Thursday, 15 May 2008

Scanning Barcodes to understand and track what you eat

Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could find out what's in your food by scanning it's barcode and being taken to a web site where you can see the information you need. It's just a thought but I think it would make it so much easier to be knowledgeable about what you eat.

Why would this be useful?
Basically because it's really difficult to put a lot of information on any packaging that's on food. Even if you did then that would just mean that some food would have lots of info and others would have none.

You could use it to :
  • figure out what's in your diet
  • easily track what you eat by scanning it
  • find out background info about the food,
    • find out the best prices and prices for similar items
    • where it came from
    • how it's manufactured
    • how it's stored best
    • other places to find it
  • Help you in the kitchen
    Who's website would host this?
    , maybe the manufacturers but preferably an independent organisation responsible for the quality of it's information,

    What if I don't have a Barcode scanner?
    I'd expect to be able to do a standard word search in this web site, the barcode would just be a lot quicker and easier and are quite cheap and easy to use this days. I also think a supermarket or store should be able to email you a receipt of your purchases.

    They're already beginning to include them!!
    I've just read an article detailling what is to come in terms of the mobile environment. In it I read about trials in Asia of Quick Response (QR) bar codes taking pictures of barcodes using a phones camera. the phone then reads the barcode from the image and reads the instruction. See it in action

    So actually it seems like the technology is already there. All we really need is for manufacturers, wholesalers, supermarkets etc to start putting these barcodes on their products and then providing pages to go to to view the info.

    It'll cost to much. Why bother?
    I could imagine each company asking why they should bother because there's a significant investment required.
    • If the company designs the barcode to go to one of their own web sites then they can easily place ads and other 'me too' content on the page that the person browsing may be interested in. For example if you scanned a pot noodle then you could see apage giving info on that pot noodle and you could also be told about other flavours you might like, new offers, local stores also stocking the pot noodles. All those kinds of things. The benefit for the company is that now you are in their store with no other distractions
    • If you're a regulator or say a government body and your intention is to help the consumer understand what's in their food then you'll need an initial investment to setup a site, desgin a standard set of information you will show and a standard approach. Once it's set up however you'll now have a very simple standard way of educating people across the board. You can be certain that they'll visit this site regularly and you'll be able to adjust your approach rapidly as our knowledge and experience improves
    I think it could work very well and would make it so much easier to find out what really is in the things we eat and so much more about the food such as where it has come from. How it is packaged. It gives companies a much better place to compete. Not just on the shelf but in the virtual shelf of the internet. A single apple could therefore compete equally with a carton of apple juice which has a large surface area on whic to promote itself. The apple is just an apple but with a sticker bearing the barcode you could suddenly find out where it came from, how long it took to get from picking to the store, its nutritional content etc, etc
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