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July 18, 2014

Taco Bell Text Message Lawsuit Dismissed

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A federal appellate court has ruled in favor of Taco Bell after a lawsuit accused the restaurant chain of violating commercial text message legislation.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling that said Taco Bell was not responsible for SMS messages sent to consumers by a marketing agency in 2005.

The promotion at the center of the legal drama allegedly saw twelve franchisees in the Chicago area send text messages to local residents asking them to vote on two varieties of the Nacho Bell Grande item. Ad agency ESW outsourced the mobile strand of the campaign to a company called Ipsh (now the Marketing Arm).

A woman from Georgia sued Taco Bell in the wake of the campaign, claiming she had received two unsolicited text messages – a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prohibits companies from using automated dialing systems to send cell phone communications without the recipients' consent. After the judge dismissed her case, the plaintiff decried the ruling as a “blueprint for retailers to evade liability for transmitting spam text messages en masse to the public.”

During the case, Taco Bell denied involvement in the text message campaign, which was put together by a group of local franchise owners and Ipsh, without the knowledge or consent of the parent company. According to court papers, Taco Bell successfully argued that it played “no role in the decision to distribute the message by way of a blast text or that it ever reviewed any proposed text message, or even knew about the outgoing text message component of the local promotion.”

The TCPA was recently updated to reflect the shift towards mobile. Historically, advertisers could depend on pre-existing business relationships (such as a prior purchase). Now, mobile marketing campaigns must obtain express written consent in order to contact consumers.

The court’s decision has probably made it harder for consumers to sue advertisers for campaigns that potentially violate the law. It could prove to be a landmark ruling. It’s certainly dealt a blow to opponents of aggressive marketing strategies. Whether or not it sets a precedent remains to be seen. 

July 08, 2014

New Mexico Joins the Growing Clampdown on Distracted Driving

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The rate at which states are banning texting while driving is one of the most dramatic displays of legislation shifting with popular public opinion in recent memory. Forty-four states have now added their name to the list of jurisdictions in which all drivers are banned from texting.

The drive to reduce road deaths has been remarkably free from distractions – and few could oppose such well-intentioned laws (those few being, so far, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma). The latest state to say ‘no’ to distracted driving is New Mexico, where a ban on all texting and driving took effect last Tuesday.

Under the legislation, drivers are prohibited from sending or reading texts and emails – even if they are at a stop light or stuck in traffic. New Mexico motorists are also banned from searching the web on smartphones or other mobile devices, but the law does allow them to pull over to the side of the road to send or receive SMS messages. Anyone in breach of the text messaging law faces a $25 fine for a first offence, and a $50 fine for subsequent violations.

According to the bill’s main champion, Santa Fe democrat Senator Peter Wirth, the law will “save lives and make roads safer.” "New Mexicans need to understand that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving," Wirth continued. "If you have to look at your phone, pull off the road."

Before the Legislature updated their distracted driving laws, New Mexico’s strictures on texting and driving extended only to teenage drivers with a provisional or learner’s license. Expanding that to encompass all drivers means New Mexico joins 43 other US states and a growing number of other North and Central American jurisdictions to have banned all texting and driving incidents.

Similar laws are being passed all over the world. The legal response to such deadly behavior has been swift, and reflects a wider societal intolerance of activity that puts irresponsible drivers and other road users at enormous risk.

There are some caveats. New Mexico will allow a text to be sent from behind the wheel in an emergency situation, provided the message is being sent to a medical team or emergency service unit. Nevertheless, this new legislation is a resounding victory for the majority of drivers who recognize that the only text message important enough to endanger lives is one that intends to save them.

June 27, 2014

World Cup: Yo App Sends Text Alerts When Goals Are Scored

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Every four years, the World Cup serves up a thrilling taste of the best footballing talent on the planet, but for developers, the month-long extravaganza is an opportunity to capitalize on soccer fever. And although there was no shortage of apps released during the 2010 tournament, smartphone ownership was leagues below where it’s at now. Mobile-powered football fandom has finally come of age.

