SMS Centre Finder
Almost 70% of the UK Online users who are new to the Internet have a mobile phone. This prototype service is targeted at people like them, to provide a new "way in" to UK Online's services. It allows people to send a simple text message to a short phone number, and be sent back the details of their nearest UK online centre.
When out and about, a poster on the wall at a community centre, library or noticeboard says:
"To find your nearest UK online centre: Send a text message to 82958 saying 'ukonline' plus your postcode, e.g. 'ukonline SW1A 2AA'.
We’ll text you back with your nearest centre. This service costs 25p."
HOW WE DID IT
The SMS gateway is supplied by a service called Taykt. It allows us to set up a keyword - in this case "ukonline" - and any time a person sends a text message with that keyword, it passes on any additional words they send to our custom-made web service. In this case, the additional words are the postcode, although we could use this simple system to interpret any other keywords or commands, to get different kinds of information from the UK Online service.
Our web service consists of a Python Django API (see repository) that converts a postcode to a latitude and longitude, to find the closest centre from the UK Online dataset.
We use the 160 characters maximum allowed an SMS message to give as much useful information as possible. We'll give the name of the centre and the phone number, and if there is more space left in the 160 characters, then we'll give an abbreviated postal address and other details, like opening hours, disability access and creche facilities.
The Taykt service is flexible - you can choose whether to charge the end users the 25p, as we have here, or whether to make it free to the users and have UK Online pay the costs.
When a new user sends a text to the service, they first receive a text message from Taykt, telling them that they are about to be charged 25p. Currently, the way that text message is written isn't so appropriate for non-technical users, but we have been informed by Taykt that they could change the message, or possibly remove it, altogether.
The prototype was created by: * Sym Roe (@symroe) * Tom Hume (@twhume) * Daniel Morris (@danielmorris) * Premasagar Rose (@premasagar)
Ideas for taking this project forward
- Conversation with Taykt about customising the service, for UK Online' use.
- Design and distribute posters advertising the service.
- Make small improvements to the robustness of the API
- Host the API on the UK Online infrastructure or on some other long-term hosting space
Estimated costs for taking this project forward
Depending on which features are required, it would cost very little to get this up and running as a live service.
About the data used for this project
We used the UK Online dataset, as cleaned up by Chris Thorpe in his code repository and Sym Roe in his repository, and the Taykt API.
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