As a member of Google’s Early Access Program (EAP), MessageMedia was invited to attend a developer camp on rich communication services (RCS) at its campus in Mountain View, California. A team of five packed their bags and their Pixel handsets to learn from Google’s Rich Business Messaging (RBM) team and get early insights into what the future holds for the technology.
How are Google involved in RCS?
While RCS remains a carrier-delivered technology delivered to the standard messaging inbox, Google is an important member of the group of companies helping to deliver it as the next generation of mobile messaging.
Google became an active participant in RCS in 2015 with the purchase of Jibe Mobile, taking a different approach to a carrier-delivered messaging technology. (Find out here why we love RCS at MessageMedia and what it will do for businesses.)
Google’s active developer relations program allowed a number of workshops and round table discussions.
Sean Falconer, Senior Developer Advocate at Google, kicked off proceedings by asking all attendees to build their own RCS agents, with the complexity gradually increasing with each workshop. A constant focus of Sean’s workshops was the required attention to detail on the user experience (i.e. consumers interacting with agents) and methods that can present information better and improve the overall interaction.
A large part of the user experience with RCS is the conversational abilities of the technology. Daniel Situnayake works as Developer Advocate for Dialogflow at Google, and led a number of tutorials and workshops on the integration of RCS technologies and Dialogflow, which is Google’s own platform that seamlessly integrates with RCS to deliver automated conversation flows using natural language processing. Daniel took the teams through an exciting integration of Dialogflow for each of the prepared RCS agents.
Finally, Jake Leichtling, Lead Product Manager – RCS Business Messaging at Google, held a Q&A session about the technology and shared his thoughts on the future of RCS. He imparted particular insight into how Google will help consumers find and start conversation with businesses, which is a challenge other manufacturers like Samsung have addressed within the messaging itself with a Chatbot Directory.
20-plus teams compete in the hackathon
The afternoon of the second day was dedicated a hackathon, which combined all the skills learned and applied them to a single RCS agent that would be judged by a member of the Google team. There were over 20 teams that participated, with three hours to create and demonstrate a solution using RCS.
It was at this point that the ongoing influence of MessageMedia Grant Founder helped the team’s focus. Rule established the Susan McKinnon Foundation with Sophie Oh in 2015, aimed at making a positive and lasting positive difference to Australian society.
This philanthropic influence helped the MessageMedia contingent choose Second Harvest, a charity in the San Francisco Bay area, as an organisation to target for its solution. Using RCS to improve the ease of communication and the donation process, the team saw the ability to use outbound communication to encourage donations for food, funds or time from those in the area who had donated previously, or shown an interest in getting involved.
The team took just three hours to develop an RCS agent that could help consumers donate to Second Harvest.
Using RCS technology, the team demonstrated three uses of RCS and other Google services to enable users to:
1. donate food, including nominating the type, amount and collection location of the items
2. donate funds by selecting a pre-set amount and integrating Dialogflow to support free-typed amounts in any currency, and completing the donation via Google Pay
3. donate time, with volunteers nominating their preferred time and adding the details to their calendar with a single tap.
The verdict: MessageMedia wins the hackathon!
The MessageMedia team was awarded first place, a significant honour given the strength of the competition. The solution greatly impressed the Google judge, particularly with the breadth of the various uses of RCS functions and its integration with other Google services such as Dialogflow and Google Pay. The panel also judged the final product as well-polished and serving an extremely useful function in society by supporting such a worthwhile organisation.
Congratulations to the MessageMedia team!