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October 19, 2007

The Most Innovative, Bizarre, Or Surprising Uses Of SMS Text Messaging

Every year, the citizens of this planet send over a trillion text messages. That adds up to over $100 Billion Dollars in texting revenues. Talking about numbers as big as these two, it's not surprising that enterprising people, companies, and organizations have found some pretty amazing (good and bad) uses for text messaging. We've scoured the web to round up 20 of the most interesting examples (again, good and bad) that we could find. Some of these you may have heard of (depending on where you live), while others will make you wonder why you hadn't thought of that, and still others will just make you scratch your head.

War - British Launch Text Message Blitz Against The Taliban
TALIBAN fighters in Afghanistan are being bombarded by a devastating new British weapon ? the text message.

Intelligence chiefs find out the numbers of the enemy’s mobile phones then send them waves of messages to confuse them and destroy morale, The Sun can reveal.

Texts range from simple abuse such as “We know who you are, give up” or “Go home, you’ll never beat us”. Others are disguised as messages from comrades to spread duff information.

The text attacks are carried out by the 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group, based at the Intelligence Corps’ HQ in Chicksands, Beds.

A military source in Afghanistan said: “If they know their fight is pointless, they are quite likely to give up.”

Government - Swiss Town Votes On Local Speed Limits Via An SMS Election
Residents of the Swiss town of Bulach are using SMS (short message service) to cast votes on a local measure regarding road speed limits. The SMS voting project will be reviewed by the Swiss government which could decide to roll out the capability across the country.

Just like for any election in Switzerland, the residents received their voting material in the mail but this time they also received a user ID and PIN (personal identification number) for voting via SMS. The letters were sent Oct. 10 and residents can use a variety of methods including SMS to cast their vote before Oct. 30.

Government - New Zealand Substitutes Text Message Reminders For Immigration Raids
Visa overstayers who might once have been targeted in dawn raids by immigration officials may in future receive kinder, gentler, texts and email reminders.

The Department of Labour – which incorporates the Immigration Service – has started sending personalised texts and emails to customers to provide "immigration information" such as permit expiry reminders, policy and fee change notifications, notices for immigration agents and information about jobs.

Government - SMS service to keep rickshaw drivers in check
The Delhi Traffic Police has launched an SMS service to lodge complaints against erring autorickshaw drivers, including those who overcharge, misbehave or harass commuters, reports Delhi Newsline.

"Complainants can now send their messages to 6767. For a complaint regarding refusal to ply, the complainant should type in ‘REF' followed by the registration number of the autorickshaw, and send it to the number.

For overcharging, type ‘OVC', for misbehaviour ‘MIB' and for harassment ‘HAR' and send it to 6767. At the end of the day, officials said, all the complaints would be downloaded through the Net and action would be taken against the drivers."

??? - Super-mousetrap Texts You When The Pests Are Dead
We've seen some relatively mouse-friendly attempts at a better mousetrap, but Rentokil's RADAR trap drops all the touchy-feely stuff and brings the pain action-movie-style: with infrared beams, a trick floor, and poison-gas dispensers. Mice who foolishly wander into the Rodent Activated Detection And Riddance unit, where infrared beams and pressure sensors in the bottom of the box trigger the release of a "measured dose" of carbon dioxide, which Rentokil says is a "quick and humane" way of dealing with little Mickey. Once the deed is done, the trap fires off a text message to let you know that the rodent resistance is being dealt with, and prepares to strike again.

Insurance - Metropolitan Life and Clickatell introduce the world's first insurance by mobile phone in South Africa
South African insurance company Metropolitan Life has introduced a new service called Cover2go that makes innovative use of mobile phone technology from Clickatell to offer insurance cover to those on lower incomes in South Africa. The service costs around R10 (approx *1), which is deducted from the phone's airtime and provides instant life insurance for six days, paying out R60,000 (approx *6,300) in the case of accidental death. Cover2go has already been offered to the public at taxi ranks in Gauteng, South Africa, in a pilot campaign.

The customer purchases the policy by sending their name and identity number to a premium-rate number. The system, powered by Clickatell, replies with a confirmation and policy number, requests the name of a beneficiary, and reminds the policyholder to inform an associate about the life insurance. One policy is permitted per person and a renewal notification is sent on expiry.

Charity - When Disaster Strikes, Text 2HELP
In the event of a major disaster (such as Hurricanes Katrina or Wilma) the American Red Cross will collaborate with the CTIA to activate the Text 2HELP initiative. At that time, subscribers of participating wireless carriers can send a text message to "2HELP" (24357) containing the word "HELP." A $5 tax-deductible donation will be made to the American Red Cross for disaster relief efforts. Donations will appear on customers' monthly bills or be debited from prepaid account balances.

Hoaxes - SMS Prank On AIDS Melons Spreads Scare In Qatar
Panic gripped the public as mobile text messages flew thick warning massive flooding of Aids virus-injected watermelons in the market.

The message from unidentified quarters said that over one million melons, injected with Aids virus, have been smuggled into Qatar through Al Shamal road.

The Ministry of Interior swung into action. Their investigations with various agencies proved the rumours baseless. After confirming the message was the handiwork of either an individual or a group of miscreants, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement to allay the fears of the public.

Justice - Kobe Bryant's Attorney's Filed Motions To Access Accusers SMS Records
At issue-- text messages, which are saved on a phone company computer. Bryant's defense wants messages sent by the accuser released-- suggesting those messages could help Bryant's case.

