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Mobile messaging gets a push

An emerging technology called push messaging is helping mobile messaging users to get information instantly without tedious button pressing. An electricity company is using technology from JP Mobile to make sure its employees get messages during emergencies.

With next-generation wireless networks now covering broader areas of the United States, push messaging is creating a slew of new opportunities for enterprises and vendors alike.

Push messaging essentially makes mobile messaging more effective, said Ian Gillott, president of Austin, Texas-based iGillott Research. With push messaging technology, messages are delivered to a wireless user's mobile inbox immediately after they are sent or at regular intervals.

That was not possible with the previous generation of wireless networks, which were analogous to dial-up service and required the user to check for messages manually. New higher speed networks -- such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and 1XRTT (also known as CDMA 2000) -- allow devices to maintain constant Internet connectivity, such as when a PC is connected via DSL or cable modem.

With regular messaging systems, users had to go through a number of steps to synch up their devices and receive messages. Gillott said that often many users either forget how to do it, or complain that they never get their messages.

Now wireless e-mail is mush simpler to use, said Gillott. "With push messaging, you give someone a device, and say 'Here you go, your messages will come in and you just reply to them,'" he said.

Over the last few years, many companies have provided the middleware systems necessary to push messages to users at regular intervals. And scores of them are now gone, said Gillott, because large vendors like IBM Corp. have gone after this market.

One of the smaller players that has outlasted the competition is JP Mobile Inc. The Austin, Texas-based wireless middleware provider's system consists of two servers; one sits behind the firewall, and another sits in the DMZ.

It also uses a client that is compatible with the Palm operating system, any of the smart phone operating systems and the Research in Motion RIM 900 series devices. JP Mobile is able to push calendar and other personal information management (PIM) applications to RIM devices, which RIM does not currently do on its own devices.

It also supports both Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange and IBM Lotus' Domino, and can be expanded to work with other applications, said Kevin Byrd, vice president of marketing at JP Mobile. All traffic between the server and the device is also encrypted.

Push messaging technology undoubtedly makes wireless messaging more useful, said John Reed, a system architect with Energy Northwest, a Richland, Wash.-based energy provider that runs a nuclear power plant. Right now it uses the JP Mobile system with 20 executives that travel heavily using RIM 957 devices.

The company plans to expand its mobile deployment beyond RIM devices to smart phones and other handhelds. One reason that is went with JP Mobile is that it works with a broad range of devices.

Reed said the company is considering push messaging for its emergency response system. Right now the company uses pagers, which are extremely reliable, but Reed said they are limited in how much information they can convey in a single message. Push messaging would allow him to send out lengthier messages to employees in the event of an emergency. Plus, he said he would be confident that messages would be received as soon as they were sent.

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