Beringer Associates Technology Blog

Let Your Phone Take a Cue from a Cat Scanner

Posted by on in Information Technology

QRCodeBeringerAnyone remember the CueCat circa 1999 – a hand-held barcode reader that would scan codes in printed materials and would open a URL on your computer, that provided more information on the related item? Digital Convergence had a novel, and possibly prognostic, method for providing a reader with more or updated details about a something in printed materials. More details can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat

This was a neato idea, but was sadly limited by the requirement to be at your computer (tethered by PS/2 or USB connection), while scanning the barcode. Also, there were concerns raised about possible invasion of privacy if the device collected user data.

The CueCat failed, but now we have even better technology that achieves, and exponentially leapfrogs, the intended purpose of that cute little device – Code Scanner apps that run on your cell phone!

You can find the codes nearly everywhere – in magazines and newspapers – taking the reader to nutritional information on a product, or coupons. At the recent Philadelphia Comic Con the schedule of Celebrity QA sessions of Photo Ops could be zapped from the info kiosk to your phone. Read the shipping code on packages you receive, if the sender’s label is illegible or ripped off. Wander in the produce section and scan a fruit or veggie for more info before you buy. Printed codes on T-shirts or other accessories – maybe a link to the wearer’s web site or social media page?

AT&T includes a code scanner app on their phones. Droid users can search on Google Play for “code scanner” and you will find many scan apps – some generic for several types of codes, and others specific to one retailer (Target, Walgreen’s, Weight Watchers) IPhone/Pad users also have similar options through the App Store.

Though not perfected yet – some of the mobile info sites are not well-formatted for reading on a cell phone screen – you can now use your phone like a basic sort of “tri-corder” to collect data from your surrounding environment.

If you want to generate your own code, there are sites and software available to do this: http://qrcode.kaywa.com is one example. (Donate if you use your code for real!)

More info on QR codes can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code