Sometimes it is the “little” companies that make all the right noises. This is just the case with a 1 year old Cape Town start-up that I found at AfricaCom.
The company is called SIM Dynamics and has taken a radical approach to the cell market where they enable Smart services on dumb phones.
Guillaume Ortscheit, Managing Director, explains that that their service is aimed at the low end of the market that would like to have access to smart phones but can not afford them and they certainly can not afford the data charges. This is where SIM Dynamics come in. Through their software that is pre-loaded onto the SIM card, they are able to offer “any device, even devices that have a green screens, applications like Facebook, Twitter, Google Searches, Mail etc. and all of this without using any data.”
eh..what ? How does that work ?
Guillaume describes the process: When the user enters the application on their phone by selecting it from the phone’s menu, they are presented with various menu options. By simply entering the Facebook application, they can preform Facebook related tasks such as updating status, writing on walls etc. The application converts those commands to USSD and along with a new protocol that they developed carry the data to the central server where all the complex tasks are preformed and Facebook is updated. All this without any SMS being sent and without any data costs to the user.
The SIM can be loaded with any applications however the menus can be updated at any time from the central server and so new apps can be pushed to the users.
Sounds too good to be true. Free access to social networks with free data over the dumbest phones. Surely this is a concept that needs to be tested.
Guillaume proudly exclaims that in South Africa, Cell C has deployed this system and MTN is about to do so as well. Pepco activates the largest amount of pre-paid SIM cards in South Africa and they have installed their own software into the menu such as their loyalty program. They wanted to go the extra mile for their customers and their customers will get these great apps as value added services on their pre-paid sim cards bought at PEP.
The natural next step is to offer banking services and SIM Dynamics has already thought about that are are in discussions with Fundamo to offer Visa services on this platform. They are also developing their MXit and Facebook Chat app.
SIM Dynamics has opened up their platform to developers. They have their own programing language called SML (Solar Markup Language) which allows developers to develop applications for this system. Think of the possibilities of being able to push apps to millions of customers…
The software makes it simple for the user to preform tasks beyond just recharging their mobile phone with airtime. This system unlocks Social Media and truly connects the unconnected. To paraphrase Marlon Parker , a Social Entrepreneur, who commented that the poor have the same needs and being able to be connected means offering people dignity. With SIM Dynamics this dream is a reality.
I look forward to watching their growth which I predict will be huge in a very short period of time.