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Cell Phones as Bar Code Scanners

Your customers may soon use their cell phones to find out prices--and much more.

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This story appears in the September 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Though much of the marketing via mobile phones has focused on content sent to phones, today's handheld interactive devices offer another promotional opportunity--one that Japanese businesses are already profiting from. Using bar code scanners added to camera phones and PDAs, customers can scan bar codes in-store and conduct price checks, or take a photo of a bar code with their web-enabled mobile device, then e-mail the code in to get more information or a special offer.

Mobile devices in the U.S. are already equipped with these capabilities and might even include bar code scanners, but U.S. consumers haven't jumped on the scanning bandwagon--yet. "It's on a fast path for widespread adoption by U.S. businesses," says David Hogan, chief information officer of the National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group.

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