Mobile messaging is a digital phenomenon, made of ones and zeroes. But really its roots are in a transport industry that goes back to ponies, ships and trains.
The purpose of a text or an OTT message is simply to convey information from one person to another. One hundred and fifty years ago, we used horses to do this. And it took days. Now, messages go over phone networks, and are virtually instant. In 2017, 23bn personal texts and 5.8 B enterprise messages are sent every 24 hours.
But to extend the transport analogy, SMS is now at a crossroads.
So says Paul Ruppert, strategy consultant for RealNetworks. Next week, at Mobile World Congress, Ruppert will speak at the MEF messaging panel – Growth drivers for Enterprise Mobile Messaging – which RealNetworks will sponsor. And he will outline some huge opportunities for the business, along with some hard truths.
Fundamentally, Ruppert believes that the SMS-based mobile messaging business is mostly focused on ‘transport, report, repeat’.
In other words, it moves millions of messages for clients, discloses where they went and then does it all again.
But in a world of artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, this is not enough any more. He says: “If you’re one of the vendors or operators that have lived off the transport, report, repeat’ commercial model over the last decade – a rough trail is ahead of you. This is not the time to breed a faster pony.”
Large enterprises and small businesses have seen messaging as hard. The OTT players have simplified access for many of these companies. So I think their entry has grown the enterprise messaging pie. There’s been so much anguish over OTT players. I just say: get over it.
Ruppert alludes to FedEx – another kind of transport business – as an example of how to innovate. The company uses sensors on packages to locate them in real time. By using sensors rather than hand-scanning it can go from 25 location tracks per hour to 3.7 million.
He says: “On the one hand FedEx just transports parcels. But on the other, it does so much more. It is now using data analysis to figure out so much about its activities and then to give more value back to customers.”
The mobile messaging industry needs to embrace the same kind of innovation. After all, it has many obvious competitive pressures to do so. Not least, from the OTT players.
However, Ruppert is positive about the overall impact of these new options. He believes they have grown the market and the general appetite for enterprise messaging.
“Large enterprises and small businesses have seen messaging as hard. The OTT players have simplified access for many of these companies. So I think their entry has grown the enterprise messaging pie. There’s been so much anguish over OTT players. I just say: get over it.”
And now the chatbot revolution is poised to deliver another massive change.
When brands can use messaging platforms to talk to customers in a way that’s natural and useful, says Ruppert, there will be another huge spike in enterprise messaging.
So the challenge is for ‘traditional’ messaging companies to investigate how to harness AI and machine learning to create valuable new services. Rupert argues that RealNetworks is already innovating in this way.
Real may not be known for its messaging activities, but it has been active in the space for eleven years. It currently processes an average of two billion messages a day. Now, it’s working on new services to help operators, OTT and enterprises better control the types and value of messages in their networks.
Ultimately, Ruppert is positive about the potential of the mobile messaging sector because of the intrinsic power of the medium itself. He believes there’s an enduring value in what he calls ‘glimpse-able’ exchanges.
“I’ve been in this space for 16 years, and I know that the psychology of reading doesn’t change,” he says. “Your mind gathers meaning before you’ve actually read the 160 characters on the screen. So there will always be demand for ‘glimpse-able’ messages. We just have to make sure that we keep innovating around this basic idea.”
The ‘MEF Workshop: Growth Drivers for Enterprise Messaging’ takes place at MWC on Tuesday February 28 from 15.30.
Supported by RealNetworks this session looks at the platforms, tech & use cases driving the future of communications between businesses and their customers
This workshop is part of MEF’s Future of Messaging Programme and looks at the tech & messaging platforms that are transforming the enterprise mobile messaging landscape including AI, Chatbots & RCS as well as discusses specific uses cases and their impact.