Wednesday, July 29, 2009

7-29-09: More on Bokode

I was having a conversation today with a friend about Bokode. He saw my post on it from yesterday, and was wondering what value can be added with this new technology. For example, why would they want to put a Bokode mark on a store front? Can't you tell what store it is from the big neon signs?

Well, of course you could. But that's just the tip of the technological iceberg. The whole idea of using tags to find out more information on something is nothing brand new. Just look at all the apps out there for devices like Google Android phones that let you take pictures of barcodes and find better deals for a product online. Those have been around for a bit now, and are very useful. They even have apps that let you take a picture of a product and find it online, no barcode required.

Bokode is simply a new tagging system that enables devices that can be made more cheaply (the video shows people using normal digital cameras probably as a means to convey universal capability). Let's say you're looking around at different stores in a mall, and want to know which one has the best deal on a certain product that you need right away (let's say you can't really wait for an online purchase). You could just pull out your camera-equipped device, which has Bokode tag reading software, and point it at the store front. A minute later (hopefully sooner as technology improves), you'll know be searching that specific store's inventory. It should, if it works, save you time from searching around in the store. At the same time, you could find the store hours, download special coupons to use that day, or maybe buy the product outside the store and pick it up later. All of it could start by scanning the Bokode of the store.

Now, a lot has to happen for such a system to work. My example is very much an ideal scenario. I'd imagine the following things would need to happen or be in place:

- The store would need to be "Bokode enabled" and have tags on the store front. They'd be indistinguishable to the human eye, which is a big selling point. No ugly bar codes, but it's a cost to the business nonetheless.

- The device needs to have an application that reads the Bokode tag (there'd need to be an interface that controls the camera that causes it to go out of focus and pick up the tag). I'm not sure if such a robust application is available quite yet, but I'm sure it's not too much to ask for an iPhone app to be created to do this if the market is there.

- The store's inventory would need to be updated and available on the web. This isn't much of a stretch. Many major stores' websites enable this feature already. It'd be a disadvantage to smaller stores, though, who might not have the capital to enable such a feature.

- I don't know exactly how Bokode works, but it'd be nice if you could scan the code from various distances. Maybe they'd have different layers of tags that can be read at different distances. Not sure.

Other than that, a couple more things might be helpful for the user:

- The application might want to have a feature that saves data, like prices at certain stores, so the user can compare while shopping. Maybe they'd just need to create a new session and save maybe 5-10 items or stores. It's a "nice to have" feature, and would need to be simple.

- Once a user finds an item, it'd be nice if the application searched other stores nearby to save them time. This would need to tie in with their physical location (again, not a stretch with today's technology).

The capabilities are not all brand new, but Bokode-enabled devices could work. The big selling points are:

- Bokode tags are indistinguishable to the human eye. No ugly eyesores. 
- You can put many, many tags to make it easier to pick up. Typical bar codes can get ripped and deformed. 
- You can read Bokode tags (you actually have to) from a distance 
- It allows for cheap hardware to be used (no expensive scanners)

I don't know if this will catch on. It's not completely ground breaking, but it's still pretty neat. Take a look at the MIT site for some more application ideas.

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