Text messaging has evolved over the years to become a vital public-safety tool. Educational institutions, in particular, have instituted services that allow them to communicate with students, employees and parents during emergency situations. That need has been highlighted during various campus incidents, including the shootings at Virginia Tech University two years ago.

Now a San Diego company is taking text messaging to another level, launching a technology that offers two-way text dialog complete with rich electronic content delivery from any PC to any mobile devices regardless of wireless technology, carrier or device type.

Globaltel Media has introduced two new systems — Mobile Campaign Manager and Alirti — that are designed not only to help companies, brands and agencies extend their market reach but also to help emergency-response personnel and health-care officials communicate better.

Working in tandem, the Mobile Campaign Manager lets users set up, manage, track and measure two-way text messaging campaigns through a centralized Web interface. Alirti delivers the graphically rich electronic content sent with text messages, including audio, video and photos. With Alirti, customized content that might include evacuation maps and directions, X-ray images or even live video clips can be delivered via an embedded URL within the body of a text message.

Also important is the fact that the system enables text messages to be sent from computers to mobile phones and back. For instance, a university could send a message asking students in a certain area of campus to respond to a text. Once they respond, they can be told to be on the lookout for a red car with a certain license plate number, said Robert Sanchez, Globaltel president and chief executive officer. Moreover, universities can send a text message and receive confirmation back that the recipient read it.

"What we really are is a delivery system, a powerhouse of an online system that can go to any cell phone in the world," Sanchez said. According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), wireless subscribers sent 1 trillion text messages in 2008 — triple the number of messages sent in 2007.

Globaltel is working with the American Red Cross, which is using the system to issue information about the H1N1 virus, otherwise known as the swine flu. The Department of Homeland Security is looking to supplement the Amber Alert system using Globaltel's system. By texting the word "Amber" to a short code number, cell phone users would be able to receive more detailed information.

And Sanchez listed a host of public-safety-related projects that he couldn't publicly announce but have to do with defense projects, fingerprint and mug shots for law-enforcement agencies and agencies looking for ways to reroute traffic.

Other emergency-response applications might include crime-scene images with instructions, crisis information and public-awareness campaigns like the Swine Flu campaign. The system is also targeting many healthcare applications, such as urgent requests to mobile physicians and surgeons for emergency services.

"Many of these professionals are away from their desk, and a text message usually means someone really wants to talk to you," Sanchez said.

In addition, enriched text of the SMS messaging system enable physicians to send X-rays, EKGs, scans, images and lab results to a patient's mobile device.