Travelling in remote parts of the world used to make us feel isolated and vulnerable. However, thanks to mobile communications technology, such feelings are a thing of the past. Ever-expanding mobile coverage and affordable handsets means it is now possible to pick up a signal from almost anywhere in the world.
This fear of being completely isolated was experienced firsthand by Hugh Gibaud and his business partner, Jeremy Miles, when they decided to take part in this year’s Mongol rally in order to raise money for charity.
The rally, designed to be an exhilarating experience for participants, starts in Europe and ends in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Unlike a normal rally, the overall aim is not to get there first but to get there safely – quite a challenge considering the countries that have to be crossed and the terrains involved.
For Gibaud it was imperative he could keep in contact with his family throughout the trip, not only for personal reasons but also for his own safety. Time was also of the essence and Gibaud wanted to be able to quickly contact different groups of people so he could get on with the rally. Sending SMS messages was the obvious answer but delivery is not always instantaneous, particularly when abroad. It depends on a number of factors such as network operators, roaming arrangements, signal strength and most importantly, the recipient’s phone being turned on so the message can be received.
Due to the potentially dangerous nature of the rally Gibaud did not want to leave the delivery of these messages to chance. He wanted to be able to quickly communicate with friends and family and needed a means of sending SMS messages that were guaranteed to be delivered in case he found himself in difficulties.
He carried out some basic research to see if such a service could be provided and came across Slepe Communications, an SMS service provider that specialises in the development of bespoke and niche SMS applications. He explained the situation and Slepe communications made a number of changes to its popular email to SMS service, turning it into an SMS to email service, in order to guarantee the delivery of all SMS messages.
Using a normal mobile phone and “Go-SIM” an international prepaid SIM card, Gibaud sent all messages to Slepe Communications’ centralised server. Here the company’s bespoke software converted all SMS messages to email formats so they could be delivered quickly to recipients. The servers are connected directly to the mobile network, thus eliminating the problem of delivery failure due to poor coverage or phones being turned off.
“I was very excited to be given the opportunity to become involved in the project”, explained Rob Jagger, Director of Slepe Communications.” Normally one associates email to SMS with commercial marketing campaigns but this application demonstrates how SMS can be used to enhance personal safety by giving you the ability to quickly send out emergency messages, should you find yourself in difficulty.
This niche SMS to email application was not only reliable but also extremely cost effective because with Go-SIM prices are fixed. Gibaud continues; “To be honest, I was very sceptical at first because I did not think it would be possible to get a signal in the middle of the Gobi desert, but you can and I was extremely glad.”
Using SMS for personal safety is a relatively new concept but Rob is very excited about future possibilities for the service, as he explains. This application has proved that so long as you have a mobile phone, it is possible to send SMS messages that are guaranteed to be delivered, irrespective of which country you are in. The potential use for email to SMS in this context is enormous; for example, as part of a company’s health and safety procedure. Similarly, providing Aid workers operating in countries where freedom of speech is restricted with this type of service would enable them to quickly but subtly inform colleagues if they were in danger.”