Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bar Codes as Web Portals

Examples graphic (edited for space) from StickyBits.

The same night my article about QR codes (Real World Hyperlinks) goes up on evolt.org, TechCrunch posts an article about a company using bar codes in a novel way — The Secret Lives Of Objects: StickyBits Turn Barcodes Into Personal Message Boards.

StickyBits, the name of the company and product, is based on the ubiquity of bar codes in everyday life. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you'll be able to download an app that reads bar codes off anything and allows you to attach notes (comments, videos, URLs, etc.) to that bar code. If you are the first person to scan that code, then all new scans can only add to that, allowing for some interesting community discourse. This is a different implementation than a QR code, which doesn't come on every item on earth and must be generated and printed with a certain value (such as a URL) already embedded.

In the TechCrunch article, the author gives an example of scanning a bar code off a greeting card and attaching a note for the recipient to find. What the example doesn't mention is what happens when you have millions of cards using the same code and a few people trying to post his/her own message "on" one particular card.

Each scan is also geo-tagged, which means the location where you scanned the code will be tracked. You can track the movement of an item, if not the people who held on to it. Think Where's George?, but easier to implement (since currency doesn't come with bar codes).

StickyBits also sells packs of vinyl bar code stickers so that you can tag things in the real world, too. The advantage to using them is that people will likely understand that there is a reason someone posted one, and will hopefully scan it to check it out.

In my article on QR codes I talked about the Google Favorite Places stickers and how those would be a great way to hook into Foursquare and other geolocation social media applications. The StickyBits app will give you the option to check into the place where you are standing (or sitting) by scanning the bar code. This assumes there is a place in Foursquare and the bar code is also checked in there. StickyBits also supports broadcast to Twitter and Facebook.

I'll reserve comments about how the StickyBits web site has very little plain-text content on it, violating lots of accessibility rules, along with other best practices in web development failures...

Screen capture of StickyBits web site, click for bigger image.

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