The app everyone is talking about this time is “Yo”. It helps subscribers keep track of all the goals scored during the competition by sending text message alerts to users who add the user name “World Cup” to their account.

Unlike other sports news apps, no further information is sent. Yo doesn’t send the name of the scorer, or even which team they’re on. Users receive the titular two-letter greeting as a kind of ‘heads up’ to look out for coverage of the goals. It may sound rather limited, but it’s all part of Yo’s attempt to carve out a ‘contextualized messaging’ niche in a crowded text app marketplace.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky – but gimmicks have their place, especially if they can claim to shave even a second or two off any of the manifold tasks we perform each day. With contextualized text messages, users can see at a glance that something they are interested in has undergone some sort of development and they should investigate further. There’s no need to even open the message. When it comes to brevity – one of the golden rules of text message marketing – ‘yo’ is as fiendishly efficient as it gets.

The app has already surpassed one million users, despite only being launched earlier this month. And while it’s riding the wave of the world’s most watched sporting event, Yo’s founders hope to carry on finding uses for contextualized SMS.

Company CEO Or Arbel believes major brands like Starbucks could use the ‘Yo’ alert to let customers know their orders are ready. So he’s certainly thinking big. Whether or not such a major brand will favor a start up’s product over their own well-established app remains to be seen, but with millions of “yo” text messages now zipping between smartphones, and an app market more exciting and unpredictable than the World Cup itself, you’d be a fool to dismiss the idea with a red card just yet…

June 23, 2014

Will the Cellphone Sweater Really Take Wearable Tech to the Next Level?

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“Smartphone” has passed well and truly into the lexicon, and some would have us believe that “smartclothes” are next. At least, that’s the message from a group of NYU students who have come up with a prototype for a hooded sweatshirt capable of sending preset text messages.

During a demonstration, the designers showed off the smart hoodie’s three triggers: touching the hood, touching the sleeve and rolling up the sleeve. Each action results in a different, pre-programmed SMS message being sent to a pre-determined recipient. 

If you’re still scratching your head wondering how many applications there could be for such limited capabilities, join the club. Many industry analysts have questioned how users will forsee the type messages they need to send at short notice – and so surreptitiously.

There are a number of other obvious limitations. Like how do you wash an item of clothing with built in electronics? And how sensitive is the technology? Is there a risk of accidentally sending a text message?

The designers say the main objective of the smart hoodie is to help people in emergency situations. With 911 texting now being adopted by law enforcers across the continent, you can imagine how a preset message might help someone in trouble. You find yourself embroiled in a bank robbery, or an outbreak of public violence, and the smart hoodie could alert authorities with the villains being none the wiser. But are there enough hyper-cautious folk out there who would actually pre-program such paranoid messages and then wear the same item of clothing every day, just in case? Without washing it in between?! Plus, 911 texting programs require users to text their location in order for the authorities to find them. How would this help if you’re out in a random public place?

Even worse, couldn’t texting police about an ongoing bank robbery make you look rather suspicious? How, they might ask as they shine a light in your face in some dingy interrogation room, did you know to preset the message? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth?

We haven’t even mentioned airport security – that’s a whole other can of worms right there. Compared to that, the benefits of wearing a secret texting device pale. And there are a few minor advantages we can think of. Tapping your sleeve is, to date, still perfectly legal whilst driving; perhaps the system could help in the fight against distracted driving by giving motorists a way to let their family know they’re getting close to home. 

If you have a busy work day ahead of you before picking a friend up for dinner, the smart hoodie could be a convenient way of letting them know you’re going to be late, without interrupting that overrunning conference call.

These applications seem pretty trivial next to the pitfalls of owning such an item. It seems unlikely that the wearable text message device – at least in this prototype form – will catch on, but it’s an interesting new direction for SMS technology, and we await the next innovation with interest.

