Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Short Code Texting Services in Libraries

Chances are if you are into texting on your mobile phone you have sent a message to a five or six digit ‘phone’ number (such as to 32665 to update your Facebook status). 

Long popular outside of the US, short codes are being used for a variety of value-added services such as television voting, ordering ring tones, charity donations and mobile device-centric services. My last post was about how short codes were being used at the Detroit Auto Show. 

My first experience using a short code was during the Blue Man Group’s first 'How to be a Megastar' tour over three years ago. BMG used texting /short code technology to allow audience interaction with the story line / show. More recently, President Obama alerted over 1 million people about his VP selection to those that sent the text ‘VP” to 62262.  

I did a little research to get a better understanding how short codes work.

Legacy phone numbers make use of prefix codes since conventional landline technology has no way of indicating the end of the phone number. On mobile phones, however, all the numbers are sent at once. Since the mobile network knows the end of the dialed number, short codes can be used without conflicting with a longer prefixed number. For instance, a landline could not use the short code 12345, since then one could then not dial the phone number 1 234 5XX XXXX, or any other number that shared the 12345 prefix for that matter. There is no such ambiguity with mobile phones.

Short codes can be associated with a specific carrier or they can be registered as a common short code (CSC) that is available on most carriers. A short code directory is available.

Many libraries are using texting services, such as the Carmel Clay (IN) Public Library, Yale, and the Carroll County Public Library, to name a few that came up first on my Google search. There are also other creative ways in which texting could be used to not only provide services, but market the library. All the library texting services I uncovered use 'shared code service' such as those available from a large number of services which include Kwiry, Tagga, Mozes and Textmarks.

Registering and leasing a specific CSC for a library (non-shared) is costly. Registering the vanity number (e.g. 77467, PRIOR for our library) would costs $1,000 per month; $500 for a random short code number. Paying $12,000 a year for a texting service would seem out of reach for many libraries. The library would then need to negotiate activation and sign an agreement with each wireless carriers before the library can connect to their network and begin sending message traffic. Working with connectivity aggregators that have existing contracts with the wireless service providers may facilitate this process. Using a shared service seems to make economic sense. 

Are you using a short code service in your library? I would love to hear about what you are using and your experience. 
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Found your article via Google - wanted to comment that you can also consider a free way of implementing this which has been employed by my college library. AOL Instant Messenger has its own short code, making it possible to register an AIM username for the library to monitor for text messages.