One to Watch: Urban Airship and Push Notifications

Urban Airship came to my attention recently, thanks to Sean O’Sullivan, in the rapidly emerging category of push notification aggregation.  Push notifications allow developers to send messages directly to customers who have installed their app, even when the app is closed on their device. Its yet another lost opportunity for SMS as operators remain stuck in their silo and are not responding to market innovations.

Push notifications can deliver information including sports scores, breaking news, stock movements, game challenges and even individual messages.  Yep that means it can substitute some, but not all, peer-to-peer SMS use cases across iOS, Android and Blackberry.  And I’m sure in time Windows and every other smartphone platform.

On Android it does require a Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) enabled device.  C2DM is a service that helps developers send data from servers to their applications on Android devices. The service provides a simple, lightweight mechanism that servers can use to tell mobile applications to contact the server directly, to fetch updated application or user data. The C2DM service handles all aspects of queuing of messages and delivery to the target application running on the target device.

Urban Airship makes it easy to implement push notifications by providing a single API across all platforms as well as managing exceptions such as non C2DM-enabled devices. The coding and infrastructure of push messaging, scheduling, and reporting is provided by Urban Airship under a freemium model (operators take note on how to make your APIs work). Bottom-line mobile push messaging is by over a factor of 10 more cost effective than SMS messaging and is free for the unfortunate North American customers that pay for incoming SMS.