What if you could slip your boxy desk phone in a pocket and take it wherever you go? Would it mean liberation from the cubicle, or just another way for work to invade your personal life?
For better or worse, the Cambridge tech firm HeyWire Inc. will on Monday unveil a technology that makes that a reality — sort of.
HeyWire has developed a way to send text messages, short audio clips, and photos to any landline phone number and have it redirected to the recipient’s mobile device and computer. Essentially, it’s making it possible to connect the old, wired phone that sits on virtually every desk in every office with the smartphone that many people carry.
Text messaging is becoming as common a tool between colleagues and clients as it is among friends and family. The research firm Informa estimates that by the end of this year phone users will exchange 41 billion messages every day.
“Messaging is more and more the preferred method of communication for a growing group of consumers who are bringing that into the business world,” said Meredith Flynn-Ripley, chief executive of HeyWire, which also operates a popular free texting app that has about 3 million active monthly users.
‘When you want to get someone . . . you want to text.’
A handful of companies are making tools to get greater use out of a landline in a smartphone era. In HeyWire’s case, business clients register their landline numbers with the company, which uses its mobile networking technology and connections with wireless carriers to enable a text to be sent to those digits. Recipients can view the message on mobile devices or computers using an app from HeyWire and respond to the sender. The service costs $10 a month per employee and includes an unlimited number of messages.
The idea, said Andrew Borg, a technology analyst at Aberdeen Group in Boston, “seems so obvious when you think of it. How could we have not had it before?”
A crucial part of the delivery system is the Internet protocol infrastructure that HeyWire owns and operates, which is similar to online phone services such as Skype and Google Voice. That technology allows HeyWire to plug itself into the vast wireless networks and make the service work. Otherwise, a text message sent to a landline would die somewhere in cyberspace.
Moreover, Borg said, HeyWire’s messaging service is robust enough to meet the standards of businesses that require highly secure networks and give them the ability to track and store employee conversations that are happening via text messaging.
The Newton law firm Ligris and Associates, which specializes in real estate, uses HeyWire for each of its 32 employees. Now, instead of having to give out multiple ways of contact — a personal cellphone, for example, or a home e-mail — clients can use the employee’s landline number as a single point of contact, for when they are in and out of the office.
Kosta Ligris, the firm’s chief executive, said he often prefers to communicate by text, anyway, and especially to reach someone quickly. When he wants to get his entire staff’s attention, Ligris uses HeyWire to send a text blast.
And, he said, texting is beginning to replace voicemail as the preferred means to leave messages in the business world.
“If I could get rid of any of the technology that I have, voicemail would be dead to me,” Ligris said.
Another local organization, Oxfam America, will use HeyWire for its 200 US employees and eventually expand it to about 300 other employees around the world. One of the primary reasons is cost; under its corporate phone plan, the cost of sending so many text messages to far-flung places adds up quickly, said Jim Daniell, the chief operating officer for Oxfam America, located in Boston.
Big wireless networks often charge for text messages that are sent over the cellular networks. Messaging services such as HeyWire and others ride on top of those networks or operate over the Web at much lower costs.
The switch to HeyWire could save Oxfam, a nonprofit organization, tens of thousands of dollars a year in telecommunication costs, Daniell said. “We are predominantly an e-mail culture and a little bit of a phone culture. But when you want to get someone urgently, you want to text.”
Michael B. Farrell
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