Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mobile Data Now: Google SMS for Businesses

New Zealand startup Mobile Data Now
is placing its bets on SMS, email, and IM as the preferred methods of
retrieving information while on the go, at least until tolerable mobile
web browsers become more ubiquitous.

The company is using the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week to announce a product being described as Google SMS
for businesses. With Google SMS, you can send Google a search query via
text message and Google will send you search results back. This is
particularly handy if you don’t have a smartphone, can’t make your way
to a computer, and want to find out the number of a local pizza joint.

Mobile Data Now is an attempt to make it just as easy to retrieve
information from corporate databases. The employees of businesses that
install Mobile Data Now’s software could, for example, use SMS to
retrieve information about a customer just before heading into a
meeting with them. If their corporate databases also kept track of
supply chain information, they could query that information when out of
the office as well.

Businesses can also use Mobile Data Now to give consumers an easier
way to retrieve information about their offerings. The company suggests
that real estate agents could list phone numbers and text codes on
signs placed in the front yards of houses for sale. People passing by
could then instantly find out more information about these houses by
texting in their respective codes.

The general idea here is to take technologies ordinarily intended
for person-to-person communication and rework them for
person-to-machine communication. This makes sense as long as more
effective person-to-machine communication methods, such as HTTP, are
not available. Since many phones don’t yet support adequate web
browsing, I can see Mobile Data Now satisfying a need in the short
term. But as handheld devices evolve - and they appear to be doing so
quite rapidly these days - software like Mobile Data Now (and Google
SMS for that matter) will simply be rendered obsolete in time.

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