Our mobile phones may be about to get a genuine workout, with a new service called motorTEXTER giving motorists the ability to SMS or 'text' each other courtesy of their unique number plate.
Operating in 'trial mode' for the past couple of months, the service launched at 2pm today, with around 20 or 30 early adopters getting on board in the first couple of hours.
Working as a type of mobile phone-based social network, motorTEXTER requires drivers to register their phone number, along with their vehicle's number plate, before they can be connected to the service.
Users can then identify other members by a sticker that is provided to each member when registering with the service.
With their number plate entered into the system, it then acts as their unique identifier by which other motorists can get in touch. Simply begin a new SMS message with a motorTEXTER member's number plate - GUY123 for example - and the system will send the text to that person's mobile phone as a text message.
GUY123: Hey! Saw u at the lights. Nice wheels. Txt me back!
Importantly, the phone number displayed on received and sent messages is that of the motorTEXTER service, meaning that members needn't fear their number ending up in the hands of strangers.
Registering with the service costs $2, and each message sent also carries a $2 cost. There is no cost for receiving messages.
Speaking with TMR today, motorTEXTER Director Steven John Pack said that while the service offers members the ability to block messages from specific users, the company also has the means to ban troublemakers from the service all together.
"We've got reports set up to monitor particular number plates that are being actively blocked by a significant number of members, so we can review if any user needs to be blocked from the service all together. If someone is causing trouble, it might be simply be in everyone's interest to cut them off," Mr Pack said.
"We're really trying to push the fun angle, though. We believe most users will look to the service as a means of making new connections, whether as friends or as a potential date, rather than simply blowing off steam or causing trouble."
Mr Pack said that the service could be of benefit not only to motorists eager to get in touch, but also as a promotional tool for local businesses. As an example, a business owner might note the number plate of a passing member before sending an SMS message inviting the user to enjoy a discount on their next visit.
Acknowledging the core similarities between this side of the motorTEXTER service and more complex services like the Foursquare application available for the iPhone and similar devices, Mr Pack said that no campaigns have been planned with local businesses - but that it could happen in the future.
"It's a bit of a chicken and egg process. You really need a strong user base before the service will be appealing to businesses. But with the takeup rate so far, we expect to have something we can take to businesses soon."
The service may even eventually make the leap to smartphones. "Foursquare is location-based, whereas motorTEXTER simply uses the number plate as an identifier. That said, if we see an opportunity to move into an iPhone-based geolocation app, we'd definitely investigate that," Mr Pack said.
Mr Pack was also quick to stress that users must remain mindful of the dangers of 'texting and driving,' urging motorTEXTER users to "remember the number plate, pull over, and text only once it's safe to do so."
The motorTEXTER service can be found at http://www.motortexter.com.au/, where Frequently Asked Questions and Terms & Conditions sections can also be found.