With text messaging, there is distinct information tapped in by the caller. According to producers of Celebrity Justice, Kobe Bryant's attorneys are filing a motion to access all the data.

Legal Analyst Shawn Chapman says depending on the content, expect arguments on the messages authenticity".

Nature - Texting To Save Kenyan Elephants
Elephants might be huge, but scientists in Kenya are finding it hard to track them, so they're using text messages to keep tabs on the tuskers.

They're fitting the jumbo beasts with special collars that text in their exact location every hour.

That means the experts can discover where elephants roam, and use that information to protect them.

They hope the technology will also be able to warn farmers if elephants are about to trample their crops in future.

SMS Enabled Interactive Street Performance Art
TXTUal Healing is an interactive public theater piece. It looks at the cell phone as a device not just to remove oneself from a physical space, but to interact with and explore  it.

Using 'always on' technology, cell phones with SMS allow an audience to interact with public space through projections on the structures that surround us, like the facade of a building for instance.

Some cool examples:

Education - Catching SMS Cheaters In The Classroom
British Schools are installing detection systems in classrooms, exam halls and changing rooms to combat pupils’ pervasive use – and misuse – of mobile phones.

When Tendring technology college in Essex installed two detectors in its exam halls in January, supervisors discovered about 20 phones among 100 pupils.

“It is illegal to block mobile phone activity,” said Mr Lee. “That is why we’ve gone for a system that doesn’t interfere with the signal.

“By adapting the software, we could collect the mobile phone number that has been detected and send an automatic text message telling them [the owner] to switch it off. But even that might be a civil liberties issue, and we’re not going there at this stage."

Religion - Send A Prayer To The Western Wall By SMS
It a very old tradition to place a note with a prayer or request in the Western Wall and for years, several Web sites have offered Jews from around the world the option to send their prayers by e-mail to a rabbi who then prints them out and places them for them in Jerusalem's Western Wall.

Now SMS2Wall is offering a text message version of this same service,  enabling people who can't make it to Jerusalem, to have their intimate messages placed in the Western Wall, from their mobile phones.

Love & Marriage - Dubai's Grand Mufti Accredits Divorce Through SMS
Muslim authorities in Dubai, acknowledging the synergy of technology and tadition, Thursday confirmed that a Muslim divorce can be carried out via a mobile phone text message or SMS.

The country's Grand Mufti, Ahmed al-Haddad, who issued a fatwa on the subject, noted: 'Islamic clerics disagreed over the way divorce can be written.'

'While some said writing a divorce is equivalent to verbally announcing it, others believe a divorce must be documented by writing and can only be applied when there is intention and when it is read aloud.'

Al-Haddad said he believed an Islamic judge or 'mufti' is able judge a divorce case filed via a mobile phone SMS, based on any of the two opinions by choosing what is most applicable to the couple's circumstances.

Sex - Text-Sex With Artificial Intelligence Powered Chat-bots
In early 2002, wireless technology company, Link77, specializing in the development and operation of innovative mobile services, launched an SMS Chatterbot* called NataChata, a sophisticated text chat application for adults, based on Artificial Intelligence, enabling users to engage in provocative and sex texting... with a bot.

Labor - 'U R Sacked' - 2,500 People Fired Via Text Message
How's This For Efficiency: 2,500 Workers at the British Amulet Group received a message on their mobiles phones telling them they were out of work.

The message said, in part, "you are being made redundant with immediate effect".

Politics - 2008 Presidential Hopefuls Embrace Text Messaging
If Sen. Barack Obama is your guy, dial 62262 -- which spells "Obama" -- on your cellphone and text "Go." For supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, punch in 77007 and text "Join." Text "Today" to 30644 if you're a fan of former senator John Edwards.

A small but growing list of presidential candidates, all Democrats, are jumping on the text-messaging bandwagon. With more than three-quarters of Americans estimated to own cellphones -- and more than 15 billion text messages sent within the country each month -- campaigns believe it's a technology they can't afford not to exploit.

Literature - Novels Via SMS Popular In Japan
Engadget report on a fabulous success story of a Japanes author who has been sending installments of his best selling novel by text messaging.

"The author of best selling novel Deep Love, who calls himself Yoshi, created a website providing content for mobile phones in May 2000.

"Using a promotional campaign that consisted of passing out business cards to about 2,000 high-school girls in front of Tokyo's Shibuya Station (the center of Tokyo youth culture), Yoshi released The Story of Ayu, the first installment in the longer novel. News of the novel spread by word of mouth, and within three years the site had received a total of 20 million hits".

Accessibility - Real-time Text Messaging For The Deaf
Thanks to Text4Deaf, users can send and receive messages to individuals and groups. The Website also enables recipients to respond directly to the originating PC, Mac, PDA or mobile phone and to group member mobile phones. Users can send Web texts from any web-enabled device worldwide to any U.S. or Canadian mobile phone.

Commercial Fishing - Indian Fishers Negotiate Prices Via Text Message
"During a recent trip to India I saw fishermen in Kerala use SMS and voice for negotiating the price of their fresh catch. This was like share trading at the stock exchange. I could foresee they could well exploit IM with mobile positioning and presence functionality."

Many of these stories were found at the excellent blog, Textually.

Read a story about an interesting use of text messaging we didn't cover? Let us know in the comments.


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That's pretty crazy that they actually carried out a divorce over a text message. I'm not sure how I feel about that, I think I was better off contacting a New Jersey divorce attorney like I did.

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