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The future of scan technology

By CJ Castillo / July 19, 2013


Each year, tech analyst Mary Meeker presents a state of the Internet report that discusses the past, present and future trends in computing. In this year’s presentation, Meeker described the future of technology as “wearables, driveables, flyables and scannables.” Wearables have been getting plenty of attention lately, perhaps pushing scan technology — codes, tags and sensors — out of the spotlight. But scannables are still a hot topic and, despite some misuse by marketing companies, the future of scannables is as strong as ever.

Tattoo scans replace passwords

Do you have too many passwords to remember? Wouldn’t it be great to sign into a website without having to remember your mother’s maiden name or your dearly-departed first pet? Enter Motorola and its collaboration with the company MC10, working together to develop a temporary electronic tattoo that can be used to authenticate a user. These silicon skin patches move, flex and adhere easier than a Band-Aid, making them an unobtrusive and highly-effective progression in digital security.

A prototype of the tattoo was revealed at this year’s D11 conference by the head of special projects at Motorola, Regina Dugan. It may sound like something out of science fiction, but this technology is expected to be available soon, according to a report from Wired.

Lifesquare assists EMTs

In 2012, Northern California’s Marin County introduced a scannable called Lifesquare that helps victims and first responders in emergency situations. Users begin online by creating a Lifesquare account containing vital health information, including allergies, medications, personal details and emergency contacts. Users are then mailed their Lifesquares — small scannable stickers that can be placed around the home or on personal belongings. When there’s an emergency, first responders can scan the stickers to retrieve the user’s account information and make informed decisions about treatments.

Mercedes-Benz is also on the scene

Vehicle technology is a hot trend right now, especially with Android and iOS fighting to gain more real estate on our dashboards. While many automakers are focusing on infotainment, Mercedes-Benz is using scan technology as a safety feature. The company is placing QR codes on the inside of the fuel door and on the B-pillar to help emergency personnel know where and how to cut into a vehicle to rescue occupants quickly and safely. By placing these scannables on all new model cars, Mercedes is out to show that QR codes can’t be dismissed as yesterday’s technology.

Gifts, in an instant

A new app called Jifiti could change the way we buy gifts for each other. When browsing the aisles of a participating brick-and-mortar store, users can scan a product’s bar code using the app and purchase the item for a friend who lives elsewhere. The friend can then pick up his or her gift from the corresponding store in their area.

Jifiti appeals to retailers because it brings customers into their stores without making them alter their point-of-sale systems. And since Jifiti works like a gift card, there’s also no need for special equipment to process the sales.

Seeing the light

Lastly, Mobeam and Samsung recently teamed up to put barcode-scanning technology into the Galaxy S4. Mobeam uses light-based communications to translate barcodes into beams that can be aimed at grocery store check-out scanners. Put that in a smartphone like the Galaxy S4, and you’ve got the answer to a problem that’s been inhibiting mobile commerce for years — scanning smartphones to redeem coupons and rack up loyalty points.

With the looming release of Google Glass and the growing legitimacy of an Apple iWatch, wearable devices are likely to continue dominating tech headlines for quite some time. But if you read a little below the fold, you’ll find some pretty interesting and significant things happening in the world of scan technology.