Intro to Automation

Automation is the delivery or display of a message when certain conditions have been met. There are many ways to automate a message using Urban Airship, including:

  • Scheduling a specific message to be sent to users who are predicted to delete your app, and a different message to your most loyal users.
  • Sending a message after a mobile device enters a defined location but delaying the message by 24 hours, asking "How was your visit?"
  • Configuring a message to display in your app when a particular screen is viewed for the third time.
  • Asking a user to rate your app after they have opened the app for the 6th time.
  • Sending a Thank You message after a user opts in to web notifications in their browser.
  • Sending a web push notification to a user who hasn't visited your website for five days.

It may be helpful to think of an automated message not as a single message, but rather as an order form for messages, or even a fulfillment of messages. Once the conditions are set, Urban Airship will look for the triggers that you define and deliver or display the messages according to the rules you put in place.

This guide describes automation conditions and how you can use automation with Engage.

Key Terms

Display refers to when and where a user sees the message, as well as how the message appears.

  • Format: Plain-text or styled. Styled messages are banner, modal, or fullscreen.
  • Timing: Upon receipt, based on defined triggers, or controlled via automation.
  • Location: Message alerts are handled natively per platform and according to user preferences. The location of the full message content varies per message type. See descriptions in Message Types.
A workflow is a method of creating messages via the dashboard. Some workflows are for a single message type, while others can be used to combine message types.
The dashboard is the Urban Airship web interface located at

Automation Methods

Automation may be used with our API, and we also provide two workflows: Automation and In-App Automation.

The workflows have similar names but distinct capabilities:

Automation Workflow

Use the Automation workflow to send messages based on the occurrence of an event trigger and delivered either immediately, at a specified time, or during an available window.

  • Push Notification
  • Silent Push Notification
  • Web Push Notification
  • In-App Message
  • Message Center
  • SMS Notification
  • Email Notification

In-App Automation Workflow

Use the In-App Automation workflow to display in-app messages based on specified triggers. While standard in-app messages appear as banners, automated in-app messages have various style and layout options.


We have a separate endpoint for using automation with our API: /api/pipelines/. Please see the API documentation for details.


Display Triggers

Display triggers are used with the In-App Automation workflow. Choose what will trigger your message to display in your app.

  • App Open: Display the message based on the number of times the user opens the app.
  • Custom Event: Display the message based on the number of times a specified event occurs.
  • Screenview: Display the message based on the number of times a specified screen is viewed.
  • App Update: Display the message based on the number of times the user opens the app after an app update.

See the full Display Triggers documentation.

Event Triggers

Event triggers are used with the Automation workflow. Choose what event must occur in order for your message to be sent.

  • Predicted to Churn: Trigger when a user's behavior results in a change of the predicted likelihood of becoming inactive, or churning.
  • Tag Change: Trigger when a tag change occurs, and select whether it happens when being Added or Removed from a device.
  • Inactivity: Trigger after a period of inactivity.
  • First Open: Trigger upon the app's first open.
  • Location: Trigger based on device location.
  • Location Attributes: Trigger based on location attributes. Attributes are key/value pair metadata associated with a particular location.
  • Custom Event: Trigger when an event occurs, and optionally add a conditional value or property.

Named user event automation does not support tag operations. An automation pipeline with tag-based operations and custom event triggers attributed to named users will not run.

After making selecting an event trigger, you may apply additional controls:

  • Set limits that define the maximum number of messages the Automation rule will send over a given period of time.

  • Define delivery conditions for the message by specifying one or more tags that must or must not be present on the device.

  • Specify cancellation events that will prevent a delayed message from being delivered if a selected custom event is received while the message is pending.

See the full Event Triggers documentation.

Delivery Options

Delivery options are used with the Automation workflow. In addition to immediate or scheduled delivery are automation-specific controls:

  • Delay: Optionally specify a waiting period after a trigger occurs and before the message is sent.

  • Send during available window: Configure message delivery windows by specifying valid hours of the day and days of the week.

Delivery options are detailed in the Delivery step of the Automation Workflow Tutorial.