The Mobile Phone As Bar Code Reader

Cell Bar CodeSome mischievous inner trickster part of me continues to think that mobile will turn out very differently than everyone is thinking. Part of that line of reasoning is fueled by the unsatisfying user experience even on my HTC Windows Mobile phone. And part of that is fueled by things like this article that appeared in Sunday’s NY Times:

It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic film: House hunters, driving past a for-sale sign, stop and point their cellphone at the sign. With a click, their cellphone screen displays the asking price, the number of bedrooms and baths and lots of other details about the house.

Media experts say that cellphones, the Swiss Army knives of technology, are quickly heading in this direction. New technology, already in use in parts of Asia but still in development in the United States, allows the phones to connect everyday objects with the Internet.

In their new incarnation, cellphones become a sort of digital remote control, as one CBS executive put it. With a wave, the phone can read encoded information on everyday objects and translate that into videos, pictures or text files on its screen.

I wrote last year about this technology in Search Engine Watch (and more here). So: camera phone plus location awareness (in the code or the phone or both) equals very interesting location-based advertising and offers. When you combine this with mobile/digital wallets it’s easy to see how this might take off and the many interesting possibilities.

Rather than some sensor beaming the restaurant menu or a pizza coupon to me as I walk by (not going to happen), I solicit the information through pointing at one of these bar codes. The intention is like search. This is like promotional short codes right now but potentially much bigger because there’s no short code, no text message to retrieve and no associated cost to the user.

But because these bar codes can go anywhere it has the capacity to tie the real world to the digital world in lots of interesting ways — all through a mobile camera phone.


Here’s more information from ResourceShelf.

14 Responses to “The Mobile Phone As Bar Code Reader”

  1. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    This has been a pet idea of mine for a while. I imagine the bar code being a switch that causes the phone to ping a special section on the business’ website to pull current info. This allows the bar code to be static while the info can be kept fresh and dynamic (eg current menu items or current store specials).

  2. The Mobile Phone As Bar Code Reader Says:

    […] The Mobile Phone As Bar Code Reader […]

  3. Swampthing Says:

    Your article was well written but it failed to mention the free mobile platform.

    Developed by Neomedia Technologies, Qode, is the mobile Swiss Army knife. A mobile Google to turn on the internet of things.

    IMO, if MSFT would have only joined forces back in 2004, they could have possibly toppled Google.

  4. Chris Parente Says:

    Greg, I think this is right on, except display the code on the phone, and have it read at register.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while after speaking to a client of mine. Most efforts that go in the traditional campaign direction — brand through medium to accumulated group of users — will fail in the mobile environment b/c these don’t touch what’s so powerful with mobile — the personalization.

    Move the other way, go from the individual (me), the brands I already identify with (let’s say Cosi coffee chain), and give me something. Like sending me a coupon that can be scanned at the register.

  5. Swampthing Says:

    Chris funny that you mention that. Check out Gavitec’s readers. I am with you here. Make a moible grocery list of all the items and have all the coupons ready to be scanned at the same time. What about reading RFID with your cell phone? Qode / Gavitec is more than just a bar code reader to find content or coupons on a product. It is the start of the internet of things and linking to them with your mobile device.

  6. dlethe01 Says:

    If you are interested to know more about Qode, please see Mr. Jeff Mould’s blog.
    He’s the President and CEO of Announce Mobile.

    My favorite blog posts:
    Why Qode?

    2D codes…again

  7. Terrence Brown Says:

    Qode is a mobile barcode solution from Florida based Neomedia Technologies.

    Neomedia is a lightning rod for controversy given the company’s intellectual property claims and it’s potential impact on the growth of mobile codes. Recently the EFF filed a patent busting dispute with the USPTO against Neomedia’s mobile code patents claiming they are “bogus”.

  8. STREETZ Says:

    On July 6, 2007 vindication was rightfully awarded to NeoMedia, as the United States Patent and Trademark Office justifiably denied the EFF’s patent reexamination request, further strengthening and re-confirming the validity of NeoMedia Technologies’ patents.

  9. brewskih Says:

    More mis information by Streetstylz.

    When the USPTO denies an application to reexam a patent, its generally for administrative purposes. The application was incomplete or something along those lines.

    So it stands to reason that if they denied the application, to re-exam, then they never did re-exam the patents, and therefore did not strengthen or validate them as is claimed.

    That same patent office in late july, accepted the application for re-examination and its now moving into the next phase of the process, which takes about three months. After that if the information that they garnered leans in favor of the request, then they will re-examine the patents.

    But you will notice that on Streetstylz blog, there is no mention that the re-examination has finally been accepted. Two blog posts about the denials and nothing about the final acceptance. Of course as a shareholder of NEOM stock, that wouldnt be beneficial to him.

  10. streetstylz Says:

    Bruce Hart (brewskih)

    The reexamination of NeoMedia’s patent doesn’t concern me at all, as it is merely a formality.

    As you know, NeoMedia has very coveted patents. These patents were first licensed by Digital Convergence in 2000 to facilitate the launch of the :CueCat. They were also the catalyst in the licensing of our patents to Cross Pen, Symbol, and NeoMedia’s acquisition of the qode assets in 2001.

    Years later, NeoMedia successfully won legal battles against Virgin
    Entertainment — who licensed our intellectual property portfolio — and successfully defeated AirClic and LScan. NeoMedia’s patents have proven their value and worth in true time tested fashion.

    One would certainly think that patent #6,199,048 has been under the microscope over the years, and has been looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Especially for prior art in the preceding patent infringement cases with Virgin, AirClic, and LScan.

    Too many Patent Experts and legal representatives have looked at the core patents (mainly the Huedtz patents) and have not figured out a way around them; Motorola, Symbol, Qualcomm, Digital Convergence’s legal team, Cross Pen, etc.


  11. Top Posts of 2008 « Screenwerk Says:

    […] The Mobile Phone As Bar Code Reader           […]

  12. Ted Says:

    Given you guys are pretty dialed-into this subject, can you share any stats on the current number of users of mobile phone-based barcode readers?

  13. Ted Says:

    Thanks Greg – appreciate the response. I’ll continue to look and will post when I find it.

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