Messaging company Staellium has launched a WAP-based text application that has been designed to let users send messages that cannot be saved on the recipient's phone.
The service, called STEALTH, operates on a subscription basis through a premium text number. Those wishing to sign up to the service can text STEALTH to 80880 to receive a link that will allow them to download the StealthText applet via a WAP connection. Once a message has been sent, the recipient receives a text notification showing the sender's name and providing a link to the message. Once opened, the message will disappear after a short period of time (about 40 seconds). To unsubscribe to the service users must text STOP to 80880.
The recipient can also reply with StealthTexts, creating a private channel of two-way communication, although to reply that user will also need to download the application.
The service works by hosting messages on a secure server, with messages processed to the mobile networks by a messaging aggregator. Staellium can also create a hosted "secret" address book for users - creating a parallel list of contacts that cannot be accessed from the users handset.
Carole Barnum, CEO and Co-founder of Staellium said she has already received enquiries from interested parties as diverse as financial services, MOD and celebrity agents. There are 500 registered users at present, and three companies have asked for written details of the service to use for business use, Barnum said. Barnum estimates that 75% of the use on the service will be for business purposes, with the other 25% personal use.
“In spring 2006 we will be launching new services such as self-destruct email, voice and picture messages, so ultimately no one will ever have to worry about their messages or pictures ending up in the wrong hands ever again,” Barnum added.
With the prevention of text bullying high on the agenda at the moment, Barnum said the service was only available to people aged 18 and above. She admitted the company could not enforce that age bar, but the 18 limit is clear in the terms and conditions of the service, she added.
For other malicious uses of the Stealth service, a user can click on a link to block and sender permanently. This facility exceeds Staellium's legal obligation in this regard, Barnum said. The service provider also retains all data and information on its subscribers.
The service is currently available around the world for users of UK SIM cards only. The services costs £5 for a bundle of ten texts.
Barnum said the service would "roll out" across Europe quickly, with a US launch in the first two weeks of January and shortly after in Asia.
"All the infrastructure is in place, we just wanted to see how the transactions developed," she said.
Staellium has been formed specifically to address the market with this service, but Barnum's team has been operating in the B2B software development and corporate intelligence space for ten years, with products such as self-destruct email.
The application has been certified by Vodafone, and Staellium's management team includes non-executive directors from Lucent Technologies and Motorola.
"We are not newcomers and babies to the mobile arena," Barnum said.