply short codes faster and supply consulting services in addition to SMS services


Use Cases

Large, general subscription lists for emergency alerts/fast response

tactical loop; restricted membership; goes to contacts within different constituencies on day-of

medical loop

legal loop

flash mobs request loop

working group for organizing

What's up With Text

Actual Text Message costs are divided between the receiver and the sender

pass-through costs are about 2cents a message once you get to scale

No systems deliver to low-costs carriers ( i.e. MetroPCS )

Obtaining your own short code is expensive and can take months to apply for

Twilio/Tropo can scale for building SMS/voice apps

costs may not be comparable

require a developer to build services on top of the API

Carrier and tech fragmentation is scary/closed system; are open alternatives on the horizon

Sending SMS or having a short code allows people to pull money from the users phone bill to their account, i.e. short code donations.

With smartphones there alternative ways of sending and receiving messages, which can decrease costs

FreedomPhone is a distribution of Android to improve security; IMEI number may be the same regardless.

OpenBTS is based on GNU Radio project and lets you build your own cellphone tower for act $2K-used at burning man or in disaster recovery scenarios