Bulk SMS in Europe using cellphone + osx
October 16, 2015 4:29 AM   Subscribe

I've been looking at bulk SMS solutions for our organisation and thought I'd check with the hive. I'm using clickatell.com at the moment but it's rather bulky, so have this idea about using a flat fee mobile phone account. Let's hear what you think…

We're based in Sweden and most of our members have Swedish cell phone numbers. I'm thinking that I could use an application om my mac (OSX 10.11) to send bulk SMS to our members through a flat-fee mobile phone subscription and a tethered phone. Much like what you can do with iMessage and an iPhone, but not as a group SMS but as individual messages.

Searching for "bulk sms" and the like shows different apps, but many of them look dodgy or dated, so I'm looking for a recommendation for applications as well as which phone (iOS, Win, Android) would be required. I've seen solutions for using USB 4G modems, so I guess that's possible as well.

I chose clickatell because it allows interfacing with CiviCRM, but I'm using SMS so infrequently that taking this out of CiviCRM isn't that cumbersome. The interface for clickatell is giving me a rash, and it's not as cheap as a flat fee account would be. Neither can it receive replies from all carriers here. Clickatell has the benefit of being able to change the sender ID to our org name, but that's not a crucial function. I'll check with the carriers here if they allow this as an add-on for the phone subscription.

Replying to SMS is free here (as opposed to the US from what I gather) so it's potentially a useful way of updating our members and responding directly to questions about messages.
posted by monocultured to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAL but that doesn't sound very legal: you will be breaking your mobile phone agreement to start with, and then there are bulk marketing laws and unsubscription to worry about.
posted by gorcha at 6:05 AM on October 16, 2015

Legally in the EU, subscribers have to be able to stop text messages on demand, and request complete records of the data you hold on them. This is why everyone uses 3rd party services like Clicktell; despite the short comings, they reliably cover the legalities and provide good data management practice. I'm not sure a strung together system will cover you.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:08 AM on October 16, 2015

As far as legalities are concerned, I'm not.

We have a system for flagging members who don't want info from us, and comply with any request for pulling info should anyone ask for it. As for the mobile phone agreement, that's neither here nor there - it's not commercial use, it's not marketing, and we'll stay within the flat fee limits (3000-10000 messages per month for those I've seen - and we're perhaps going to use 1000 per month…)

Basically looking for a souped up version of the iMessage functionality.
posted by monocultured at 6:22 AM on October 16, 2015

I would have to agree that going with some kind of service will be lots less hassle in the long run. That said, if you're really looking at a homebrew solution, I would start with something like this rather than a real cellular phone. Add an Arduino and the relevant library and it shouldn't be hard to hack up a sketch that will take a list of numbers and send an SMS to them in turn. The harder part will be dealing with the reply messages and creating some sort of interface for managing them, or else integrating it with CiviCRM.

If you do go this route, it would certainly be great if you shared what you came up with and contributed it back to the CiviCRM community.
posted by LiteOpera at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2015

Ah, just to clarify - I'm probably not going to interface this with CiviCRM, but rather keep the messaging separate altogether. If I do create something which uses the CRM I'll of course contribute back to the community. (Mostly it's messages such as "Kiln #3 is out of commission, ETA for repairs is 2 days")
posted by monocultured at 7:56 AM on October 16, 2015

Your second reply seems to indicate that you're not averse to diving deep...... so maybe this might help you: asterisk is a complete telephone exchange and it can also send sms which you can script with some shell scripts on unix.
Asterisk can interface with lots if telephony hardware but connecting to some VoIP account is easiest.
There are at least two free books about on the net, here is one of them.

Technically it is within your scope of an OS X solution because all the unixy bits are there but I suppose you were going for somerhing easier......
posted by mmkhd at 8:39 AM on October 16, 2015

You're not going to have much luck trying to do it the way Apple's Messages.app does; that stuff is fairly locked down and Apple doesn't publish developer documentation for that corner of their universe. However, most phones (except iPhones*) that have Bluetooth support something called Message Access Profile (MAP) which is a standard that allows sending and receiving SMS over a Bluetooth connection. If you're willing to dabble in Linux, you might want to have a look at gnokii, or as previously mentioned, Asterisk. You may be able to get those running on OS X as well, but that might be more trouble than it's worth.

* iPhones support MAP but not the sending side of it, only receiving. As far as hardware for this endeavour, I think you'd probably be best off with the dumbest old Nokia you can find that still does Bluetooth.
posted by jordemort at 8:45 AM on October 16, 2015

Have you looked into using Twilio?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:41 PM on October 16, 2015

I don't know of any desktop applications, but if your technically inclined I believe you can connect a mobile phone to kannel and use it as a SMSC.

The one thing I would add is that if the messages are identical and sent rapidly some carriers will stop delivering your messages.
posted by phil at 5:37 PM on October 16, 2015

Thanks for the replies all. I recall using Blue Phone Elite a couple of years ago to send SMS through my Nokia, and thought that this was just a question of finding a more up-to-date app. Judging from your answers this might take more tinkering than I thought, so I'll review the suggestions and see what the least painful solution is.

posted by monocultured at 9:35 AM on October 18, 2015

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