Monday, March 8, 2010

Clip 10-cent coupons with this simple $300 device

I saw a piece on the local news recently about smart phone apps that will help you with your shopping. Use your phone's camera to scan a bar code and it will tell you if it knows of a nearby store with a better deal (its database of stores is limited). It will also sent you an image of a coupon, if there is one available, to scan at the cash register.

Ten years from now it will all sound laughably primitive (what, you had to have your phone show the scanner a bar code image, all to transmit a dozen or so bytes?). Right now it's pretty slick, but when I heard about it, some dim light went on in the back of my head: It's not the image on the screen, or the printed image on a paper coupon that matters. It's the magic number in the bar code ... oh, right ... the very first post to this blog was about just that notion.

It's probably also worth noting that the groundwork for this was laid quite a while ago, before the internet and before music or movies became digital, namely the introduction of bar codes in supermarkets. A pioneering piece of modern digitization, though of course digital communication itself is far, far older.

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