Produce Barcodes – The barcode is so deeply ingrained into our lives in so many ways that it’s invisible to most people. Produce in grocery stores is one of the last great frontiers in getting barcodes in place consistently on all products. The effort to get GS1 Databar in place is ongoing and has been for many years to simplify produce purchases.
A recent article indicates that the USDA may approve laser etching on produce as an alternative to today’s stickers. This is probably a step backward from a checkout throughput and scanning accuracy perspective. The laser etching indicated in the article doesn’t look easily readable by a scanner if a barcode was printed on the produce, particularly if the produce has a dark skin. It also remains to be seen if the laser etching could show the kind of detail that would be ideal given tracking concerns relative to food recalls that have cropped up in recent years.
It will probably take some time for the laser etching to come into use, if it becomes common at all. There was a slightly different scheme in 2006 whereby farmers were putting stencils on apples to allow them to grow with barcodes. There was no word on the results since that time, but one would wonder about the difficulty in scanning red codes with today’s red laser barcode scanners.
Apple Store POS – More word that Apple is changing from their current EasyPay handheld POS solution in the Apple Store to a new iPod Touch based solution. The handheld solution is a great fit for the Apple Store environment, and if they can use their own platform, it will be a coup for them. It will be interesting to see what sort of MSR reader they use on the iPod touch for payments, and even more interesting to see if they bother in Canada where EMV will not allow the MSR swipe in October 2010.
Mobile Recipes & Ads – Whole Foods recently released an iPhone app that provide users to a selection of recipes and store information. On the positive side there are lots of great recipes that allow search by course, ingredients, and even what is on hand. There is also a good store locator with specifics on each site. Unfortunately there is no obvious option that provides a complete shopping list other than the long list of ingredients in each individual recipe. The store information should also leverage the great job that they are doing with Twitter, but doesn’t appear to do so as yet.
This month’s Wired Magazine leveraged a mobile app called kooaba. By taking a picture of the ads in the magazine with the app, the ads are recognized, and special content related to the ad is provided. For example, taking a photo of the ad for the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, the screen provided options to buy the product online, call T-mobile, follow the solution on Twitter or watch a commercial about the product. While gimmicky, this sort of application would absolutely be of value for a complex product a customer is very interested in.