2-D or NFC?

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

"Personally, I think that touchless NFC approaches will likely be more successful.  No need to aim your camera.  But Scanbuy's approaches are worth following," he said.

That consumer goods manager said that he's also looking at Snaptell, as another way to deliver similar capabilities. Snaptell "eliminates the need for the 2D bar code and takes a picture of a product with a cell phone.  That picture is then compared to images in a database, which leads to an ID," he said. "Seen that work in a demo, but skeptical if the image recognition can work under varying conditions."

That manager's thoughts about NFC were similar to others. But news this week-courtesy of a new NFC market share report this week from ABI Research-suggested that NFC is farther away than initially thought, giving 2-D more maneuvering room.

The new ABI numbers for NFC shipments dropped the 2007 estimate to 650,000 from a predicted 1.1 million and also reduced the projections for this year to 6.52 million, from a predicted 9.81 million.

Even so, Bulkeley predicts NFC and 2-D bar code co-existence based on pure economics. The nature of NFC will lend itself better for payment and POS interface but it's not practical to create one for every print ad in stores, streets and in publications. But 2-D bar codes, he argued, can be mass-produced for very little money.

"NFC will be for a payment mechanism but I'm not so sure it will be an information access mechanism," Bulkeley said. "Car and Driver (magazine) isn't going to print 400 near field codes."

Like all trials, it's not clear whether any will lead to actual deployments. And like all negotiations, it's not clear how many of the retailers who have expressed an interest will end up agreeing to a trial. A Nordstrom's manager, for example, said Thursday that the chain has decided to not pursue the discussed 2-D trial. One reason mentioned was that it was seen as placing too much of a burden on the consumer.

Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at eschuma@earthlink.net.

Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com'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 Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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