December 6, 2012
Business cards aren’t exactly high tech. But the need for digitizing them rapidly without special hardware or software inspired one Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) developer to create an SMS-based solution that could set important precedents for the future of mobile technology. In a recent interview, the programmer, Noel Portugal, explained his work and where he envisions it leading Oracle and channel partners in the future.
As Senior Developer Advocate at Oracle, Portugal’s primary role is evangelizing the company’s APIs for the WebCenter platform. But he also has opportunities to create what he calls “proofs of concept” for integrating Oracle products with third-party solutions.
It was in that spirit of experimentation, he said, that he set out to create a tool that for copying information from business cards into a user’s mobile device. The solution takes advantage of new MMS APIs for mobile phones recently released by Mogreet, as well as an API from Full Contact called CardShark, which digitizes business card text via optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Portugal explains the full process in a blog post.
SMS: How Old Technology Becomes New Again
If you’re thinking that scanning business cards into a phone is not a very novel idea, you’re right. LinkedIn’s CardMunch app has made that possible for a long time. But what sets Portugal’s proof-of-concept tool apart, and makes it so interesting for the future of mobile communications, is that Portugal’s solution relies solely on text-messaging technology. Users do not need to download any app, or even have a smartphone. The process works as well on an old feature phone as it does on the latest Android or iOS device.
In this way, the tool showcases the novel applications for SMS and MMS technology that remain to be developed. Just this week, the SMS protocol–of which MMS is simply an extension that supports the transfer of audio and video content in addition to standard text–marked its 20th anniversary. Yet opportunities abound for creating solutions that leverage SMS technology in novel ways–especially as organizations such as Mogreet make it easier to integrate SMS and MMS into platforms via new APIs.
Asked where his business-card tool might go from here, Portugal did not seem to think it would morph into much more than a basic demonstration of new ways of solving problems via SMS. Nor does he envision any kind of formal partnership between Mogreet and Oracle in the near future. “At this point,” he said, “what I did is a proof of concept. … there’s no formal relationship between Mogreet and Oracle at this point,” or specific plans for collaboration.
But Mogreet’s mobile APIs, he added, could be integrated into Oracle platforms. And more broadly, innovative tools that take advantage of Mogreet’s SMS and MMS APIs could have a major impact on the mobile channel, especially if carriers grasp the potential of novel SMS applications by restructuring messaging pricing plans to make SMS more affordable.
For now, the channel’s next moves remain to be seen. But the day may come when old-fashioned text messaging becomes the basis for something much more interesting and complex than simple brief bursts of emoticon-peppered sentence fragments to your friends.
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