Connecting SMSSync to FrontlineSMS Desktop

SMSSync is an Android application that allows your Android phone to exchange text messages with an application like FrontlineCloud. You can learn more about the product, as well as how to download it, by reading Installing SMSSync. You can also find additional assistance at Ushahidi's help site, http://smssync.ushahidi.com/configure/

In order to connect FrontlineSMS to SMSSync, you will need both applications running simultaneously. This is because you need to go through some basic steps to create the connection. After this initial setup, you do not need both applications to be running simultaneously for the connection to work properly.

Once you've downloaded and installed SMSSync, start FrontlineSMS and click 'Settings' in the upper right-hand corner. From there, you can click on "Connections."

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Select "SMSSync" and then click "Next."

 

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Now you will see a lovely set of instructions on how to create a connection with SMSSync. Here, we expand on those a bit, including screenshots.

 

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First, enter a Secret Key into FrontlineSMS. This is effectively a password of your choosing that allows you your Android to verify your connection to FrontlineSMS.

Timeout is an advanced feature that allows you to set the number of minutes your Android will attempt to sync messages before failing.  In other words, once SMSSync and FrontlineSMS are connected, your Android will attempt to forward and receive messages to and from FrontlineSMS. If for some reason SMSSync cannot contact FrontlineSMS (for instance, of our servers were down), the Android phone will eventually "timeout" and stop trying to send or receive those messages. You can set a time period for how long the Android attempts to establish a connection. The default is set at 60 minutes, and if you aren't sure, you can just leave this number for now.

Finally, you can name this connection for your FrontlineSMS account. You can choose any name you like, such as "Bob's Work Android." Enter that in the final field, and click "next."

Here is one example of how we completed the form:

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If you have completed all the fields, you will be prompted to confirm your settings. Your screen will look something like this:

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If everything looks correct, then click "Done."

Finally -- and this is very important -- make note of the URL (which is a fancy way to say web address) that appears under your connection. This is your Sync URL, and you will need it to finalize a connection to your Android phone. The Sync URL is highlighted with a purple bar in the screenshot below.

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Now, on your Android phone, open up SMSSync. Tap on the "Sync URL" tab. Then you can click the "+" symbol to add a new connection. You should get a screen that looks like this:

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The first field, "Enter Title for the Sync URL," can be anything you want. For example, "Demo FrontlineSMS Account."

Next, enter the Secret Key you created in FrontlineSMS.

You can ignore the keywords feature for now; FrontlineSMS will help you manage Keywords.

Finally, you need to enter the URL (web address) you saved from earlier in this process.

Note: the default URL in SMSSync begins with http:// -- but the URL from FrontlineSMS begins with https://  - this additional 's' is necessary for the sync process to work and is easy to overlook.

Your completed form will look something like this:

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Tap "ok" to save the new entry.

Next, you will see a screen in which you can select an account for SMSSync to connect with. Select the account you just created. In our example, it is "Demo FrontlineCloud Account." Then select "Start SMSSync service."

Your screen will look something like this:

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 Ok, you're nearly finished.

Finally, you need to enable "Auto Sync" and "Task Checking" within the SMSSync app settings. By default, SMSSync only checks for outgoing messages when delivering incoming ones. This means your messages from FrontlineSMS could be stuck in 'pending' for a long time with the default settings. Enabling these settings in the SMSSync app allows SMSSync to check for outgoing messages even when no incoming messages have yet arrived, as well as sync with FrontlineSMS on a regular basis.

In order to do this, first click on "Settings" within the app.

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Then, scroll down and then click "Enable Auto Sync" and "Enable Task Checking." The first allows the Android to regularly send incoming messages to FrontlineSMS. The second allows the Android to check with FrontlineSMS to see if there are any messages pending.

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You can also set the Frequency for each task. We recommend somewhere between 1 and 30 minutes between each task depending on how quickly you need your messages sent and received, and your required battery life.

Note: the more frequently SMSSync checks for messages, the faster it will drain your battery. We recommend leaving your Android connected to a good power supply if you need it to connect to FrontlineSMS regularly.

 

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You're finished! You can try sending a test message to make sure everything works properly.

Troubleshooting tips

If your SMSSync connection seems to stop sending and receiving messages, try the following steps, pausing after each one to test whether it has been fixed. One way to tell is to go to the Logs section of the in-app menu and enable them. If the logs indicate that the message syncing task is completed when you sync or re-enable the connection, then it should be working. Here are the steps you can try.

  1. Disable and enable the connection on both phone and FrontlineSMS
  2. Disable and re-enable the data connection on the phone
  3. Restart the phone
  4. Finally, if none of these steps have worked, try deleting the app and reinstalling it from the Google Play store. You will need to reenter your settings.
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