Monday, June 21, 2010

Super cool new SMS gateway: Twilio

[edited 10/5/2010 to add: People! We're glad you like the Twilio gateway, but do not rush off and create your own Twilio account. In order for it to work with libraryh3lp as a gateway, we (as in the libraryh3lp people) have to acquire the phone number for you. Full instructions below.]

We're excited to announce our newest SMS gateway. This one is backed by Twilio and by all indications is extremely robust. It features:
  • A phone number for your patrons to text.
  • Nearly instant message delivery. No polling interval.
  • Automatic notification to the patron when the library is offline.
  • Offline messages are delivered the next time your queue comes online.
  • Not free, but very affordable.
  • And of course, it integrates into LibraryH3lp like all our other gateways. Text messages can be transferred to other librarians, transcripts stored, statistics gathered, etc...
Specifics:
  • Cost is $1/month per phone number.
  • Messages are $0.03 each. 1,000 messages is $30.00
  • This is at-cost and is exactly what Twilio charges; there is no LibraryH3lp markup.
  • Currently, only US phone numbers are available via Twilio for SMS. However, international text messages can be sent and received.
  • Voice phone calls can be redirected to your regular library phone number.
To be clear, each message (not conversation) is $0.03. So, the following is $0.06:

Patron: anyone there?
Librarian: Yes

If you want a Twilio SMS gateway, please write to Eric, and specify:
  1. the queue you want it installed on,
  2. your top-level admin name,
  3. your desired area code for the phone number, and
  4. the phone number you want voice calls to go to.
We will acquire your Twilio phone number. We cannot currently make the gateway work with a Twilio number you acquire on your own.

If you are currently a Google Voice SMS gateway user, and you want to have your Google Voice SMS's forwarded to Twilio, let Eric know and he can set that up as well. (Please specify your GVoice SMS gateway's queue.) This way, your patrons keep texting you at the same number, but their messages will come through instantly.

How do I pay for this?


Please do not pay Twilio directly!


Nothing expires at the end of a year; it's really just a lump of money used to fund both the phone number and the messages.

If you want some other amount, let us know and we can set up a payment page for it. You can purchase any arbitrary amount of messages.

What sets this one apart from our other two SMS gateways?

Unlike the Google Voice SMS gateway, Twilio has public APIs. It has been created specifically so that developers like Eric can use it within their own applications. This means it will be much more stable and have much faster message delivery than the Google Voice SMS gateway.

And unlike our Android phone SMS gateway, libraries do not need to purchase a phone and keep it connected to reliable network and power.

Why do we keep changing SMS solutions?

To be clear, neither of the other two SMS gateways are going away.

We want our SMS gateways to be affordable and to allow patrons to text a phone number. When we started, the Android gateway was the only way we could come up with to accomplish that. Developer solutions were quite expensive. Then, when Google Voice came along, we adopted that very quickly and have implemented that gateway as best we can, but since there is no public API, it's fragile when Google makes changes (we knew this going into it and were very open about this fact).

Now, Twilio is here and is a big leap forward. It is a great fit with LibraryH3lp. We hope you'll enjoy it!

(Twilio is also available for My Customer Cloud users.)

[original message edited 9/15 to clarify sign-up info and to add payment info]
[edited again 7/12/2011 to fix payment links]

3 comments:

CubeDweller said...

Have you looked at the Google Voice SMS API? Here: http://gvsms.com/

rocky said...

Twilio is powerful , but are there any price changes / updates.

Pam Sessoms said...

Hi Rocky, no real updates or price changes (we just pass along Twilio's pricing, still three cents per message).

I've updated the blog post a couple of times to try to clear up confusion about account registration. That's been the only change so far.