More than two billion people worldwide who don’t have internet access often miss out on life-changing benefits of being connected, such as automated micro-lending for entrepreneurs, marketplace applications and information services including weather forecasts and market pricing.

To help overcome this digital divide, NC State innovators have developed a new platform that enhances the capabilities of cell phones with text-messaging services, which are common even in disadvantaged areas.

NC State’s enhanced Short Message Service (SMS) platform overcomes a limitation of texting technology: all SMS messages are independent of each other. Human language is used to create meaning from SMS conversations between people, and it is difficult to program computers to accurately communicate with humans over SMS. Solving the problem would enable international aid organizations, social science researchers, microfinance organizations and e-commerce groups to reach unserved people around the world.

The research team includes computer science researcher John Bass, who has 20 years of experience in system design and project management; Duarte Morais in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, who has 15 years of experience with global economic development and micro-entrepreneurship; and Ryan Kilby, a computer science expert who has experience developing complex web apps for customers.

This project, along with 34 others, have received over $2M from the Chancellors Innovation Fund. Established in 2010 by NC State with the support of Chancellor William R. (Randy) Woodson, the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) awards up to $75,000 to support short-term commercially-focused research projects. The CIF assists NC State innovators with reduction to practice and technology development needed to strengthen the commercial potential of intellectual property disclosed to the Office of Technology Commercialization and New Ventures (OTCNV).

To date the CIF has led to 12 startups and 17 new licenses to existing/new companies at a 6:1 ROI and $12M in leveraged follow-on funding from outside investment

(More on CIF and awarded projects…)