 

 

 

June 16, 2014

911 Texting Now Available to the Deaf

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Not only did Manitoba recently become the first Canadian province to provide it’s citizens with a 911 texting service, it has also made the platform available to the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.

The new wireless text messaging program is the first of its kind in Canada. Unveiled last week by Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), the system requires hearing or speech impaired people to first register their wireless devices. 

Text-to-911 software has proven popular with law enforcement services all over North America. In May, the four major wireless carriers in the United States have been emergency SMS capabilities as an alternative to voice calls. It’s important to note, however, that the FCC says Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T only support text-to-911 in areas where dispatchers are already equipped to receive SMS.

For those areas, using the technology is very simple. Users simply type 911into the number field, and state their location and the nature of the emergency in the body of the text.

The National Emergency Number Association states that call centers equipped to receive emergency text messages can field SMS in a variety of ways. Centers without the latest SMS technology can simply upgrade their systems.

It’s hoped that more communities will adopt the technology over the coming year, and it could take several years before implementation is nationally adopted.

According to the FCC, anyone who sends a text to 911 via Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T in an area where the program is not yet supported will immediately receive a "bounce back" text informing them that their text could not be delivered. If you find yourself in this situation, you would then need to make a voice call to emergency services.

The advantages of text-to-911 are clear. In certain criminal situations, it’s not always possible – or advisable – to bring attention to yourself by talking on the telephone. Emergency text messages could save lives in such situations. Nevertheless, the FCC and law enforcers stress that when contacting 911, the first choice should always be to place a call, with SMS suggested only when a phone call is impossible or dangerous.

June 06, 2014

SMS Improving Farmers’ Lot in Emerging Markets

Mobile technology is making a major positive impact on the lives of rural workers and farmers in some of the most remote, deprived parts of the world. Since 2007, It’s estimated that individual farmers have made up to $4000 in additional profits, and saved up to twice that amount, figures that represent a significant ROI for struggling businesses in developing markets.

It’s all thanks to the pioneering work of mobile-based agri information hub Reuters Market Light (RML), a service specifically designed to help farmers by forwarding timely alerts regarding relevant agricultural information. It works like a watchdog, issuing vital information at every stage of the agricultural season, from pre-sowing to post-harvest. So far, millions of farmers across the globe have used RML, which tailors information to each farmers’ personal profile so they only receive relevant text messages. The service includes the following features:

  • Local market crop prices
  • Local weather forecasts
  • Advisory information to improve productivity
  • Advisory information to reduce risk
  • Latest agri information that could impact prices or costs

As a safeguard against unscrupulous middlemen and a globalized food chain dominated by multinational corporations, RML is unimpeachable. The impact has been felt especially strongly in India, a country whose rapid economic growth in recent years has barely raised the living standards of many rural communities.

Examples of the real-world impact of the program are legion. One maize farmer learned of the spread of bird flu in time to store his produce and wait the crises out. Forbes recently ran the story of a grape grower who began exporting produce to Russia after RML informed him that prices were higher there. Another 1.2 million farmers in India use the system to optimize their chances of survival.

It’s not just India. As China’s telecommunications industry grows at an astonishing rate, their contribution to the world of mobile becomes increasingly significant. In Kenya, mobile phone payments are helping reduce crime stats in a country plagued by literal daylight robbery; one quarter of Kenyan GDP now flows through the M-Pesa mobile payment system.

Studies have shown that introducing ten mobile phones per one hundred people in the developing world can add up to one percent to a country’s economic growth. We’ve seen compelling evidence of developing countries getting a leg up from SMS. Between making services cheaper, creating higher expectations among the citizenship, and offering greater choice, the future just looks brighter with mobile.

 

May 31, 2014

Dean & Grace Launch Text Ordering for Kids Clothes

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Clothes shopping for kids can be a perilous experience. They either don’t like anything you see, or they don’t want to go in the first place. Dragging the little ones round a mall on a Saturday afternoon can seem like a thankless task that you still end up with a huge bill for. 

