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SMS and the Internet of Things: Text Messaging Between Connected Devices

Posted by on Thursday, May 1st, 2014 With 6 Comments

With the cost of oil over $100 a barrel, every ounce of the precious liquid is valuable. For oil producers and distributors, an accurate accounting of how much oil inventory they have on hand to sell is important. With demand outpacing supply in many areas, every barrel that can be sold means important revenue gains for a business. So it is quite surprising to learn that most oil and gas measurement systems still rely on hand-tools to measure how much oil is in each tank. For an industry so flush with revenue and cash-flow, measurement technology has lagged far behind.

Until now. New equipment is being manufactured that uses advanced technology to measure oil tank volumes down to the inch. Even better, this equipment has built-in satellite and broadband connectivity that allows data points to be sent across a network to the same distributors, producers, and salespeople that count on accurate data every day. And with that data, workflows and processes are put in place that keep the tanks full and the orders flowing.

Oil tanker truck refills a tank.

SMS technology can no help monitor oil tank levels.
Image courtesy of Peak Oil

One such process involves sending text messages to oil-tanker drivers so they know where to go and how much oil to put in each tank. Using text messages instead of emails or phone calls allows data to be tracked and transmitted quickly and in a way where the driver is most certain to see it.

In case you aren’t familiar, the “Internet of Things” refers to new devices that are electronically connected to each other. From thermostats that turn on HVAC units when a car pulls into the driveway to security systems that contact the local police department when someone enters a building in the middle of the night, interconnected devices are becoming a larger and larger part of the way the world works around us. The significance of the Internet of Things is hard to overstate, both in the home and throughout the business sector. Interconnected devices will drive huge efficiencies and improvements in productivity, security, and safety. Even better, these developments will build on each other and grow exponentially, paving the way for a new technological age where communication between systems is seamless and widespread.

Playing a key part in this interconnectivity is SMS text messaging. Text messages can be used to trigger events or workflows and transmit data not just between devices, but also from devices to human beings. Here are five examples of how SMS messaging is playing an integral part in how smart devices communicate with each other.

  1. Transmitting triggers to initiate a workflow – As in the example above, SMS messaging can be used to trigger a series of events. Rather than wait for a person to gather data and act, SMS messaging can be used to set off a chain of events once something has taken place. For example, if inventory levels of a product in a warehouse reach a certain level, a text message can be sent that initiates new orders, sends an alert to the accountant to generate invoices, and notifies the shipping clerk that new merchandise will be arriving soon.
  2. Communicating important data to operators – Text messages are more readily available than emails, due to the proliferation of and attachment to feature phones among the world’s population. As a result, text messaging has a much more significant reach around the world in 2014 than email. A washing machine, for example, can send a text message to its operator when a cycle has finished, so the operator knows exactly when to move the laundry to the dryer. We often think of most people having a smart phone, but a large portion of the world’s population still uses feature-phones to communicate. SMS in the Internet of Things means that feature phone users and smartphone users alike can fully participate in this exciting new development in interconnectivity.
  3. Allowing operators to communicate with devices – Equally as important, text messages can be sent from anywhere an operator has a cellular signal. For example, an operator can disarm a home security system when a child gets home from school by sending a text message to the control panel. Data connectivity or Wifi is not essential for text messages to be sent and received with success. As a result of using SMS services to communicate, more devices can be connected and controlled by each other in the Internet of Things.
  4. Data collection – SMS messaging can be used to collect simple data from a set of monitoring devices and send that data to a centralized control panel. For example, weather sensors can send a text message to a research facility when certain wind speeds are detected, allowing for quick and seamless data collection that can be used to determine more accurate weather forecasts.
  5. Asset deployment – Text messages are also a great way to communicate resource needs to a workforce. For example, traffic sensors can detect an increased number of cars on the road to let public safety officials know where police and EMS units might be called upon in the event of an accident.

The internet of things provides a competitive advantage for companies willing to invest in connecting their devices. From the example of an oil tanker communicating real time fluid levels to an organization that integrates text messaging into a time clock for workers, the connection between business critical devices will lead to cost and time savings and increased revenue for many organizations.

Emerging technology is no longer just about how people interact with the electronic devices around them. Now those devices are communicating with one another and back to people, as well. The systems and processes that allow those devices to send and receive the data they require can be easily handled by SMS technology. Instead of incurring high costs as with email, or unreliable transmission as with a voice call, text messages offer a low-cost, highly-effective way for the internet of things to interoperate. If your organization is eager to learn how SMS technology can be integrated into your IT assets and workflows, click here to contact Mosaic NetworX!

6 thoughts on “SMS and the Internet of Things: Text Messaging Between Connected Devices”

  1. Turk says:

    When I was a young man I worked at a truck stop, a huge stop on the way to Canada from Boston. There were multiple underground tanks and each morning I had to take a very long pole stick and open each tank and measure the amount in each tank and record it on a clipboard so that the manager could call it in to the main office. I hadn’t thought about this process in years, in fact, never, but of course now with computers and smart phones it’s natural that something as simple as this is automated and saves a great deal of time and inaccurate readings and errors in transposing numbers. Amazing how something so simple is so deserving of automation. Sweet.

  2. John says:

    With the advancements in technology, as pointed in out in this article, it is quite surprising that it has taken SMS this long to be used as a relevant tool. With these types of networks in place efficiencies can be greatly improved which helps us preserve our fossil fuels. On top of that all of the data that is collected can greatly improve the forecasting and planning for these companies, giving them access to real time data when they need to make decisions. Although I also think there is always the issue of privacy but as along as you know what your devices are doing / monitoring then I think it is all upside.

  3. ben says:

    I am actually very surprised this process hasn’t already been automated. It is a sad reality, but oil remains the life blood of the industrialized world, and until there is a cost-effective, sustainable energy source, we are forced to use it as fuel. A service like this probably would cut down on inefficiency, which would in turn cut down on how much oil is wasted. Money would be saved and it probably would cut down some on pollution.

  4. Jameson says:

    Since SMS is a relatively old technology, I agree with the other commentators that it is very surprising that only now is this being used and implemented on such a wide scale. It is clear to many people that SMS and data transfers over this medium are both secure and as well as instantaneous. They are also relatively inexpensive to implement for most companies. The incorporation within systems is a great way to ensure that you have constant access to both data, as well as employees who may be off site. It is a simple and effective form of communication.

    I often wonder if we over look the simple tools that we have at our disposal as more new technologies evolve and attempt to take their place. More often than not, solutions to our problems are right in front of us without us realizing it.

  5. James says:

    It is amazing how technology is shifting and shaping the industries of the world. I don’t think an industry can overstate the value SMS text messaging and the internet of things. Real time data is going to dramatically improve efficiency of companies. Can you imagine not ever missing a sale because your inventory is adequately stocked. SMS technology is going to improve services for the consumer as well.

  6. Ben says:

    Yeah its really disturbing to me that oil industry is just now implementing some of these practices. The business sector thrives on innovation and new technology, its the lifeline to productivity and prosperity. So you would expect companies in charge of one of our most essential natural resources would use every avenue to be even more productive. At least now finally they are using the “internet of things” but I’m disheartened to learn how behind they were for so long.

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