SMS Notifications in the Browser with Nexmo, Angular and Ably

How to Show SMS Notifications in the Browser with Angular, Node.JS, and Ably

Published August 07, 2018 by Alex Lakatos

The Nexmo SMS API allows you to send and receive messages around the world using a virtual number that you can buy from Nexmo. In this tutorial, we’ll see how you can use Node.js and Express to receive an SMS, send it via Ably to a web browser, and then use Angular to display it as a notification in a Single Page Application.

Before you begin

Before we begin you’ll need a few things:

  • The basic understanding of JavaScript and Angular

  • Node.js installed on your machine

  • ngrok installed on your machine

  • An Ably account

  • A Nexmo number

  • The starter code from Github

Getting the starter code from Github

First, we’re going to clone the tutorial source code and switch to the getting-started branch

Next, we’re going to install the dependencies our code needs. There is a Node.js application using Express, body-parser and Ably and an Angular App generated with the Angular CLI.

Writing Webhook Endpoints with Express

To receive an SMS from Nexmo, you need to define a Webhook endpoint (URL) and then associate it with your virtual number from Nexmo. Whenever your number receives an SMS, Nexmo is going to send it to the Webhook endpoint. So we’re going to proceed in creating that endpoint with Express.

In the code you just downloaded, there is a file called server.js, which comes with a boilerplate Express server listening on port 3000. It should look like this:

Now we’re going to create an HTTP POST route to handle requests to the server. At the end of the file, just add:

The handleParams method isn’t yet defined, so we’ll go ahead and implement that. We’re going to add some validations to see if we’ve received a valid SMS message, and if that’s the case, we’re going to map incoming data before sending it. We need to return a 200 OK status code in the end, for the Nexmo dashboard to be able to recognise it as a valid Webhook URL.

You can now run the server which will become available on localhost:3000:

Registering a Webhook Endpoint with Nexmo

Now that you’ve written your Webhook endpoint, it’s time to associate it with your Nexmo number. While developing, it’s a pain to keep having to redeploy your work in progress though. So let’s use ngrok to expose the Webhook endpoint we just wrote on our local machine as a public URL! For more detailed instructions see Aaron’s post explaining how to connect your local development server to the Nexmo API using an ngrok tunnel.

Once you installed ngrok it, run it on port 3000, same port as the Express server:

start ngrok

Your Express server (localhost:3000) now has a ngrok URL (, that can be used as a public Webhook endpoint during this tutorial.

Setting the Webhook Endpoint with Nexmo

For the Nexmo dashboard to recognise the URL as a Webhook endpoint, it has to return a 200 OK status code, so make sure your server is running. If it’s not, you can go to the root of the code you downloaded from Github, and use the terminal to run it:

Sign into your Nexmo account and go to your Numbers. From the Manage section of your number, go ahead and click Edit. In the modal that appears we’ll set the Webhook we just created. In the SMS section, input the ngrok URL with the inbound route ( in the “Webhook URL” field.

set webhook

Now all your incoming messages will go to the Webhook URL. Let’s move on and send them via Ably to a modern web browser near you!

Note: this method sets up the SMS Webhook at a Number level. But you can set up this at an Account level as well, so you can read SMSes from all the numbers in your account.

Sending the SMS to the web with Ably

When you create a Ably account, you’ll get an API key. If you already have an account, login to Ably and get the API Key first. We’ll need to pass it to the Express server and the Angular application later on.

Now we’re going to update our Express server so that when it receives an SMS from the Nexmo API, it sends it via Ably to a channel.

Still in server.js, import the Ably package first and get the sms-notification channel

And then we’ll modify the handleParams method to publish on that Ably channel when there is an inbound SMS.

Running the Angular App using the Angular CLI

If you don’t have the Angular CLI installed, you’ll need to install that first:

Now run the Angular App

ng serve

The app is now running on http://localhost:4200, and you can load it in a browser. It’s been generated using the Angular CLI, but I’ve also added Materialize.css and Nexmo branding to it. It should look like this:

booilerplate app

Creating an Angular component to display incoming SMS notifications

Now it’s time to create our Angular component, which we’ll use to display incoming SMS notifications. We’ll use the CLI to generate it

The CLI created four files for us; the component TypeScript file, the HTML template, the CSS style, and the testing spec.

generated files

We’re going to update the component TypeScript file (src/app/sms-notifications/sms-notifications.component.ts) to import Ably

ngOnInit is a lifecycle hook function in Angular, and it runs when a component is being initiated. We’re going to update ngOnInit to receive the Ably notification. We’re going to instantiate Ably and then get to the sms-notification channel, subscribing for new-sms events. When a new SMS is coming, we’re going to push that to our component model, smsNotifications.

Now that we have the smsNotifications on the component model, we’re going to replace everything in the template file (src/app/sms-notifications/sms-notifications.component.html) to display the incoming SMS notification. We want to create a list of SMS notifications, so we’re going to have to use the Angular *ngFor directive to run over the smsNotifications. The design is minimalistic; we’re going to use a material card panel to display the incoming number, the SMS notification and the timestamp.

For the component to render on the screen, we’re going to need to update the App template as well, to add the sms-notifications component to it. So at the end of the file (src/app/app.component.html), add

Now that everything is up and running, let’s send a message to the Nexmo number, and see it displayed in the Angular Single Page Application:


When you’re tunneling with ngrok, you can also see the requests in the browser at

![ngrok requests]

So we managed to send an SMS notification to a Nexmo number, that our Express server then received via a Webhook, which in turn sent the message via Ably to our Angular application, and we get the notification in the browser.

You can take a look at the code sample on GitHub if you want to see the finished product.

I hope you found this useful. You can let me know on twitter, I’m @lakatos88.

Further reading

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