A wide range of companies send information to the MobileCrunch offices, and one came today that made me stop and think, “I wish I would have thought of that.” The idea has been around for a few years but hasn’t made much of a splash in the United States. MobileCrunch first mentioned the idea in October 2006, with the last update coming in May of this year, Pilot Program Launched for French Transit System. The idea is scanning barcodes with your mobile phone camera and the company is Scanbuy.
Barcodes aren’t a new technology. The first barcode patent was granted in 1952. But it took a couple of decades before they became commercially affordable. By the 1980’s barcodes and the scanning equipment that reads them began to take the world by storm. Shipping and retail companies still utilize those ponderous symbols and numbers. With the advent of inexpensive mobile computing and picture taking, the barcode may show up in places that you wouldn’t expect.
The U.S. Air Force is making a 60 city promotional tour this year that uses Scanbuy technology. Barcodes are placed throughout the showcase that visitors can scan. The Air Force then sends text messages, sound, video or games to the scanner’s handset. The marketing potential and cost savings are easy to see.
The military often experiments with cutting-edge technology and new innovations. That whole Internet thing was set up by the Department of Defense in the 1960s. As the costs of technology lower and become available to the public, it is inevitable that the private sector will follow where the government has gone before.
The marketing and information potential of barcodes is only now being tapped into. Unless something else comes along, the future may find us scanning all types of things to get product information, promotional deals, or simple price checks. The way the mobile industry uses the old barcode is only limited by the human imagination.
Scanbuy isn’t the only company that offers this service. It just happened to come to my attention today. But I see the potential that this can bring to consumers, marketers and sellers. This is a service that may become so commonplace; my father will ask me to show him how to use the camera on his mobile phone.