Intelligent bar codes for the consumer

…shoppers choosing, say, turkeys could one day scan bar codes with their cellphone cameras to find out where the birds were from, and even see pictures of the farms.  The transformed bar code would call attention to environmentally friendly products and raise the consciousness of shoppers everywhere…Software already exists that allows camera phones to read bar codes.  And some companies have begun sharing encoded product-tracking information with curious consumers.  This year, Heritage Foods started providing a tracking number with every piece of meat it sells.  When keyed into the company’s Web site, the number provides the animal’s medical and feed history.  The site also features a turkey Web cam, so you can examine the animals’ living conditions for yourself.  As Patrick Martins, co-founder of Heritage Foods, puts it, you can "see Tom naturally mating with Henrietta."

Here is the full story, NYT password required.

My take: I suspect a more popular use of this technology would call up ads and suggested product uses.  Or how about third-party bar codes, such as Consumer Reports might supply?  Consumers would then get suspicious if no such bar code were present.  From another direction altogether, the nerds could program their phones with calibrated macro models to estimate the effect of the expenditure on gdp, the deficit, and the value of the dollar.

That is all from the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Dec.12, the annual "Year in Ideas" feature.  Want another innovation?  Try stock options for soldiers.


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