Versatile, multifunction wireless devices particularly those expanding the functions of mobile phones will become ubiquitous in the hands of consumers later this decade. Here’s another new usage:
A Florida company, NeoMedia Technologies, has begun selling software that allows camera-equipped mobile phones to read and recognize European Article Numbering (EAN) and Universal Product Codes (UPC) and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN). The software thens display comparison prices for the same merchandise from other stores. In liaison with Amazon.com, NeoMedia has programmed the initial version of its software for book shopping. The company’s President Charles Jensen says that consumers can, “just take a picture of the ISBN on the book to comparison shop at Amazon.com right on the screen of their wireless Web browser.”
NeoMedia calls this software ‘the killer wireless app’, which of course it’s not (voice telephony is, followed closely by Short Messaging Systems). Its software is similar to that inside DigitalConvergence’s ;CueCat scanners but repurposed for the consumer shopping market.
We already often use our wireless T-Mobile MDA when shopping. Though it doesn’t have a digital camera to scan bar codes, it allows us to Web surf for better prices from other retailers when visiting a retailer’s store. When we’ve bought computer and photo equipment, that pricing information has let us negotiate hundreds of dollars in lower prices on-the-spot from retailers. (This has more than paid for the US$500 cost of our T-Mobile MDA.) New software, such as NeoMedia’s, will make this comparison shopping process even more efficient for digitally-equippped consumers.