I'm in charge of a group of people (500 pilots) who by the nature of their jobs are continuously in multiple countries each day.

On semi-regular occasions (once/twice a week) I have to send these people a message. Email has not been a success at all in getting the information to them in a timely fashion.

The vast majority of my group have smart phones, and for the last number of years we've been using the services of Clickatell to send the pilots SMS using clickatell's API linked to our database.

The pilots like this because of the "instantaneous" of the information. It's beamed right to their pocket so to speak. However it hasn't been without its problems.

  1. It's expensive - spending over 600 euro every couple of months.
  2. Unreliable. When pilots are NOT in their home country (a regular occurrence) a lot of SMS do not get delivered due to roaming issues or number porting issues. This is our biggest complaint at the moment.

It has led me on a search to find a better alternative.

I have looked at trying to find an Internet based IM program/app that has a client that runs on iOS and Android phones.

Some requirements

  1. We MUST have a way to send messages using an API via a programming script (PHP/Python etc)
  2. We would like to have a group option that we can put certain pilots into certain groups for easier targeting of messages. (Eg Captains/CoPilots)
  3. We are happy to pay for each pilot to purchase the client.
  4. We currently only need text messages, its unlikely to need images soon, but if it exists already thats a bonus.
  5. We don't want a chat room, ie, if there are 200 pilots in a group none of them should be able to "chat" with each other. Because so many timezones are involved, inevitably someone will be sleeping when someone is awake! Its should be announcement only.
  6. We are happy to look at business software/solution.
  7. All users should be able to join / leave the group at will. (We do not want to be accused of spamming! These are our own members getting roster information etc - stuff they want!)
  8. The client app should be able to run on iOS and android at a minimum.

I've looked at:

  • Whatsapp (no api)
  • Telegram (can't find a library for simple API access yet via python/php etc)
  • Line (no api)
  • WeChat ( http://dev.wechat.com/wechatapi didn't seem like a good match)
  • HipChat the most promising but seemed difficult to get everyone into a group and didn't allow for announce only channel.

Is there any software app that anyone knows of that might fulfill some of these requirements? As i say we'd be happy to buy the app for each pilot but I just can't seem to find a service that offers this type of messaging!

Help! Thank you.

  • If it were me then I'd just roll my own. This sort of application is fairly trivial in most languages as long as they have TCP\IP libraries. Just Google '<programmming language> Client Server' and you should find plenty of help for any common language. Even C++ can be used to do this in under 100 lines of code for example (in .NET takes around 20). The PHP manual has several examples as well: php.net/manual/en/sockets.examples.php – krowe Nov 4 '14 at 2:37

BBM Channels

BBM Channels is the successor to the old broadcast option in BBM Messenger. It allows you to create channels and invite subscribers. It has a web portal, in addition to mobile apps.

  1. Ability to send messages via API. I have no experience with this feature, but this forum seems to confirm it.
  2. Ability to create and manage multiple broadcast channels (groups).
  3. Free
  4. Ability to post text and images
  5. No chat room. You could also control whether or not the subscribers are able to comment on your posts (see image below)
  6. For personal and business use.
  7. Members can join a public channel at will, or via invitation in case of a private one, with the ability to unsubscribe at any time.
  8. Available on BBM for iOS, Android, and Blackberry OS (Not yet available on the Windows Phone version).

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • Timmy - thanks for the detailed reply. I was very excited when I started to give this a go. On paper it all seemed to be there! However the stumbling block seems to the the API - it doesn't appear like I can send a message to either my channel or directly to a user without using the official APP. I'm getting very close - thank you for your time. – PilotSnipes Nov 4 '14 at 18:28
  • @PilotSnipes The forum I linked in the question states that it's possible. I have no experience with it though, but maybe you'd be able to get help if you ask about it at WebApps.SE – Tymric Nov 9 '14 at 0:46

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