Today the CTIA announced a "Camera-Phone Based Barcode Scanning White Paper" (PDF) at the morning keynote. There was a demonstration of scanning a bar code with a camera phone to launch a video on the handset.
The white paper describes a somewhat complicated indirect access architecture where the code scanning application sends an identifier to a central "Clearing House" which routes it to a "Campaign Manager" associated with a particular service. The Campaign Manager then sends a message to the handset application directing it to perform an action such as opening a mobile site in the browser, adding a contact to the address book or a date to the calendar or pre-populating an SMS, email or phone call.
The layered architecture seems to be designed to let the carriers control and monetize the process. The white paper also talks about providing subscriber demographic information to campaigns including age, zip code, gender, household income!, date/time and handset make and model. Information would only provided when "technically, ethically and legally possible".
In an interview, CTIA Vice-President of Wireless Internet Development Mark Desautels predicted that shipping handsets using the technology will be widely available in 12-18 months.
I'm excited that the US mobile industry sees the value of 2D bar code technology which is already well proven in Asia and that at least one of the supported codes is based on an open standard. I'm disappointed however that they feel the need to monetize the process beyond the added SMS, call and data traffic it would naturally generate. I suspect that the layered architecture will also introduce unnecessary latency into the process compared with the direct access model used in Japan. There are also the obvious privacy issues associated with sharing so much demographic information with bar code campaigns.
What do you think? Comments are open.
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