January 8, 2007 From time-to-time, we see a potentially disruptive technology of such magnitude we ponder its ability to shake the foundations - Scanbuy rates in that category. The irony of the ingenious system is that it leverages the humble barcode – a sixty year old far-from-vogue technology under threat from RFID. Last week, the U.S. Patent Office issued a patent to Scanbuy for a "System and method for decoding and analyzing barcodes using a mobile device". The software works on any handheld device (download here) with a camera and internet connection and uses the camera to read the barcode, then connects the device’s web browser to the corresponding web site. What this enables, which we think is very significant - is the connection of physical objects to the internet - a Physical World Hyperlink. Camera phones have only been available in most countriesfor four years yet they are fast approaching ubiquity– in 2005, 45 percent of all mobile phones sold in the U.S. were camera phones, with 64 percent in Western Europe and 90% plus in the logical Asian hotspots. Global sales of camera phones is expected to approach a billion a year by the end of this decade – accordingly, Scanbuy’s free software and a mobile phone means that a consumer can connect with a poster, billboard, magazine, newspaper, food packaging, businesscard, city guide, map or merchandising display – it’s a no-brainer to make a dead-as-a-doornail product interactive to the majority of people. 2D barcodes are already the preferred way for Japanese and Korean consumers to access mobile content but the beauty of the Scanbuy system is that it works on any camera phone and doesn’t require a special attachment or built-in bar code reader. The first application of this technology is fairly logical - being able to walk through any physical store and snap the barcode of any onbject and immediately have your phone tell you where else you can buy it and price comparison shop for you. We think that represents significant seismic activity under the foundations of bricks and mortar businesses, but it’s just one aspect of what can happen when you connect the real world to the internet. If you have an idea for how it can work for you, there’s even a software developers kit.
It works like this - the barcode image is acquired via the digital camera, software enhances the barcode image and decodes the information it contains. The barcode information is then transmitted to a server via a wireless network. The server processes the barcode information and transmits media content related to the barcode back to the mobile device.