FrontlineSMS

FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.

Hello.

I'm just getting started with Forms but on a really compressed deadline and could use some help to speed the process. We are doing a field test with rural indigenous communities in Guatemala to support the collection of medical inventory data via mobile (replacing a really slow paper version that exists now). 

For the test, we essentially need to support incoming form data. An added bonus would be to enable sending of SMS's to the group, but it's less of a priority. I'm finding both Clickatell and IntelliSMS's websites to be difficult to parse and have a few questions for the community:

Is it still true that Clickatell does not support incoming SMS?

Will either or both present any kind of problem if running Frontline SMS from Guatemala (ie., is it a US number, or Guatemalan, and if the former, is the cost higher?)

Does either Frontline SMS or one of the gateways support the calling of server-side scripts when the form data comes in as SMS?

If you recommend Clickatell or IntelliSMS - can you point me to the right product or service on the respective website? Are there instructions somewhere as to how to setup the integration?

Thanks so much,

Claudia

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Hi Claudia,

Thanks for getting in touch. This sounds like a really interesting project you are getting started with, and its exciting to hear you plan to use FrontlineSMS in this way.

In response to some of your questions, Clickatell does not support incoming SMS directly through FrontlineSMS. Messages can be sent out via Clickatell, but you can divert any replies to a local phone/ modem attached to your FrontlineSMS set up. 

 

Using Internet SMS services shouldn't post a problem using from Guatemala, and should actually make the cost of sending out messages cheaper. Plus, you can still set FrontlineSMS up to receive messages back through a local SIM card keeping costs low.

 

You can read more about this, and more generally about using IntelliSMS / Clickatell with FrontlineSMS in our help files here: http://help.frontlinesms.com/manuals/1.6.16.3/internetservices.htm.

 

I'm not sure on your question relating to server-side scripts, but hopefully the information above and in the help files will provide a good starting point for you and we can ask our developer team if they're able to give any further information here.

 

Please do keep us updated on how you get along.

 

Thanks! 

Flo

Thank you so much for your reply Flo! And I'm glad you're excited - we're really excited to see this field test come together. As a bit of extra context - I'm teaching a class at Parsons School of Design in the fall that is in partnership with Open Society Foundations, and will be development a platform or platforms to support the work of three NGO's (Guatemala, South Africa, and the US). So for the longer term platform work, we will be looking to see if we can use Frontline SMS in a more fixed or stationary way as well.

In the meantime - this is all really helpful information. I have a couple of quick follow-ups if you don't mind:

1. Given that you cannot receive via Clickatell, do you recommend for this test the GSM modem and SIM card route? Is this is the least expensive (it looks to be to me)? The modem and computer will be sitting in an office in Guatemala City - so the mobile piece on that end is not necessary and I was imagining that something more "fixed" might make sense, but it does seem that the cost of getting a phone number is fairly high via IntelliSMS and at least for this test this will be the best route.

2. The link above is REALLY helpful (exactly what I was looking for yesterday :) - but it seems that if we need to receive the form data via GSM modem, sending SMS that way (if necessary) makes the most sense and for this particular test makes the SMS gateway unnecessary. Would you agree?

3. The only other thing I was asking about above - and this is less urgent - but we would like to have the form data automatically submitted to a government division, replicating what happens now with the paper forms. Are there any ways in which to have the data automatically forwarded on, or sent directly from the Forms app, to an email address? This is what I was asking about in terms of server-side scripting or something similar.

Thanks so much again for your prompt response - very helpful. We will certainly keep you posted on our progress!

Claudia

Hi Claudia,

Thanks for your kind and enthusiastic reply! It certainly sounds an interesting project which you are getting started with, and it will be great if you can stay in touch with the community here and let us know how it develops. 

In terms of your first two questions, when looking at using an internet SMS service (Clickatell etc) with FrontlineSMS versus just setting up with a GSM modem only each option has advantages and disadvantages. The internet SMS services do tend to be cheaper once you have them set up, in terms of sending bulk outgoing messages at a lower cost per SMS. They also usually allow you to send a larger number of messages out from FrontlineSMS more quickly.

Using a GSM modem for sending and receiving through FrontlineSMS can be slightly easier to set up, though, and works without the need for an internet connection. The cost of sending messages through a modem will be determined by the mobile network operator of the SIM card used, and this cost will vary depending on which country you are setting up in. 

 

So whether you decide to use a GSM modem or an internet service depends on how many messages you plan to send out, and what kind of context (online/ offline) you will be working in. if you are currently just running a pilot to test how the system works then using a GSM modem only should be absolutely fine. I hope this helps you to make a more informed decision, but if any of this is unclear or you have further questions please feel free to ask.

With your third question, you can definitely forward normal SMS via email in FrontlineSMS version 1, and you can read about this in our Help files here. (You can also read more about Forms in our help files and on our website, too). However, I'm not sure if you can auto-forward Forms so would have to double check this with the developer team.

Please do let us know if this information proves helpful, and if you have further questions on any of this.

Thanks!

Flo

 

Thanks Flo - I appreciate the response. We were able to get the GSM modem running in Guatemala - so for this particular field test, it will work well. I am teaching a class at Parsons School of Design here in New York in the fall that is in partnership with the Open Society Foundations, and we'll be continuing the work in Gautemala, as well as similar projects with NGOs in South Africa and here in the US. So - your input will be very helpful as we continue our work over the coming months - much appreciated.

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