The year 2010 was no exception. Underscored by a shift in the way information is communicated, 2010 left us blinking bleary-eyed into the accommodating faces of our smartphones, iPads and Kindles, saying, “Hey, aren't we friends on Facebook?” more often than we'd care to admit and helping advertisers entertain us by scanning barcodes in magazines and on billboards.
The appetite for immediate access to information is growing, and so grows smartphone adoption and tablet computing sales. No longer content to simply read and process, the Everyman demands the ability to comment and curate, in real time, the information he receives. As the process by which we obtain, communicate and archive information changes, what will happen next? What will be the nature of change in 2011?
The BarCode News posed this question to leaders in the fields of barcoding, RFID and retail technology. Here is what they had to say (by category):
Barcoding and QR Coding
Jay Steinmetz, CEO, Barcoding, Inc.:
"I am predicting continued conservative spending from businesses that continue to ponder economic and political changes. Many companies realize that the long term economic outlook for the US is uncertain and are afraid of stranding significant capital in large scale expansion. That being said, smaller projects are getting funded aggressively. The large projects are typically technology replacement orders or low cost proof of delivery."
Mike Baur, CEO, ScanSource, Inc., (Barcode and Point of sale distribution):
“I think 2011 is going to be a year filled with new product announcements and, in particular, many interesting, low-cost applications for mobile. ScanSource is preparing for and investing in these opportunities, and we see that being a trend with many of our partners. The channel needs to be ready to ensure the successful implementation and adaptation of new technologies. Overall, for 2011, we anticipate on-going expansion and plenty of technological innovation.”
Laura Marriott, CEO, NeoMedia:
"2011 promises to be a transformational year for the mobile barcode space”
· Pre-loaded mobile barcode readers
As mobile barcodes are increasingly employed across a number of sectors for everything from marketing or retail to ticketing, handset manufacturers worldwide will continue to launch mobile devices pre-loaded with mobile barcode readers, such as Samsung's Omnia II devices and all Sony Ericsson handsets.
· Consumer awareness of 2D mobile barcodes amplified
Consumer awareness will grow as a larger volume of campaigns incorporating mobile barcodes are deployed by leading brands such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Best Buy and Procter & Gamble.
· 2D mobile barcodes in retail
Already a robust sector, retailers will continue to integrate mobile 2D barcodes, be it on-shelf or on packaging for applications ranging from marketing and loyalty to inventory control.
· 2D mobile barcodes become integral to media campaigns
Mobile barcodes will become an essential part of traditional and digital media campaigns, much like the URL address today.
MOBILE Barcode Scanning
Blake Scholl, Co-Founder & CEO, Barcode Hero, Kima Labs, Inc.:
"In 2011, consumers will continue to adopt mobile apps that help them shop better--with barcode scanning as an important part of the technology. I think we're going to see a second generation of mobile shopping apps, like Barcode Hero, Fashism, and GoTryItOn -- that go beyond simple barcode-based price comparisons to help consumers share recommendations and make better decisions about what product to choose."
John Bottoroff, General Manager, Objecs LLC:
"Historically, RFID has been the dutiful tool of industry, with a conservative and maybe even a boring history of service, but this reputation is changing. RFID is on the threshold of new application and expansion in to the everyday life of the medial worker, the factory worker, the soldier, the IT worker and the student, to name a few. There is an emerging driver behind this freight train of a movement, and contrary to popular belief it is not cashless payments, it is not some pressing need of humanity to buy stuff with a cell phone. The driver is education, it is information, it is the need for on-demand knowledge about the increasingly complex physical objects we interact with. This technology offers an adult size opportunity that could leap frog an emerging world economy past an entire evolutionary stage of development. I would think that if a nation had the goal of not competing in the new world economy, then adding 'Ignore RFID' to their national to-do list would be a good start. " - john bottoroff
RETAIL and Retail Technology
James Dion, Founder and President, Dionco, Experts on retail selling:
“The big question everyone is asking is will the American Consumer be back in 2011. The answer is simple, yes and no. Yes, if it is an upscale more affluent customer, they are clearly back in the market and will resume their normal spending habits now that it is not socially unacceptable to consume any more. But no, if you are part of the 40%+ of the American consumers who are unemployed, under-employed, upside-down in your home or still just suffering from the recession, you are not back beyond anything that is not a necessity or deeply discounted. Luxury retailers may be back, but will not gain pre recession sales numbers as the aspiring consumer segment has definitely checked out and will not be back for at least two to three years. The companies that survived the past three years learned some good lessons and so did their customers. Getting the biggest part of America to believe in full price again will be the hardest task that retailers will face. But again, we have always known that retailers eat their young and they proved it for the past three years, now that they destroyed the trust of price they will take years to rebuild it.”
Doug Fleener, Retail operations expert and President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group, LLC:
“We're looking forward to seeing some of the new and exciting ways retailers leverage the iPad and other tablets in 2011. We believe that successful retailers will use this technology as a tool associates can apply to better engage customers and improve the overall customer experience. Tablets can also improve and simplify employee training. Too often retailers look to technology as a means to reduce staff; they would do well to see technology as a means to make their employees more productive, which leads to a better customer experience and higher sales.”
From a practical standpoint, 2011 promises to bring more technology and information to the masses, more efficiency to the supply chain and perhaps more revenue to barcode companies servicing the niche. If you want your company to participate, simply go deeper into barcode technology.
Philosophically, 2011 dangles before us, a fruit ripening on the tree of participatory culture. As the way we relate to information and communicate with our world and each other changes, will we as individuals change? The grammatical construction of barcode artist, Scott Blake's, prediction alone points to yes; he writes, “You cannot predict where barcodes are going. They will continue to find new uses for themselves and spread like a virus.”
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Sometimes change happens so slowly that we hardly notice it occur. Other times, it barrels towards us like a boulder down a hill and we must struggle to either keep up or get out of the way. But by whatever verb it makes its approach, you can always count on it to arrive.