For communication, there is no device in use today that is as popular as the GSM cell phone. Cell phones have become so popular in the world today that it seems strange seeing someone that doesn’t have or use a cell phone. Phone manufacturers are also pushing the adoption rates of cell phones by integrating new and attractive technologies into the cell phone. Cell phones today are no longer just for making calls but can be used for browsing the internet, taking pictures and videos as well as sending emails and keeping in touch with friends through social network applications. Statistically, It has been shown that people spend more time on their phones than on a computer these days. With the vast number of cell phones in use today and with their varying levels of sophistication, the use of SMS messaging for communication is still widely supported by all of these cell phones. The least cell phone in use is guaranteed to send and receive SMS messages. Hence it makes sense designing applications that leverage the SMS messaging feature of cell phones: This project does just that. The project deals on information management. It is a Computer/SMS based students’ examination result dissemination system which provides a means of remote exam result checking through the use of SMS messaging. Students simply purchase scratch cards with a concealed PIN code. The cost of the scratch cards covers the service charge. The scratch cards can be scratched to reveal the PIN code. The student can then send this PIN code with some other information such as his/her registration number, department, and semester – using a specific format, to a destination number. The destination number is the number of a SIM card attached to a MODEM connected to a remote server computer running the project software. Once the MODEM receives the SMS message sent by the student, the software processes this information and extracts the pin code, registration number, department and year data. The software authenticates the pin code, if the pin code is valid; the student’s examination result information stored in a database is then retrieved and sent to the student. The process is fast and simple. Exam records update on the server is performed by the heads of department who ensure that the database has up-to-date records of the students’ examination result. The software is entirely coded using Microsoft visual basic 6.0. Microsoft Access database is used as the main database engine. SMS interface is realized using a Huawei MTN USB data modem; Any recent USB MODEM dongle can be used, as long as it supports AT commands. Three different MODEMS from ZTE, HUAWEI, and MediaTEK have been tested and all where found to work with the software.
Mode of Operation
The project is basically a software project. Everything that goes on in the program; controlling of the hardware, controlling of database, selecting different parts of text messages and processing them are all organized in this software program. The SMS information management system runs on a computer program called the SMS server, the SMS server has been designed to organize the text messages, process it and store the various parts of text messages in the database. Below is an image of the main program graphical user interface (GUI)
To aid explanation, the main areas of the graphical user interface have been labeled alphabetically. The software continuously polls the GSM MODEM to check if a new message has been received. If a new message is received, the software reads this message to see if it follows the appropriate format. The student who wishes to check his / her result must send an SMS using a particular message format. The user must send a message with the following format:
Result (space) PIN (space) REG Number (space) Department (space) Semester.
The software first checks for the word “REULT” in the message. If a message doesn’t start with the word “RESULT”, the message is deleted and is not processed. If the message starts with “RESULT”, the software proceeds to process the message. First it extracts the PIN, REG Number, Department and Semester from the message and then displays this information on the data grid labeled A on the GUI (Image is shown above). This extracted information is also stored in the database. Also shown on the data grid, is the time and date the message was sent as well as the current status of the message. The status of the message tells if there was an error in the message or not. Errors in messages can arise from usage of invalid PINs, Reg number or incorrect message format. If all goes well, any received message is processed immediately and a reply message is sent to the user, containing the examination result information. The “Delete Message” button (labeled B in the image above) can be used to delete selected received messages displayed on the data grid and also in the database. This button is active only when the MODEM check has been passed. The “Configure MODEM and Login” (Labeled C) is used to configure the MODEM and also change the administrator login username and password. Once the program is run, a login dialog box is displayed.
A valid username and password must be entered to enable authorized use of the software. The default username is “admin” and the password is “me”. Clicking on the “Configure MODEM and Login” button displays the dialog box shown below.
The combo box labeled “Enter Port Num” allows the user to set the communication port number of the MODEM. This port number is assigned automatically by windows when the MODEM is plugged into the computer USB port. The port number can be found under MODEM properties in device manager. After selecting a port number, the user must click the “check MODEM” button. Clicking this button allows the software to test for the presence of the MODEM on the selected port number. If a MODEM was found, the software notifies the user through a message box; also, on the main GUI, the MODEM status (labeled G) shows “OK” instead of “Error”. Once a MODEM has been detected, the software goes into full operation; continuously polling the MODEM for new messages and processing the messages. The “Generate PINs” button, when clicked, displays the “Manage PIN Codes” Dialog. This dialog provides a means of managing PIN codes used by the fees payment service. The pin codes are ten digit numbers generated using a random number function in visual basic. Below is an image of the “Manage PIN Codes”.
The dialog displays the status of pins; used or unused and also the date each pin was generated. To generate new Pin code, the user must enter the number of codes to generate and then click the “generate” button. Codes can also be deleted from the database by selecting them from the data grid, by status (used) or by date generated. The “View Logs” button, when clicked, displays the “View Access Logs” dialog. This dialog is shown in the image below.
The view Access Logs dialog displays a list of students stored in the database, whose result checking was successful. Once a result check is successful, the software marks the pin code used for that check as “USED”. This prevents multiple use of a pin code by several persons. At some point, the list of students can get too long that it might me difficult spotting a particular student’s information from the long list. To fix that problem, the list can be sorted using a group of options on the right side of the dialog. The list can be sort by name, reg. number and by department.
Performing database actions such as adding a new student’s examination result data or updating an already existing record or deleting a record entirely, can be done through the ‘Manage students’ Result information’ dialog. The dialog is shown below:
This dialog allows access to the database of the software. This allows heads of departments to easily update students examination result information on the database. The search function on this dialog makes it easy to locate a record on the database. search can be performed by name, surname or registration number of the student. Having used a Microsoft Access database file for the software, This database file can be opened using the Microsoft Access database office application. This opens up another means through which students’ examination result records can be updated.