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Think A2P is big business now? Wait until consumers start having free-flowing chat sessions with intelligent robot agents. The numbers will be eye-watering. So says, CLX’s Rob Malcolm. But it won’t happen overnight…

It’s possible to break down the history of mobile messaging into four eras. In the first one, when SMS was launched, telecoms engineers used the channel to speak to fellow engineers. Later, users started to message each other. Then came A2P messaging, with businesses sending texts to customers.

Now, we’re about to enter the fourth era in which people have free-flowing conversations with intelligent machines.

How significant will this be? Well, according to one insider, “it will drive more messaging than we’ve seen in this history of the world.”

That’s Rob Malcolm, VP of marketing and online sales at CLX Communications. He argues the combination of new comms platforms, a maturing ‘digital-native’ population and advances in machine learning will take messaging to unprecedented levels.

“The promise is to combine AI and chat to create a customer service experience that’s parallel to human conversation, but for a tenth of the price,” he says.

“If you can get an instant response from a chat bot that is as good as making a call or speaking to a person, you would do it.”

However, he also believes this will take time.

“Bots have been around for 20 years. They’re nothing new,” he says. “What’s changed is AI and the potential it can bring to a customer services interaction. Combine that with millennials and younger people who are growing up with social media, and you have the perfect storm. It’s early days, but I think the improvements in AI over the next three to five years will deliver on that promise.”

Needless to say, CLX is itself building towards this bot-based future.

  There is a concern is around security and data protection. Recent incidents of SIM swap fraud where someone goes into a store and pretends to be you in order to hijack your number and intercept a 2FA messages are a big problem. They need to be addressed globally, and rather quickly.”

It has run services with clients and commissioned reports into how enterprises view bots. Last year, its Ovum-authored study revealed 25 per cent of enterprises are using chat bots to automate customer interactivity and a further 32 per cent are trialling the tech.

Happily, chat bots represent a potentially huge growth opportunity for the A2P messaging community. However, Malcolm is also acutely aware of the hurdles too. As an active member of MEF’s Future Of Messaging programme, he is working hard to address the security issues around some uses of SMS.

A particular focus is the interception of two factor authentication messages.

2FA messages now comprise as much as 20 per cent of all A2P traffic. But there are examples of criminals exploiting the system to steal identities.

“There is a concern is around security and data protection,” says Malcolm. “Recent incidents of SIM swap fraud where someone goes into a store and pretends to be you in order to hijack your number and intercept a 2FA messages are a big problem. They need to be addressed globally, and rather quickly.”

Malcolm believes one potential remedy lies with the ability of operators to detect anomalies. “They have the data to deploy APIs to let banks and other enterprises know when something is not right. But those innovation are still very early.”

Of course, CLX is well-placed to see APIs as a tool to solve the problem. The company has been at the forefront of a fundamental switch in the way intermediaries deliver A2P messaging – from wholesaling in bulk to offering ‘communications platform as a service’ using APIs.

Historically, an enterprise would buy messaging in bulk from third party intermediaries. Now, many of them simply embed cloud-based APIs inside their own systems so they can manage their own campaigns.

Malcolm says this is part of a wider migration by businesses. “There are macro trends in how enterprises use and consume tech that are fundamentally changing the ‘buy build’ formula. More and  more are piecing together software as a service vendors in-house rather than calling up tier one consultancies and getting things built specifically for needs.

“So from a telecommunications stand point, it doesn’t matter who does that in the value chain providing they can do it on global basis.”

He concludes that, while this shift is shaking up the A2P market, it is ultimately great news for the companies buying traffic.

“The people fundamentally in control are the enterprises,” he says. “Their need to piece together simple services via an API is what’s ultimately driving the future of telcoms.”

This Executive Insights Video Series, in association with Kontxt from RealNetworks, takes an in depth look at the next generation of messaging.