Tag Archives: Camera phone

Pay Money, Scan Barcodes With Your Cellphone

ScanZoom, which allows camera phone users to scan barcodes to compare prices in stores and obtain other information and services, is now available. It will work with most camera phones, but there’s a catch: You have to pay $10 for the software, $10 for a special macro zoom lens, and another $5 or so to get it to you. A similar version if available for webcams.

I haven’t tried it out yet, but if I recall correctly a barcode reading pen was available a few years back — the C Pen, if I’m not mistaken, which turned out to be less of a success than its makers hoped for. The idea was for users to scan barcodes they found in magazines and then send the data to their computer, which would in turn, er, tell them about the product they’d just read about in the magazine. I might be getting this wrong, but a) I couldn’t find that many companies that had been loaded into the pen’s database for it to work and b) how many people are going to do this kind of thing for it to work?

ScanZoom could be different, in that the user doesn’t have to do that much. But clearly the need for a macro zoom lens on the camera phone is going to be an inhibitor (can you still use the phone with the lens on it?), as it the fact you’ve got to pay $20 to get started. Unless the service really does help you get good prices, rather than just throw more advertising at you and steer you to certain vendors, you might be wondering who the chump is.

Still, as infoSync World reported late last year, this kind of thing is common enough in Japan. And ScanBuy, the company behind ScanZoom, says it used the technology at a soccer game in Spain earlier this year to ID ticket holders. And they’re not shy in their claims: Their PR blurb says (PDF only)

Optical Intelligence enables camera equipped cell phones and other mobile devices with barcode-reading functionality. This technology will drastically change use of cell phones as we know it today as the biggest problem with the cell phones, namely the input mechanisms, is now solved. With the new generation of devices, ScanZoom will allow to send an email, give a call, access a website, download music or purchase items according to the data scanned.

I’ve requested a review unit and will report back.

Could Moblogging Replace Photojournalism?

A panel at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas last weekend discussed the future of moblogging — the art of creating online journals composed mostly of photos uploaded in part direct from camera-phones — and, in part, whether such activities may threaten journalism. With so many folk armed with camera phones — and some even knowing how to use them — might they be better placed to record momentous events than journalists and photographers?

Heather Somers, managing editor of the excellent Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, reports from the conference that at least one panelist was unconvinced. Molly Steenson, a professor at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, said journalists should have no fear that they will be replaced by roving digital chroniclers. “They’re not a threat — we shouldn’t even be going there,” Somers quoted her as saying.

I’d agree. A blurry lo-res snap is not the same as a decent photo professionally taken. But camera phones bring to the table two important things: immediacy and ubiquity. If we can get pictures onto the web within seconds of an event occurring, that means that events small and large are likely to be available to a lot of people very quickly (remember that camera phones work both ways: It’s possible to receive photos as well as transmit them.) The ubiquity thing — everyone has them, and everyone is everywhere — also means that few events are likely to be witnessed without someone with access to a cameraphone.

The bottom line: While journalists are used to writing history’s first draft, I think they (we, I guess) need to get used to the idea that there may be an even earlier draft, written by tech-savvy individuals who are on the spot and have the technology to get their version, along with pictures, out to the world more quickly than we can. We need to adjust to that. In fact it’s a great resource: Now we have witnesses who can show what they saw. Would we still be in a state of confusion if moblogging had been available at the time of JFK’s assassination?

Will mobloggers replace photojournalism? No, but I think they will change it.

More On Camera Phones As Bar Scanners

Here’s more on a subject I looked at in December (and then promptly forgot about): Using your camera phone as a bar code scanner. Wired says there are at least four software companies that have released applications that let you take a photo of a bar code, which will then trigger the download of coupons, reviews and other information about that product.

Not a bad idea. As the article points out, most phones have inbuilt browsers, so in theory it’s possible to check out competing prices and more information about a product you’re looking at. But who actually does that?

This is what the folk at trendwatching.com call SEE-HEAR-BUY: “the capability to buy everything you see or hear, wherever you are.”

Wired also takes a glimpse at the bit that worries me: The destruction of the small time retailer. If people are just wandering into shops, taking a snap of a product and then wandering off again, how helpful is that going to be to their business? Either they ban camera phones in their shops, or they try to find a way to make it work for them, perhaps by creating ways to make alternative recommendations for a product the customer is viewing. And of course, the edge the bricks and mortar folk have always had: Their extensive knowledge, onsite, online and delivered in human packaging.

Use Your Phone As A Barcode Scanner

infoSync World reports of new software that allows camera phone users to take a picture of a barcode and then, say, retrieve information about the product: whether it’s cheaper elsewhere, dietary information, or downloading music samples from a poster advertising a new album.

The product, ScanZoom, is made by US-based software company Scanbuy. The article points out that a similar technology is already available in Japan, where phones can recognize e-mail addresses, web site URLs and telephone numbers through their embedded cameras.

The Art Of Phones

Interesting stuff from camera phone fan Alan Reiter on, well, camera phones, and camera phone art: “I’m a huge fan of camera phones, obviously, but I’m not a huge fan of 640 x 480 resolution. The sooner we get rid of VGA and start making 1 megapixel the standard resolution, the better I’ll like it. However, I’m getting more enthusiastic about camera phone photos as “art” — even VGA images — as I see more interesting photos taken with these handsets.”

Worth a read.

Camera Phones. They’re Catching On

Further to my Loose Wire column last week about camera phones, here’s some evidence to back up my shock assertion that they’re catching on. The Register quotes market watcher Canalys as saying almost as many as shipped in the last quarter as shipped in the whole of the first half of 2003.

By 2006, over half of all mobile phones shipped will include cameras, Canalys reckons.

News: Camera phone manufacturers ban camera phones

The limits to camera phones
 
 CNET Asia reports that some Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics “may be fiercely promoting camera-equipped phones to consumers, but are wary about allowing their use on their own company grounds.” Both companies have barred employees from using the gadgets in some of their factories to prevent “industrial espionage and intellectual property theft”, the report says, quoting Korean daily Chosun Ilbo (here’s the original report).
 
This is another chapter in the fast moving saga of camera phones. They’ve been banned in some public areas — changing rooms and the like — and CNET says bookstore owners in Japan “are also mulling measures to stop female shoppers from snapping pictures of magazines with their camera-phones”. Korea, CNET says, is considering a law which makes it mandatory for phone makers to install a “noise emitter” in their camera-equipped handsets.
 
Hmm. It’s not all bad, though: I’ve read other stories about folk snapping shoplifters, hold-ups and other criminal activities. The debate is bound to go on, probably until it’s overtaken by miniature cameras that no one can see, built into ties, sun-glasses, or whatever. And of course, with wristwatches and PDAs sporting cameras, where exactly do you draw the line?