Welcome!

Wearables Authors: JP Morgenthal, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Kevin Benedict, Cloud Best Practices Network

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, Wearables, BlackBerry Developer

Mobile IoT: Article

What’s Next for Texting?

Before we plot the future of texting, it’s helpful to understand its history

Twenty years ago, a software engineer named Neil Papworth kicked off the holidays - and a communications revolution - by sending the world's first text message via phone. The message, appropriately enough, was "Merry Christmas."

It took a few more Christmases before text messaging caught on, but ever since we've been able to send text messages to subscribers on different mobile operator networks, it has been nothing but thumbs up for texting. Thanks to the rise in mobile subscriptions, the usage of texting has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2011, for the first time in history, text messaging surpassed voice as the most popular application for mobile phones.

And then the unexpected happened: the number of text messages sent in the U.S. actually declined between the second and third quarter of 2012, according to published reports. It was a small decline, mind you, on the scale of two percent or so. For a technology where quantum annual leaps in usage have been the norm, however, a two-percent decline has the potential to be huge.

Let's make a few assumptions, including that the report is accurate (and it is worth noting that some don't agree). Let's also assume this isn't a one-time anomaly. What does a slight decline really mean? There are a few popular theories:

Theory #1: We've reached a saturation point for text messaging.
There are always some people who will grow tired of a technology after a few years, whether it's text messaging or social media. (Remember when people were leaving Facebook a few years ago?) Text messaging continues to rise where it counts. Younger demographics, like 12-to-15-year-olds who represent the paying customers of tomorrow, continue to be text junkies.

Theory #2: New apps like Skype are eating into the texting market.
Skype poses more of a threat to traditional voice services - not surprising since that's what it was originally designed to displace. The Skype application has to be loaded on the device and active to have a conversation. Text messaging uses a standards-based protocol, so any device assigned a mobile number can send and receive text messages right out of the box.

Theory #3: Text messaging is getting too expensive.
Pay-per-use plans may have kept more people with their thumbs and cash in their pockets. Operators responded with fixed-price, unlimited-usage plans. In the U.S., you can get unlimited calling and texting for under $40 a month, making it affordable to practically anyone.

The fourth possibility is one I see in my own household. Texting is no longer constrained to communications between mobile networks. Many devices are able to send and receive text messages through an Internet connection. Apple's iMessage or Blackberry Messenger are great examples of this trend.

In fact, text messaging has never really stopped evolving. The idea of measuring the value of text messaging by the quantity of messages sent over the mobile network may ultimately sell the technology short.

Before we plot the future of texting, it's helpful to understand its history. Texting grew out of a technology known as Short Message Service (SMS). SMS originally allowed a person to send data-based communications to a mobile phone over the signaling channel rather than the more bandwidth-precious media channel. In fact, in the beginning, mobile phones could not send SMS messages. Nokia was the first manufacturer with a suite of GSM phones to support SMS messaging. Finally as the 20th century came to a close, you were able to send text messages between mobile networks, ushering in the any-to-any text messaging environment that we enjoy today.

In 2000, the average U.S. mobile phone user sent nearly 35 text messages per month. By 2007, text messages outnumbered phone calls. And in 2011, text eclipsed voice as the top application for mobile devices in the U.S. Despite the rapid rise in popularity, the underlying technology behind texting remained largely unchanged. Texts still relied on SMS and limited communications to the same 160-character confines established (somewhat arbitrarily) more than two decades ago. Innovation hasn't been the driver for the adoption of this communication method. Rather, texting's popularity can be traced to contributing market factors, few of which were imagined 20 years ago.

Smartphones, Social Media and Number Portability
Text messaging on a standard cellphone was hit or miss, which meant you hoped you hit the right key when typing your message. Then came BlackBerries and iPhones - smartphones that combined the elements of a laptop computer (complete with an operating system and independent keyboard) and a mobile phone. Suddenly, millions of people were finding a new use for those opposable thumbs. The convenience of texting combined with the constant presence of smartphones (unlike laptops, smartphones seldom leave our sides) made it a preferred choice over traditional email. Early studies proved that people were more likely to read a text rather than an email.

