Mobile Data Now: Google SMS for Businesses

New Zealand startup Mobile Data Now is placing its bets on SMS, email, and IM as the preferred methods of retrieving information while on the go, at least until tolerable mobile web browsers become more ubiquitous.

The company is using the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week to announce a product being described as Google SMS for businesses. With Google SMS, you can send Google a search query via text message and Google will send you search results back. This is particularly handy if you don’t have a smartphone, can’t make your way to a computer, and want to find out the number of a local pizza joint.

Mobile Data Now is an attempt to make it just as easy to retrieve information from corporate databases. The employees of businesses that install Mobile Data Now’s software could, for example, use SMS to retrieve information about a customer just before heading into a meeting with them. If their corporate databases also kept track of supply chain information, they could query that information when out of the office as well.

Businesses can also use Mobile Data Now to give consumers an easier way to retrieve information about their offerings. The company suggests that real estate agents could list phone numbers and text codes on signs placed in the front yards of houses for sale. People passing by could then instantly find out more information about these houses by texting in their respective codes.

The general idea here is to take technologies ordinarily intended for person-to-person communication and rework them for person-to-machine communication. This makes sense as long as more effective person-to-machine communication methods, such as HTTP, are not available. Since many phones don’t yet support adequate web browsing, I can see Mobile Data Now satisfying a need in the short term. But as handheld devices evolve – and they appear to be doing so quite rapidly these days – software like Mobile Data Now (and Google SMS for that matter) will simply be rendered obsolete in time.