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Watch out! the audicons are coming

This time Irish whimsy goes too far

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Irish company 2PM Technologies has unveiled a new application that will let users send whimsical noises alongside audible SMS messages.

The noises, which can be attached to any standard text message, have been dubbed audicons, because they are designed to have a similar effect as emoticons, which have been used for years in SMS messages, IM messages and e-mails. Text only smiley faces, such as :-) are typical emoticons.

To attach an audicon to a message, users simply write out a text message and include a special audicon sequence of characters to generate the sound to associate with the message. For example, an SMS reading "Congratulations on winning the big match [cheers]," would include a cheering sound effect.

Additionally, messages that include audicons can be sent to any phone, including fixed-line phones that generally cannot receive SMS messages. This is because the service dumps audicon text messages into users' voicemail boxes in the form of an audio message that includes the audicon.

"MMS will make money when it arrives, but this service is a way to exploit text revenues today," explained Ray Collis, sales and marketing director for 2PM. "We have gone away from technology for technology's sake. This technology has been designed to help [fixed-line] telecoms increase revenues."

Although estimates vary, the number of SMS messages sent each month worldwide has skyrocketed from four billion in mid-2000, to an estimated current monthly rate of about 30 billion. Moreover these figures are projected to grow to 100 billion per month by 2005 and currently about 10 percent of mobile operators' revenues come from SMS messages.

Until recently, most of the revenues for SMS have gone to the mobile operators. Services, such as the one unveiled by 2PM and Eircom's soon to launch fixed-line SMS service, are designed to help fixed-line operators tap into the ever-growing SMS market.

Consumer research by 2PM suggests that, once the fixed line networks in the UK adopt emerging mobile-to-fixed line SMS technology, up to 17 percent more text messages could be sent as a result, on top of the 1.4 billion a month that are already sent in the UK.

"Our consumer research suggests that most people will use it the same way that they use mobile-to-mobile messaging now: quite happily and in great volumes," claimed Audrey McCallum, business development director and head of 2PM Technologies UK office. "The only pre-condition for these applications becoming reality is for the fixed line operators to recognise the revenue opportunity it opens up to them."

The technology behind the audicon service is 2PM's core messaging platform is named the Media Interworking Gateway (MiG), which essentially gives telecoms the ability to convert messages from any format into any other format. Telecoms network operators that employ MiG could, for example, let users access e-mails over SMS, or receive SMS messages over a fax machine. Voice, e-mail, SMS, WAP and fax all become interchangeable through MiG, the company claims.

2PM employs around 45 and has offices in Athlone, Ireland and Plymouth. The company has received investments from Enterprise Ireland and ICC Venture Capital.

© ENN

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