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Is Bar Code Scanning in Your Future?

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Interesting post on ReadWriteWeb about retail stores not grasping what appears to be a coming wave of customers using applications on mobile phones to do price checking via bar code scanning apps.

The T-Mobile G1 has an application that apparently (I haven’t tried the phone or the app) does it up right. Shop Savvy will scan the bar code and then tell you locations where you can get the goods cheaper.

The iPhone is behind the curve in this game, but Amazon.com this morning released (or did the Apple App Store release it?) an app that won’t do bar code scanning, but allows users to snap a picture, send it to Amazon and then see if the merchandise is available on Amazon or not. Intriguingly in my test I took a picture of the iPod Touch and it came back saying it couldn’t find the product.

There is also an app called SnapTell, that works on the iPhone and other mobile phones which at the moment will only check out pictures you take of books, CDs DVDs, or video game. Although I’m sure that will change if they continue development.

iPhone users are probably hoping they’ll get bar code scanning down the line as well, and I’m not sure if this is a hardware thing or can be done via software or firmware updates.

Whatever the case, I think we’re in for some interesting times ahead as apps like these become more prevalent, arming shoppers with greater tools to shop for bargains. I’m just wondering if once this catches on, we’ll see a backlash from retail outlets.

What do you think?

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

4 Comments

  1. sfwrtr

    12/03/2008 at 3:22 pm

    Bar code scanning can be done from a photograph; I offer it in my own application. Problem is that the software is rather expensive (re: Windows platform). If someone were to license it in volume on the Mac platform and port it for the iPhone, it would be quite simple to make the requisite app.

    Hmm… maybe I should check to see if there is any open source bar code recognition code out there!

  2. Jeff

    12/03/2008 at 7:44 pm

    I don’t own a G1, but my boss does. He used to scan a container of Foldgers coffee, it came back with the price at the local Walgreens. Then he scanned a video card that we sell in the shop, and it came back with a huge listing of prices, both local stores such as Walmart and web stores like Newegg and such, it came up with about 25-30 listings for the card, with the prices all listed, anywhere from $20-$45. I could definitely see where that would be useful, saving a buck or two is one thing, $20 is another!

  3. VT808

    12/08/2008 at 1:01 am

    I think that as far as the iphone goes, it will never happen with the iPhone camera. The iPhone camera just can’t take very good close up shots as is with out third part hardware. Google’s G1 phone had me all green with envy when I saw that bar code application. I hope the next iPhone, whenever it comes out has something comparable to G1 bar code scanner because it’s a very useful program.

  4. lisa

    12/27/2008 at 6:54 am

    I used my g1 and shop saavy to negotiate a lower price on a rose petal cottage just before Christmas. The only hiccup- I didn’t have an ad to show them.
    I worked around it.

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