Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Codes that empower consumers

Stuck in a department store, unable to decide which brand of shampoo to buy? Wondering if a VCD is a geniune one? Having doubts if the latest best-seller book is worth buying and you want to read a review of it? A GPRS-activated smartphone could make your task easier.

Haven’t you noticed those black think and thin parallel lines or a rectangle of dots and designs on the back of a product? Those are barcodes and QR (quick response) codes that have in them huge amounts of data related to the product. Obviously, they are of little use if you don’t have a barcode scanner that can read and decipher the information in them. But the best part is, today you can have a code reader application on your smartphone.

These codes were originally devised with the aim of tracking product movement. In most countries it’s mandatory for all products to have the codes. Now, more and more people are using the scanners on their mobiles to read reviews, compare prices and find out where products are available for the best price.

There are any number of barcode and QR code scanning apps available for all smartphone platforms. On Android, Google has its own Goggles, which not only reads codes by also identifies well-known landmarks. Many models of Noika, like N82, E90 etc have the reader pre-installed in them. In Windows 7 mobiles like Nokia’s Lumia codes are scanned using Bing search engine. Ebay’s scanner RedLaser is one such that is available for iPhone, Windows and Android phones; and the company claims it has been downloaded over 15 million times.

All that you have to do is to hold the phone steady over the code, align the code in the box and scan. The codes have a variety of uses for the consumers. It uses web applications to check prices and search nearby stores where the product is available. It can be used also to search catalogues and locate books and CDs in libraries.

Though the app has wide potential, it has still not caught on in India, unlike in the US and European countries, mainly due to lack of available data and compatibility issues. But the day is not far off when code readers will turn into a potent tool in the hands of the consumers.

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