Social media platforms, notably Twitter, also played to the strengths of text messaging by encouraging short, frequent communications in favor of longer, fewer conversations. In fact, Twitter even found SMS to be a bit longwinded, trimming the maximum length of a tweet to a svelte 140 characters. People rediscovered their pithy side as vowels slowly began disappearing from the language, all the while fueling the legitimacy of texting as a form of creative and personal expression.

A less obvious but no less important factor in the rise of texting was the creation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This act allows consumers to keep their phone numbers when choosing a new Communications Service Provider (CSP) - even when switching from a wireline to a wireless provider. By allowing phone customers to move their phone numbers freely between CSPs, Americans had unprecedented freedom of communication. Mobile phones, once viewed as a supplemental service to a primary landline, instead became the primary phone service for many customers who found they could keep their identity and cut their costs by going mobile 24/7. In a world where smartphones have an average lifespan of two years, the ability to upgrade your phone and change your service without changing your phone number can't be undervalued.

Texting: The Next 20 Years
I don't believe texting is going away. Anyone with teenage children knows exactly what I mean. Rather, I think it's changing to become a more ubiquitous form of communication. You see, we live in a world where communications overload is a fact of life. We have RSS feeds at the bottom of our TV screens, we text while we talk, we carry phones with built-in video cameras. In a world where everyone is making noise, the challenge is to rise above the noise. And I think that's where texting fits in the future: as a way to cut through the noise.

Take for example a technology like Common Short Codes (CSCs), which can replace a standard phone number with a four-digit number for the purpose of sending text messages. You've seen these used on television programs that encourage audience voting (e.g., American Idol, Dancing with the Stars), but CSCs are increasingly being purchased by businesses to aid in text-based marketing efforts. Right now, you're probably thinking - Great, more marketing, just what the world needs. In fact, text-based marketing is exactly what the world needs. This form of marketing allows businesses and their customers to have meaningful conversations based on customer-selected criteria. In other words, you're not just another name on an email distribution list. With CSC-based marketing, consumers select the kind of communications they receive, how they receive them and engage businesses on their own terms.

For the time being, text messaging has a distinct advantage over other forms of communication when it comes to consumer marketing. On the one hand, they're less intrusive than voice calls, which are often perceived as cold (in the case of pre-recorded calls) or overly aggressive live calls. And, because the industry has set guidelines for the use of text messaging, issues like spamming have so far proven to be limited.

When I talk to CSPs, I hear excitement in their voices when they talk about the future of text messaging. They see texting as a real revenue driver, especially from business customers who are just beginning to explore the value of mobile communications. These CSPs understand that communication isn't about which service you use the most (texting, voice, video) but how you use those services to stay connected to the world around you.

Is texting over the hill at 20? Doubtful. As a society, we are hooked on the direct and real-time communication enabled by texting. Our mobile devices unlock a world of possibilities and the deciding factor is typically convenience. In the first 20 years of SMS, we went from a simple intra-network "Merry Christmas" to accessibility on any network. It is possible that the next 20 years will bring us ubiquitous texting across many applications including personal communications, opt-in business uses and a burgeoning machine-to-machine environment.

More Stories By Gary Zimmerman

Gary Zimmerman is Senior Director of Marketing at Neustar. He and his team deliver the educational and outbound marketing efforts for Carrier Services. He has over 30 years of experience in telecommunications management in both the carrier and enterprise setting.

Gary spent twenty years at AT&T where he developed ordering, billing, and international clearinghouse systems. He has successfully launched and managed products including international data services for global 500 companies, a software-as-a-service offering in Japan, and data networking / security offerings for the mid-market.

Prior to joining Neustar, Gary was a Vice President and founding member of an enterprise software company that grew into a $30 million dollar concern during his tenure.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"LinearHub provides smart video conferencing, which is the Roundee service, and we archive all the video conferences and we also provide the transcript," stated Sunghyuk Kim, CEO of LinearHub, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Discover top technologies and tools all under one roof at April 24–28, 2017, at the Westin San Diego in San Diego, CA. Explore the Mobile Dev + Test and IoT Dev + Test Expo and enjoy all of these unique opportunities: The latest solutions, technologies, and tools in mobile or IoT software development and testing. Meet one-on-one with representatives from some of today's most innovative organizations
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
"A lot of times people will come to us and have a very diverse set of requirements or very customized need and we'll help them to implement it in a fashion that you can't just buy off of the shelf," explained Nick Rose, CTO of Enzu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Ca...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet and...