According to the blog post announcing the release, FrontlineSMS Version 2, is a user driven improvement to the platform, focused on simplifying the software through a better and more intuitive user experience (UX) design.
Today, FrontlineSMS releases a new version of our award-winning software; more intuitive, simpler to extend and run over networks, and makes it easier to manage larger volumes of messages.
The FrontlineSMS project is spearheaded by the kiwanja Foundation, which leads the development and support effort for the project. It is similar to how the WordPress Foundation and Auctomattic spearhead development of the open source CMS platform, WordPress. The mission of FrontlineSMS is to empower communities by providing them with mobile tools.
We believe in giving local people ownership of the tools they need to change their world for the better. We have never monitored an election, or run a healthcare clinic, but our users have —and we help them to use mobile technologies in their work, without dictating how our software should be used.
FrontlineSMS has an interesting story, starting with the first public release in 2005, fueled by the dedication and programming skills of Ken Banks, the creator of FrontlineSMS. Ken Banks created FrontlineSMS while working on a conservation project in the Kruger National Park. He identified the need for the park authorities to engage the community in anti-poaching reporting and saw the most prevalent technology available to help was mobile phones.
Donations and fellowship funding spurred growth in 2006, requiring a foundation to be created, kiwanja, to manage the project in 2007. Making FrontlineSMS open source and a partnership in 2008 with Josh Nesbit, co-founder of Medic Mobile, another open source project, created the core platform which has been widely adopted and used so far.
According to FrontlineSMS as of December 2011, without having released any new software since summer 2010, there had been 20,000 downloads. FrontlineSMS has grown to include sector specific projects, derived from the main FrontlineSMS platform. The various sector specific projects adapt and extend the software across specific sectors such as Health (FrontlineSMS:Medic, now spun out as a separate entity, MedicMobile); Finance (FrontlineSMS:Credit); Education (FrontlineSMS:Learn), Legal Services (FrontlineSMS:Legal) and Community Radio (FrontlineSMS:Radio).
FrontlineSMS Version 2, is based on feedback from users and organisations already using the software. FrontlineSMS was redesigned to improve the user experience based on feedback from users through a collaboration between the FrontlineSMS team and Gabe White, a Kamapala user experience (UX) designer.
Since late 2010, feedback from users on the existing platform, and learning from our work with organizations implementing the software, have been generating new designs and ideas …..we redesigned the software to be more intuitive, simpler to extend and run over networks, and make it easier to manage larger volumes of messages.
Specific improvements to the platform include making it easier for users to create and manage common SMS actvities and an improved architecture, making the platform more flexible and scaleable for developers to modify and integrate with otther platforms. FrontlineSMS Version 2 still works through a browser and runs across Windows, Mac and Linux and uses a phone or GSM modem and therefore does not require an internet connection. It can however leverage online bulk SMS service providers to send and manage SMS, with support for Clickatell and intelliSMS already built into the software.
However the current release of Version 2, does not yet include some Version 1 functionality which and therefore both Version 1 and Version 2 will be supported as the transition occurs. A tentative roadmap for bringing functionality from Version 1 into Version 2 has been provided, with Q3 – Q4 2012, targeted as the deadline.
The blog post also sates that new and additional functionality not present in Version 1, is also slated for 2012 to improve the overall platform. This includes integration with additional web-based SMS services and taking a fresh look at critical functionality such as how FrontlineSMS deals with forms-based data collection. Also on the map for later this year is a web-based test platform, which will allow new and exciting ways of hosting the software for users.