Networking

Sybase unveils SMS services for mobile location and advertising

Sybase has announced two new mobile services based on SMS messaging, one for phone users to get turn-by-turn directions, another for vendors to insert ads or promotions at the bottom of the message blocks.

Both offerings are based on the SMS platform of the company’s Sybase 365 subsidiary, which processes yearly over 2 billion SMS and MMS messages that pass between subscribers on different mobile carriers.

And both offerings leverage the wide and growing use of SMS and the interactivity that the abbreviated phone numbers called SMS shortcodes create. Nielsen Mobile, a unit of The Nielsen Company, reported in December that there are 116 million U.S. regular SMS users, 57% of all mobile subscribers. A dramatic example of how mainstream SMS has become was the Barack Obama August announcement, via SMS, of his choice for vice president, part of an aggressive shortcode-based campaign strategy. Nielsen estimates that 2.9 million mobile subscribers received the announcement over 3 days.

The new SMS Locator Service is now available, initially for customers of the Sybase mBanking 365 software. The goal is to let banking customers use the SMS service to get detailed directions to their bank’s nearest ATM or branch office. And unlike Google’s recently announced Latitude service, you don’t need to download client code to your phone.

The service combines two elements. One is the Sybase natural language middleware, called iAnywhere Answers Anywhere. A phone user can key in plain text, without having to worry about grammar or spelling or about memorizing keywords or 5-digit shortcodes, such as those used in the mobile phone voting on the popular “American Idol” TV show. The second element is the geographic information and mapping service from ESRI, which can take an address, determine its coordinates, and then associate directions with it.

A mobile user sends an SMS message with his current location (address) to his bank. The ESRI GIS service identifies one or more nearby ATM locations, for example, the 3 nearest, and returns this data in an SMS message. The user types in “2” or the name of the street associated with an ATM to get its precise position in another message, along with the option of also receiving turn-by-turn directions to the ATM from his current location.

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