October 22, 2003, 10:54 AM — Oracle Corp. and Vodafone Group PLC will extend the potential reach of Web services to millions more mobile phones next month, by connecting Oracle 10g Application Server to Vodafone's SMS (Short Message Service) system through a Web services interface, the companies announced Wednesday.
A sample application at the OracleWorld conference and exhibition in Paris demonstrated how a call center can transmit appointment requests from clients to sales staff via SMS, and then automatically update a group calendar, based on their acceptance or rejection of the appointment. Such functionality is useful in sales force automation programs or informing field engineers of work schedule changes while on the job.
Sending SMS text messages to mobile phones from an enterprise network is nothing new, but has until now involved writing custom software and leasing a dedicated telecommunications link to connect the application with the mobile network.
"If I have field workers and I want to send them alerts, I have always been able to send them SMSs. Until this announcement, they would have had to build an SMS gateway. Many businesses didn't do it as the cost was too high," said Jacob Christfort, chief technology officer of Oracle's mobile division.
Now that can all be done over a simple Internet connection: Vodafone has packaged the necessary access to its network as a Web service based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), and Oracle has built an API (application programming interface) for the service into Oracle 10g Application Server, so that application developers can write code to send and receive SMS text messages much as they would interact with any other Web-enabled service, the companies said.
Users of such services will pay Vodafone's standard SMS tariff, according to Rikke Helms, mobile office director at Vodafone Global Products & Services Ltd.
But the price paid by businesses to send an SMS using Oracle 10g Application Server's built-in functions is irrelevant, Christfort said, compared to "the millions of dollars that they would have paid to systems integrators. Vodafone could double the cost (of the SMS traffic) because of the cost this will cut off the front."
With built-in functionality like that, supporting mobile applications is a no-brainer for businesses, according to one analyst.
"Mobile sales force automation brings such quick returns, it's hard to see why they would not do this," said Lars Vestergaard, research manager for European wireless and mobile communications at IDC.