#iwny - Bar codes and Location: Foursquare, Stickybits, Yellow Arrow and the Nokia #N900

An important theme at Internet Week New York seems to be bar codes and location. As participants arrived for Internet Week, many checked in on Foursquare, and some have received a special InternetWeek Foursquare badge.

At the press conference kicking off events, Commissioner of The New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting Katherine Oliver spoke about QR Codes in Time Square on Thursday. PepsiCo announced an agreement with StickyBits about UPC code scanning and there was a discussion the future of location based marketing Monday at AOL Headquarters.

I have been observing much of this through the lens of my Nokia N900 as well as my background interest in many of these topics. I am a big fan of QR Codes and look forward to finding out what New York City has planned for QR code activities on Thursday.

Stickybits seems like an interesting effort to get people scanning barcodes with their mobile devices and might be the application that crosses the chasm from early adopters like myself to the early majority. They have made various choices which I, as a geek, would not have done. As an example, they are focusing on one dimensional UPC style codes instead of the two dimensional QR barcodes. They suggest that people are used to scanning UPC style barcodes, but most people have no idea what to make of a QR code. They may be right, but I do hope that people will learn the value of moving to two dimensional barcodes. It is worth noting that they do support QR codes.

They have released an application for the iPhone and for the Android, which will capture more smartphone users, and they’ve made their API open. Perhaps the mbarcode application for the Nokia N900 can be modified to support Stickybits API. As an aside, the mBarcode application was one of the first Nokia N900 applications I downloaded and it is great. I’ve used it to scan books, product codes, shipping labels in addition to QR codes. There are a lot of nice things that could be done as plugins; for example, an Amazon plugin so when you scan a book you would be taken to a page to review the book on Amazon.

What Stickybits does is that it allows users to leave comments on various barcodes. This seems similar to the Informed Individual that mBarcode is currently interfacing with. It also seems very similar to the Yellow Arrow project, although Yellow Arrow is simply SMS based. That said, you can set up QR codes to send an SMS message to Yellow Arrow, so I could imagine some mashup of Yellow Arrow and QR Codes down the road.

Then, of course, there is the issue of how all this relates to Foursquare. Currently, I use BarrioSquare on my N900. For some reason, it just has not worked reliably for me, but friends have been saying they’ve been having problems with other Foursquare applications, so it may be a problem with Foursquare and not BarrioSquare. I often get around this by going to the Foursquare mobile website. As a side comment, I never got the Internet Week badge, nor have I gotten the crunked badge, even though it seems like I should have received both.

It would seem that a good idea for various companies trying to promote their venues on Foursquare might want to put up a QR Code at their store for people to scan. At the Future of Location Based Marketing panel last night, there was the story of a company that had bought a cheap Netbook that they kept on the counter with a note asking people to login to Facebook and like the store on Facebook. It has help build up their fan base and has gotten many more customers talking about the store on Facebook. A QR Code for Facebook might likewise be a good idea.

Another interesting mobile play is what Mobile Meteor is doing. They did a quick pitch at the Future of Location Based Marketing yesterday. What they are doing seems pretty simple, straight forward, and of value to folks interested in location based marketing. They run an overlay on a website that checks to see if the person is visiting from a computer or a cellphone. If the person is coming from a cellphone, they get much location based information. They suggested visiting a website from a smartphone during the pitch. I did and the website played a really annoying tune.

Afterwards, I found that I had gone to the main website and Mobile Meteor had not recognized that the N900 was a smartphone instead of a computer. It is a common mistake, and to some people, it is no mistake at all. The N900 is a great Linux based computer that I use more and more for various computing tasks. However, in this case, I want it recognized as a smartphone. The folks at Mobile Meteor addressed this quickly over night and by the morning I could see what they were doing with their mobile overlay.

Will this be the year that a location and bar code enabled Internet really takes off in the United States? It seems like there are a lot of great possibilities. The iPhone and the Android will continue to fight for a role in this, but I’m going to stay with my Nokia N900 as a tool for innovators to experiment and push the envelope.