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Mobile Tagging:
Barcode Labels Bridge the Information Superhighway

Picture this: you’re shopping for a new backyard grill. The store has several models. You’ve narrowed the selection down to two frontrunners. Each displays a barcode label with a 2-D barcode printed across its face. You take out your camera phone, snap a picture and with the help of a pre-installed program, your phone reads the barcode label and directs you to a website where you can read more information about the product, warranty and customer reviews.

This is the brave new world of mobile tagging where barcode labels abound, cell phones become “scanners” and real world objects direct us to online promotions and information. Mobile tagging is already in wide use in Asia and has started moving into Europe. Next stop: the United States.

While the most common use of mobile tagging is in retail, some cities have started tagging locations with barcode labels. Tourists use their cell phones to photograph and read the codes. They are then directed to websites with in-depth information about the location and its history. Port Townshend, located in Washington State, has established one of the first “barcode label towns” in the United States. For example, if you were to scan the barcode at the town’s visitor center, you would be directed to a website with area lodging and attraction recommendations.

 Port Townshend has big plans for barcode labels, which may signal a bright future for mobile tagging in the Untied States. The city plans to have barcoding on all of its businesses. Scanning these barcode labels will provide a consumer or visitor with information about the business, its products, hours of operation and a history of the building where the barcode label is affixed.

Mobile Tagging aims to bridge the gap between the information superhighway and the brick and mortar real world. By linking material objects to info-rich URLs via barcode labels and 2D barcodes, the promise of mobile tagging is not lost on forward-thinking marketers. Direct communication with the buyer at the point of purchase is an opportunity for smart companies to make their final sales pitch and share their latest promotions, rebates and discounts. Mobile Tagging may also help retail stores compete with online stores by making the same kind of information available to their customers (in-depth production information and customer reviews) that online shoppers have come to value, all while standing in front of the item.

Cell phones are not currently equipped with proper barcode label scanning technology. The “clunky” part of the mobile tagging process is that the barcodes are captured as images and then interpreted by software that must be pre-installed on the phone. Because every location utilizing mobile barcode label scanning uses a different reading software, consumers may become disenchanted with the technology. As mobile tagging becomes more popular and valued in the marketplace, cell phones may start to include proper scanners in their ever-expanding list of features. Additionally, a universal barcode interpreting software may be adopted to streamline the process.

As mobile tagging works its way from East to West, offline and online experiences are intersecting like never before, thanks to a code that pre-dates html: the barcode.



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