Automating SMS & email

3 min read

I face the following problem: I get a lot of similarly formatted emails that require some sort of action that can in theory be easily automated. For example, I get Woocommerce order notifications that I want to forward selectively to my team via SMS.

It turns out there is no Gmail extension that will help you do that (or at least I didn’t find anything like it). A better programmer would alter the php code of the Woocommerce site to interact with the API of a service like SMSGLOBAL. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the php code, and it didn’t really solve the issue of the other types of emails I get that require relatively automation.

For example, if you get an email from someone asking you a question in Spanish, why would you send them an “out of office” email in English?

In order to solve this I set up a script to monitor my emails using gmailr.

This function checks the email to see if I have any recent emails with a particular string:

checkEmail <- function(searchString="from: [email protected] [Test]: New Order",minutesThreshold=20){

  searchResults<- messages(searchString) %>%
    unlist(.,recursive = FALSE)

      searchResults$resultSizeEstimate," results found for ",searchString,"\n"))

  # extract bookings
  searchResultsDf <- dplyr::bind_rows(searchResults$messages)

  selectid <- vector()

  for(i in 1:nrow(searchResultsDf)){
    # get individual ID
    id <- searchResultsDf$id[i]
    #extract message
    resultMessage <- message(id, format = "full")
    # Get the time received of the message
    timeReceived <- resultMessage$internalDate %>%
      as.numeric() %>%
      `/`(1000) %>%
      as.POSIXct(origin= "1970-01-01")

    cat(paste0("Message received at ",timeReceived,"\n"))

    # if it was a long time ago ignore
      (timeReceived) < (Sys.time()-minutesThreshold*60)
      cat("No recent messages found \n")
      selectid[i] <- id

And this function drafts an email based on the emails received in the last 20 minutes using stringr:

  resultMessageBody <- body(resultMessage) %>% as.character()

  name_client <- str_match(resultMessageBody,"order from (.*?):</p>") %>%

  flight_from <- str_match(resultMessageBody,"Flying From \\(write NA if not applicable\\): (.*?)</p>") %>%

  address <- str_match(resultMessageBody, "Address:(.*?)<br>Flight") %>%

  product <- str_match(resultMessageBody,"Transfer from(.*?)\\(#transfers_transfer_511205\\)") %>%

  flight_num <- str_match(resultMessageBody,"Flight Number \\(write NA if Not Applicable\\): (.*?)<br>") %>%

  flight_from <- str_match(resultMessageBody,"Flying From \\(write NA if not applicable\\): (.*?)</p>") %>%

  # construct message

  smsNotifyText <- paste(name_client,product,flight_num, flight_from, address,sep = " ") %>%
    str_replace_all("<br>"," ")

  # send message
  notification_email <- mime(
    To = "[email protected]",
    From = "[email protected]",
    Subject = paste("Flight Notification",Sys.time()),
    body = smsNotifyText)
  cat("Notification email sent \n")

I wrapped these functions together in a script and tested it on my laptop. It worked well! Using SMSGLOBAL all I need to do is send the message to a particular email and my team members will recieve it via sms.

Then I set up an R Studio AWS instance using this amazing guide.

However, when I first tested my script I ran into authentification issues. I managed to solve it based on googling around and finding this post on Oauth tokens generated server side.

Finally I set up CronR to check my emails every fifteen minutes and send out the email.

I am quite pleased at myself about this because:

  1. This is my first script continuously running on the cloud.
  2. It opens the door to a lot of automation of tedious tasks.