Most of us know texting's being used for just about
everything these days, but some of the new ways texting
is being applied to our lives still manage to surprise
us. For instance, have you ever twirled a piece of hair
to send a text, or brushed away a rogue strand to take
pictures on your cell phone? Or imagined one day dairy
cows might text their farmers to let them know how they're
doing? Neither had we, but new technologies have allowed
these seeming absurdities, and more, to become realities.
One strange way SMS has been used is to improve household
items we might view as inherently simple and mundane.
Rentokil, a pest control company, has developed a high-tech
mouse trap called RADAR complete with texting capabilities.
RADAR attracts rodents with infrared lights, uses sensors
to measure and deliver an appropriate amount of carbon
dioxide gas (which Rentokil assures causes rats both
a "quick and humane" death), and texts the resident
of the home under pest-siege when the deed is done,
sparing them anxious waiting and fruitless treks to
check empty mousetraps.
As advanced as RADAR may be, the prospect of tech-savvy
hair extensions really makes us feel like we're living
in the future. Beauty tech designer Katia Vega, the
creator of several beauty technologies including conductive
makeup, chemical eyelashes, and tech-enabled false nails,
teamed up with Marcio Cunha to create a wearable product
that can allow the wearer to subtly command their phone
without ever touching the device. The result is Hairware,
a promising new cell phone technology bearing the tagline,
"the conscious use of unconscious auto-contact behaviors."
Hairware extensions look like regular hair extensions,
but have been chemically metalized to allow them to
conduct electricity. The touch-sensitive extensions
allow their wearer to touch the extensions in various
places, something many do unconsciously to their natural
hair, and these different touches are translated into
commands for the wearer's cell phone, such as texting,
recording, or taking pictures. While the technology
might seem silly or trivial, its uses can range from
practical to important. Wearers may record important
information at a meeting, copy PowerPoint slides photographically,
or text a friend on a first date to ensure their safety
without ever taking out their phones.
While these applications of texting are far from conventional,
the use of SMS to advance our personal lives isn't exactly
shocking. However, some of the organizations that are
embracing texting as a medium have surprised us, and
presented promising, if bizarre, new ways to use texting
to the advantage of many.
While complaints that ease and accessibility of voting
are diminished pile up in the U.S., Switzerland has
taken an innovative approach to this problem across
the pond. In the Swiss town of Bulach, the local government
introduced a tech-friendly option in a 2005 election
on local speed limit measures. For this election, voters
were offered the option to vote by SMS, and those who
opted in were mailed a user ID and PIN to use when texting
in their vote.
While previous experiments with vote by SMS in the
U.K. were written off as not significantly beneficial,
the Swiss government continued to consider the promise
of SMS voting, and ways the medium might be improved
and made more secure. Regardless of the conclusions
of these governments at the time, these forays into
texting to vote create an interesting precedent, particularly
for a time a full decade later when cell phones enjoy
even greater popularity and wider used.
Perhaps more surprising than the government's embracing
texting is the application of SMS to religion. But,
you guessed it, it's been done. Placing a note bearing
a prayer or request in the Western Wall in Jerusalem
is an old and significant Jewish tradition, but one
that is not possible for everyone. While a handful of
services have allowed people to send prayers via email
that a Rabbi would then print and place in the wall,
a new program called SMS2Wall offers the same service
with the convenience and increased access of letting
users send their messages and prayers via text. Much
as we tend not to associate texting with worship, programs
like SMS2Wall use texting to make religion more accessible.
Another group to begin to embrace texting is farmers--
and their cows. New technology that sends texts containing
data from cows holds great promise for the farmers who
provide us with our dairy. Born from robotic milking
machines that could call the farmer when the device
wasn't working, SMS technology in dairy farming has
come a long way; updates not only on the status of milking
machinery but on data like milk yield can be texted
to farmers as it becomes available, or at certain intervals
the farmer has designated for receiving update.
SMS technology is also being used to keep tabs on cows
when they are not being milked. Special collars gather
specific, detailed information for each cow and texts
the data to farmers, so that farmers can keep tabs on
a cow's activity, location, health, and its normal routine
and any deviations from it. While relatively few farms
use this technology at present, numbering no more than
200, more and more farmers are likely to deem the data
it offers worthy of a text as the technology becomes
Do you feel like you're in the future yet? We sure
do. With text messaging being used to do seemingly anything
and everything, right now is an exciting time to work
with SMS technology.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.