Monday, July 27, 2009

Barcode 2.0

US researchers unveiled the bokode - what they hope will replace the black and white barcode. But before we get into that, this post deserves a little setup:

Many, many years ago (about 10, to be exact), Wired sent me, as a subscriber, a little utility which looked like a cat. IIRC, it was actually called C.A.T., but I don't remember what the acronym stood for. Anyway, the device read barcodes and rerouted you to the website or webpage for the product (or one which listed its information).

The problem was that you couldn't carry your desktop with you when you went shopping, and laptops were still very expensive. Not everyone bought into the C.A.T. thing, either, so you never really knew which objects would work with it until you scanned them. Wired included barcodes in many articles for use with the device, but it worked with Win98, ME, 2000, et.al. - it did not work with Vista. I never used it enough to bother, anyway.

It was little more than a neat toy at the time, but I held onto it for years and years (about a decade, to be exact). I've come across it at least a dozen times over the years and even did a search on it a couple, few years back, but I figured it was just one of the many steps on the road to greater things, because that was pretty much the end of it. Until I got a copy of a much newer trade magazine which wasn't even around 10 years ago and saw article after article with scannable barcodes. This led me to thinking about all the other technology and technological devices which seemed somehow noteworthy, but never developed into anything.

That's why I was elated to learn about "bokodes," the suggested replacement for the worn-out barcode. Not only do bokodes carry more information than their ancestor, they can also be read from farther away - and by simple cellphones! One of the doctors involved in the bokode's development called it a "long-distance barcode."

The bokode has a lot of potential uses, including saving information (such as equipment settings) in industrial and factory settings, encode nutritional information on food items, and even present promotional offers. A truly exciting application of the technology was given as an example: if you were standing in a library in front of a row of books, a single picture would allow you to find the book you're looking for immediately! Perhaps even more exciting to us geeks, the researchers indicate the bokode's usefulness to Google Streetview (as only one example).

The bokode costs more than a barcode, but it is only in the prototype stage. Like any new technology, it will have its ups and downs and it may be years, even a decade or more, before it is fully adopted, but it definitely a step in the right direction.

You can learn more about it here and it will be unveiled completely next week, so you should expect more articles on it across the Web, then.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009