Back in 2005, unicode supported mobile phones were not widely available in my country- Bangladesh. Therefore people had to use English alphabet for texting in Bangla. However, being a nation that sacrificed lives for mother tongue, it was not an acceptable solution. To address that challenge, I formed a small startup called 3SM Systems with three other classmates. I led that startup in developing two technologies for texting in Bangla: one using picture SMS (server-side solution) and the other using J2ME (client-side solution).
The picture SMS solution was launched by CityCell in 2005. It transliterates an SMS from English to Bangla and then transforms it into a compatible picture message. The text SMS solution was launched by GrameenPhone in 2006. The main challenge was to design an input matrix for this ‘complex-script’ language. Our software made use of the memory-map through which local kids are usually taught this language at schools. Unfortunately, the launch of our most innnovative text SMS solution, which was developed for a third operator (BanglaLink), got postponed for an indefinite period. This was because at that time (circa April ’06) BanglaLink was yet to introduce their data service (GPRS, WAP, mobile internet), which was a core access mode for provisioning this software.
The unique features of this software included:
First implementation of Bangla B9 input method (similar to T9 teachnology of Tegic Communications), which allows a user input Bangla at the rate of merely one keystroke per letter
First dictionary based predictive Bangla Input prompt, the user is auto-suggested a list of words during his input.
First handset resident content engine for creating and sending Picture SMS: if the user is not sure whether the recipient has this software installed, he can send a picture message which won’t require any software installation at the recipient side for viewing the message.
Intelligent auto-suggestion of conjunct letters after typing of first letters
Provision for Bangla & English multi-lingual messaging in the unified SMS
A comprehensive set of categorized and editable message templates suitable for different moods and occasions
The details of Bangla SMS can be found here: http://www.banglasms.com. (The design and information has not been updated since 2006. Kindly bear with the poor look and feel.)
As the team leader of 3SM Systems, I played a key role in design, development and launching of our product. I conducted extensive research & proposed the most appropriate technologies for our target audience. In terms of novel and intuitive interactions, my interaction designs and collaborative implementations could easily have been accepted for at least 3 patents.
Team members of 3SM Systems
Sujoy Kumar Chowdhury
Hasan Shihab Uddin
Nahid Mahfuza Alam
Md. Mahbubur Rahman
SMPP (Short Message Peer to Peer)
ESME (Extended Short Message Entity) client in Java
J2ME client with push notification
NSMS (Nokia Smart Messaging Specification- for Nokia, Sony Ericsson handsets)
EMS (Enhanced Messaging System- for other handsets)
Personas & scenarios
Our contribution to industry while being in academia earned nation-wide recognition in 2005. Here are some of those:
Best Project, IT Innovation Search Program of BASIS (Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services), SoftEXPO, 2005
1st Place at 6th SoftFair, 2005, North South University Computer Club.
Artifacts and Screenshots
Figure: Steps for Bangla picture SMS
Figure: Bangla text SMS Figure: The Daily Star feature highlighting the pioneers of Bangla SMS.
Video demo: Bangla SMS (BanglaLink Version)
Figure: System description for Citycell Bangla SMS
Figure: Information architecture and primary interaction for BanglaLink Bangla SMS
Figure: Information architecture and secondary interaction for BanglaLink Bangla SMS
Figure: Agreement signing ceremony between CityCell and 3SM Systems
Figure: Launch of GrameenPhone Bangla SMS Solution