Concerns about 2-D

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2008-01-18 Print this article Print

At the Sears trial, several hundred product advertisements in the store have the code, Bulkeley said. To simplify matters, Sears is initially having store associates use the phone and then show the results to customers, as opposed to letting consumers do their own scanning. This sidesteps some of the hurdles, such as guaranteeing that the phones used are fully compatible with the demo and that the cameras are aimed properly. On some phones, if the bar code is not directly in the center of the screen, the application won't work.

Another concern is that consumers must download the application. The applications tend to be small-both the apps for StoreXperience and ScanBuy start at about 200K, depending on the browser and the required OS needed-and can be installed in less than a minute.

Some argue, though, that the simple act of requiring any download may turn off some consumers, who simply won't bother. Bulkeley is one of them.

"There are probably only 10,000 people [in the United States] who have ever scanned a bar code," he said, adding that he wants manufacturers to pre-install this applet on mobile phones.

"I think that this will not become ubiquitous if consumers have to download it. People aren't really downloading apps to their phones. Most people are just barely getting comfortable with using the browser on their phone. We believe that downloads will not push this." The Sears trial is slated to end this June

One IT manager with a Fortune 50 consumer goods manufacturer said that his firm is in talks with ScanBuy and that they were introduced to the firm by Verizon. That manager said he is impressed with the technology and is discussing it internally, but he believes that 2-D bar code will be pushed aside by NFC (near-field communications) devices, which are still a few years away. He sees 2-D as a short-term placeholder until NFC is real.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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