Senior Systems Engineer Ólafur Tryggvason works for Advania, one of Northern Europe’s oldest IT companies, in Iceland. “We have a system called INNA that lets colleges manage tuition, attendance, and fees, and lets teachers share documents with students. Ninety percent of colleges here use it,” he says.
Among the things INNA can do is send SMS alerts to students. “The colleges were using local SMS services with INNA to notify students if classes were canceled,” Tryggvason says. “It had been set up maybe 20 years ago and not updated since. Now and then the services went down, and sometimes outgoing messages got backed up. When a local utility company would send out messages to several hundred thousand customers it sometimes filled up the SMS queue for many hours.”
That was frustrating, but not enough to make refactoring the code a priority — until one day in 2018 when texting provider Vodafone’s SMS service broke down for several days. Not having the ability to send messages crippled INNA — “so we scrambled,” Tryggvason recalls, to find a better solution for texting.
One of the key factors in Plivo’s favor was its API documentation, Tryggvason says. “We needed something easy to understand, that showed in simple steps how we could get what we wanted right away, and how we could add complexity later.”
Advania wanted to move quickly, and Plivo let them do that. “We were up and running in two days. We had messages going out in production on the second day.”
Tryggvason says he created an interface on top of the Plivo API and emulated all of the local APIs, so “if you were using Siemens or using Vodafone we could easily switch you out just by switching the hosting. It was about getting each school up and running as fast as we could.”
Plivo’s abilities to send callbacks from its API to the application was another key benefit. “Plivo sends a callback, which I’m saving and making available so someone at the schools can check the status of what’s going on. That was something the local vendors weren’t doing. Being able to know if a message was successfully delivered was a huge step up for us because that allowed us to bring in a level of service that the customers weren’t used to. And it was very easy — I didn’t have to do much but create a wrapper.
And that delay when the utility company blanketed its contact list with text messages? “The buffering that was happening went away because it’s not a problem with Plivo.”
Integrating Plivo with INNA was simple enough that Advania needed to contact tech support only once, and when they did, “it was fixed like that,” Tryggvason says. They also had a local telco that was blocking SMS messages from Plivo, in what was “kind of a blatant international violation.” Plivo got that remedied as well.
Replacing old code with Plivo’s APIs did more than make Advania’s college customers happy. Taking business away from the telcos was good for Advania’s business. “We do take a tiny margin,” he smiles.
Since migrating INNA to Plivo, Advania has used Plivo for other products, such as its visitor reception system Visita. Visitors sign in and get a badge with a barcode, and specify who they want to see, and that person gets an SMS saying there’s someone waiting at the door. Another system provides similar alerts as part of a PDF signing service to notify people there’s a document they need to sign.
Plivo has become a regular part of Advania’s toolkit for building SMS communications into applications.