Saturday, December 16

How Barcodes And Smartphones Will Rearchitect Information

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Have you ever wanted to be able to link any physical object (e.g from the marketplace) to anything digital about that object (e.g. all the information in the marketspace). The linking of physical information to the digital information about it is called a FindIt! search, and it looks as though we are finally starting to get there. eBay just announced that it bought Redlaser, a company that allows anyone with the Redlaser application on his or her iPhone to scan a barcode. The program then shows you where you can get the product you scanned, how much it will cost, and even where you can get it for free. Scanbuy just announced a free barcode-scanning-software-development kit for Android developers.

We know from the principles of self-organizing systems that have been described in many places, including John Holland’s classic book Emergence, that a tagging architecture allows many new functions and capabilities to emerge. The fact that a page link is a standard tag allowed Google to analyze this standard tag with its page rank algorithm. Without the page-link tag, there would be no Google. Likewise, as Redlaser and Scanbuy both understand clearly, the barcode is an existing and growing tagging architecture that helps us tie the physical world to the digital — or, the integration of the marketplace and the marketspace.

When you begin to think about the lowly barcode and turn your imagination to its possibilities, the mind reels. Here are some examples of things that are already possible:

Proactive, customized service: Simply attaching a permanent barcode to any product when and where it is purchased allows it to be indexed to all its documentation, service history, ancillary products, parts, etc. The next time you had a problem with your garbage disposal, you could take scan its barcode with your cell phone. The make and model would pop up, and you would be able to pick from a menu of “reason codes” and desired call-back times. The service technician would call you back with full knowledge of you, your product, its warranty, etc.

Enhancement of the user experience:L.A. Candy, a book by Lauren Conrad, the star of MTV’s show The Hills, has a 2D barcode on it that takes you to videos and other content about the book. The same is true of Superfreakonomics. Any experience can be enhanced in this way. Imagine you are standing in line to see a movie, holding a ticket that has a 2D barcode on it that you scan with your phone and instantly see background information on how the movie was made or a cross-promotion for the book upon which the movie is based. Imagine being in a restaurant and each item on the menu has a 2D barcode linked to nutritional information or other facts about the dish you might choose to eat. Imagine tagging an entire city with the history, pictures, and videos based on barcodes strategically placed around the city. Now every phone can become an access device for information indexed to the place.

Efficient secure storage: One of the greatest problems in information is creating relevant indices to find information in the future. What would be nice to have, is the ability to scan all the data, have it stored in a secure place with the appropriate passcodes provided by someone like IronMountain, and generate a unique barcode that will be a robust index to that data.

These are just three possible implications. One can imagine many, many more. The reason it’s so powerful is that any time we create a new tagging architecture that is decentralized and out “at the ends” of the network, we have the ability to unleash the power of self-organization. Given how localized and voluminous information is, any solution for integrating marketplace and marketspace information must be decentralized and self-organizing.

  There are many more tagging mechanisms. Layar has shown how you can use pictures to index information with its augmented reality application. GPS information is another important tag. I’m sure DNA and other chemical and biological analyses will provide tagging opportunities as they become more available and cheaper. The good news is even with the simple barcode, we can transform the service and information experience.

What applications can you imagine? How prepared would your organization be to provide FindIt! services?

Source-John Sviokla HBR.org here

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