Launching SMSsync: An Android Phone as SMS Gateway

Erik Hersman
Nov 10, 2010
SMSsync - a simple SMS to HTTP sync utility from Ushahidi

SMSsync is a simple SMS to HTTP sync utility. It turns any Android phone into a local SMS gateway that syncs to the web. SMSsync supports filtering text messages by keywords and can transmit the text message to a configured callback URL via HTTP POST request. We already used this internally in the Ushahidi Android app, and we decided that it was a valuable enough utility to create a simple app around it for everyone to use.



To start the SMSSync Gateway, you'll need to specify a callback URL. This URL is where all incoming text messages will be transmitted to.

For security you can specify at secret at the callback URL. If the secret doesn't match, the callback URL will ignore the transmission.

Additionally, you can specify keywords with which to filter incoming messages. Only matching text messages will be sent to the SMSSync Gateway URL.

The SMSSync sends the following variables via the POST method:




[Download SMSsync here]


A couple months ago, on one of my trips to the US, David and I were sitting working in a coffeeshop and started talking about how we could make it easy for people without access to computers to easily send SMS messages to Ushahidi. Of course, you still need a phone, but at least in this case it'll cost you less. Henry Addo, in Ghana, got started on it, and we've got the first release to show you now. The design was to be able to send SMS reports to Ushahidi by just putting the deployment particulars into it. As long as your phone has an internet connection and power, you can just put it in the corner and let it chug away syncing incoming reports to Ushahidi.

Other Uses

SMSsync logoRealizing that SMSsync had a lot of value for other use cases beyond Ushahidi, we set simple parameters for it. For instance, you can create your own in-country SMS-to-Twitter app now utilizing SMSsync and the Twitter API. We're playing around with this in Nairobi right now, and it works great. Another example, imagine a radio station using SMSSync to have users respond to something on air. There are hundreds of use applications for this. We think there might be a good reason to create SMSsync for other mobile platforms as well. If you'd like to get involved with that, let us know. We're looking forward to seeing if everyone else finds this as useful as we do. Let us know what you do with it. SMSsync is also built in as a plugin for the next release of Ushahidi (v2.0) "Luanda" coming out very soon.