Enter Dean & Grace, the boutique kids clothing store that lets you buy threads via text message. The idea is as refreshing and devastatingly simple. The company texts pictures of clothes to parents who have opted in to their SMS list. The image includes a shot of the outfit, a brief description and the size and pricing information. Customers simply reply to the message to place an order. Sign up is free, and can be done via the website, or by texting ‘Joindg’ to 76000.

On signing up, parents select the age, size and gender of their child so they only receive relevant texts. As with any reputable boutique store, supplies are limited – the first respondents get priority on purchasing the items they want. 

The number of texts your receive will vary according to inventory, as well as the size and gender details you submit. Sign up for one child and you’ll get around one text per week (opting out is a simple matter of texting “STOP” at any time).

And the clothes are cool enough even for the most jaded tween, with plenty of cute styles going on, enough to satisfy diverse tastes. In addition to carrying boutique lines from across the globe, Dean & Grace carry classic kids brands including Viva La Fete, Silly Goose, Masala Baby, Toobydoo, Trish Scully and Doodlepants. Sizes range from newborn to size 7. If you want a specific item, you just respond with the keyword “want’ to place a bid”. Shipping is free.

Demand is so high, many customers have been placed on a waitlist, so it’s important to get in early if you want a piece of the action. If you do end up on the waitlist, Dean & Grace will notify you by SMS as soon as a spot becomes available.

Shopping via text message is a thoroughly 21st Century experience. So why not give it a whirl?

 

 

May 27, 2014

Mobile Marketing Summit to Hit London in June

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Mobile phones, particularly smartphones, have revolutionized the retail industry, as shoppers rely on their phones for purchases now more than ever. The retail landscape is expected to change even more over the next three years as retailers continue to respond to consumer behavior. The Mobile Marketing Summit will hit the America Square Conference Centre in London on June 5, 2014, offering retailers the chance to examine the impact of mobile in the retail world and what they can do to stay ahead of the proverbial curve. The event will feature speakers, workshops, an “innovation lab” and more.

On Device 

The event is divided into four streams, the first of which is “On Device.” This will cover what retailers are doing to generate sales on mobile phones and tablets via apps and transactional mobile sites. Sessions include those on the “choices and challenges” retailers and brands deal with when going mobile, the common mistakes companies make when “setting up, running and optimizing their own mobile and tablet experiences,” and even a session on Domino’s Pizza! Entitled Domino’s Journey From a Bricks & Mortar to Online Retailer, the session features the brand’s head of eCommerce, Paul Francis, who will discuss how Domino’s shaped its eCommerce strategy, as well as the company’s plans for the future.

Driving Footfall 

The next event stream is “Driving Footfall,” which will cover how couponing, location-based services and mobile advertising can draw customers to both physical and digital retailer outlets. Sessions will include those on the key retail and leisure news of 2013, the future of in-store promotions and what opportunities m-commerce offers high street retailers, the power of “weather marketing,” and the many reasons to embrace mobile in the world of retail.

In-Store 

The event’s “In-Store” stream will look at how mobile can guide the shopper’s experience while in actual stores. Sessions are set to examine the future of retail in regards to SMS, insights on using mobile to enhance in-store shopper experiences, and the “bigger picture,” i.e. how brands can set themselves apart from the competition via apps, real-time Facebook integration, SMS and more. 

The Future

The final Mobile Marketing Summit Stream is called “The Future,” which (unsurprisingly) looks to the future of retail and what part mobile and similar digital technologies will play. This stream will feature two sessions in addition to a panel discussion. The first session includes Humble Grape founder James Dawson, who will share his story on how the brand’s tech wine bar project and its mobile philosophy applies to apps, purchase systems, location technologies and more. The other session will look at mobile’s influence on the total retail experience, including which trends are set to define the future of the mobile world when it comes to retail. It will also examine beacon technology and the omni-channel personal experience. 

