Coming soon to a mobile near you
10 Apr 2009
We all have mobile phones and some of us have more than one, but have you given much thought to the fact that for much of the world the mobile phone is the only telephone and the only computer that people will ever have? (In developing countries, wireless technologies are easier and cheaper than laying wires to homes.)
The invention of the iPhone changed mobile phones forever, making them a viable mass market device for the delivery of network-based information via standard web browsers and other internet-aware applications. It also changed the landscape by providing the first ever rich and full-featured operating system on a mobile phone and a desktop-class software development kit (SDK) for the development of innovative applications. Apple Inc reported that users downloaded 100 million apps in the first two months of operation to September 2008.
Because of this, many companies are now lining up mobiles as a delivery device for b2b and b2c information. The question is: what sort of information? This is where the GS1 MobileCom initiative comes in!
The GS1 MobileCom initiative
GS1 MobileCom is an industry-wide initiative started by GS1 in June 2007 to prevent fragmentation in the current market for reading bar codes with camera-capable mobile phones. Already the MobileCom initiative has got some heavyweight support:
"This is a major step forward in simplifying the choices manufacturers have to make to start enabling mobile services via their products. It will drive innovation not only on product packaging but across a number of communication channels that brands use to interact with consumers," says Vanderlei Roque dos Santos from Nestlé, co-chair of the GS1 MobileCom work group.
"Mobile bar codes are one of the ways that retailers can use to improve in-store experience for consumers. Having standards will make implementation easier and faster, across different markets." - Olivier Raynal, Carrefour.
"The mobile phone will become an enabler to help provide consumers better information so they can make more informed purchasing decisions." - Khurram Hamid, global head, mobile marketing innovation, Procter & Gamble.
More and more consumers are equipped with camera phones that are technically capable of reading bar codes. As well as the existing bar codes on product packaging (called 1-dimensional or 1D bar codes), new bar codes specifically designed to be scanned by a camera (called 2-dimensional or 2D bar codes) are now becoming available. The aim of the GS1 MobileCom initiative is to facilitate bar codes to be "scanned" by consumers to access so-called "extended packaging attributes" such as information currently on the pack in a personalised format (allergens, ingredients, nutrition facts); a wide range of information not currently available on packaging (eg, URL for the company's website) and information that may currently be handled on paper (such as coupons).
As well as providing additional services to consumers, it is envisaged that mobile bar code applications can play a role in improving supply-chain efficiency, particularly where smaller manufacturers and retailers are involved which do not currently use electronic standards and automated processes.
Progress to date? The GS1 MobileCom group has completed an in-depth study of potential applications available in a white paper available from www.gs1.org/mobile. GS1 is working to align this initiative with other mobile code efforts in the mobile industry and looks forward to working more closely with the mobile industry in the coming months and years.
If you'd like further information or want to become more involved, let us know as we are looking at pilots of the technology and use cases developed so far.
Written by Dr Peter Stevens, CEO GS1 New Zealand.
Published in FMCG.