Mobile Future

Barcodes of the future - mobile tagging

It must have been revolutionary when grocery stores started using barcodes- not only did they automate the check-out process, but they also helped keep track of inventory.

This thought crossed my mind after I read an article about Polo Ralph Lauren adopting mobile tagging, which seems even more revolutionary than grocery store bar-coding.

Polo will be placing barcodes in magazines and store windows, giving consumers real world hyperlinks to its mobile commerce shop. The mobile tag – barcode – is scanned in by a camera phone and decoded by reading software which will direct consumers to the shop.

Although Polo Ralph Lauren is the first fashion retailer in the United States to implement mobile tagging, the technology has flourished in Japan since its inception five years ago.

Japanese motorists can scan large barcodes on movie advertisement billboards to view the trailer on their cell phone. Airline passengers can save their boarding ticket information in barcode form and check-in by flashing their cell phone screen, and McDonald’s consumers can scan their hamburger wrapper to get nutrition information. 

Most U.S. phones aren’t programmed with the reader application yet, but once phones are equipped with it, I think we’re on our way to a bar-coded world.

Imagine a world full of real object hyperlinks, connecting the material and digital worlds. Already making its debut in the commercial sector, mobile tagging will likely enter the public and private sectors as well.

Jonathan Bulkeley, chief executive officer of Scanbuy, who develops ScanLife bar codes and is a member of Mobile Future, gives some insight: "You’ll be able to walk past fruit at the supermarket, scan an apple, and see when it was picked and where it came from. While buying hair dye, you’ll be able to scan the code on the signage and see instructions. You can create your own code, put it on a T-shirt, and then let people scan your shirt and link directly to your MySpace page."

But, who knows, maybe someday the novelty of mobile tagging will be just as mundane as grocery store bar-coding as we come to expect more and more of our technology. But for now, it’s one more really cool opportunity to help consumers get what they want, when and how they choose.