These and other exciting events make up the third annual Mobile Marketing Summit! The opportunity to network is one of the many reasons the summit is so worthwhile. Will you be attending? 

May 22, 2014

Android Users Sue Apple for iMessage Flaws

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As smartphones become the dominant means of communication for many people, the pitched battle between platform providers is fought to lock users into their digital ecosystem. Some – like Microsoft’s Nokia X – are offering people a way out of a Google world with which many have grown disillusioned. It’s fascinating to watch, but such aggressive competition can be a headache for anyone who does make the leap and switch to another service provider. Cross-platform support is woefully inadequate.

A perfect example of this careless approach emerged this week, as iPhone owners who switched to Android found they could no longer receive text messages via the iMessage app – despite Apple’s SMS service claiming cross-platform capabilities.

The problems dates back to an old bug in the system that stems from the way iMessage was developed. As a separate messing system with end to end encryption, anyone who signs up is assured a high level of security. Their number is stored in a separate database, accesses only when another Apple device sends them a message. Other iPhone users can share text messages for free using the app, but for numbers not in the database, a charge-carrying SMS is sent instead.

Fine, but what happens when you switch to a new device? Oblivious, your contacts send you a text via iMessage, which searches for your Apple ID and keeps trying to send you an iMessage instead of an SMS. Neither type of message gets through.

Understandably upset defectors have initiated a class action lawsuit against Apple, which experts believe may ultimately involve thousands of litigants. The suit requests that Apple fix iMessage to allow users to exit the ecosystem without problems, and also seeks punitive damages. 

According to Apple, the only fix for the bug is to have every contact delete and re-add your name to their own contacts. This is an unwieldy ‘solution’ that will cause more problems than it solves. We wait with bated breath to see if Apple offers a more satisfactory answer… 

May 08, 2014

Six of the Best: Digital Wallets

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At the end of last year, MobileMarketingWatch predicted 2014 would see $8 billion spent on mobile advertising. According to their prediction, one of the key drivers of this expanding market would be the rise of the ‘digital wallet’.

In an age of widespread smartphone ownership, mobile transactions are the logical continuation of an increasingly cashless society. Convenient, secure and easily tracked, digital payments are now possible via a number of apps:

Google Wallet

Probably the best known digital wallet, Google’s app lets you pay for goods and services by waving or tapping your smartphone across a checkout reader which identifies credit card information linked to your Google account. Right now, it only works in the US with selected merchants, but more companies are adding the technology all the time. It even works with Google Glass

Apple’s Passbook

Apple’s take on the digital wallet was introduced to iOS 6. It relies on scanning 2D barcodes that help you manage anything from movie tickets to loyalty cards and coupons. Again, only a few merchants are accepting this form of transaction right now, and it’s not (yet) possible to sync it with your credit card, but as a convenient way of managing store accounts, Passbook takes some beating.

Square Wallet

The lesser known Square Wallet is available on both iOS and Android. The app links your credit card details to a fairly limited directory of merchants, and uses geo-location technology to charge you when you’re in store. A neat feature is the potential for purchasing in-store gift vouchers that can be sent to other Square Wallet users.

Chirpify

Chirpify turns your social media apps into payment systems using PayPal. It creates listings enabling you to sell items or start a fundraising project on Instagram or Twitter, all managed from a Chirpify dashboard.

Bump Pay

Just like the Bump app that lets you share photos between smartphones, Bump Pay is a free iPhone app that does exactly what it says on the tin: transfers (or ‘bumps’) money from one phone to another using a PayPal account.

Isis

Taking digital payments full circle, Isis comes with its very own cashcard, preloaded with $10. Compatible with NFC-enabled Androids, it lets you manage loyalty cards and redeem offers from selected merchants. Isis is also PIN-protected, and can be remotely frozen if your phone is stolen – perfect for security conscious digital wallet lovers.