Earlier this year we took at look at ScanLife, a down loadable program for camera phones that lets them be used as scanners. Unfortunately it does not allow the camera to scan the common 1D product bar codes, or even regular 2D bar codes, but only a proprietary 2D code called an EZcode. You aim your camera at the code and it interprets it, beeps, then takes some action, say sending an e-mail, or bringing up a web page. Worked well during the test. Unlike other attempts at this ScanLife has thought it through commercially. Applications like free samples, price comparisons and extended information are obvious. At the right is an (incompatible) 2D QR Code.
It won't work with all providers or cellphones, visit the site above to see which. We tested with Verizon and HP. I was reminded of the test by some rumors that it was now available on the IPhone. Don't believe everything you read, because it's not available yet.
Some have cynically compared the idea to the much ridiculed Cuecat, which we also tested. It depends much on the critical mass of enough codes being out there to entice the phone user to download the software, or ultimately to have it automatically loaded on phones.
There is much value to having a scanner capability on a cellphone. Though it should have the ability of interpreting multiple kinds of codes, 1D, 2D and others and preferably those that meet open standards. It may be the only way to achieve a critical mass common enough to get the attention of the consumer.
There is more activity now in this area, see the iMatrix platform and Neoreader.