In The End of Shopping, the NY Times writes about new software from a company called Scanbuy, which marries barcode reading technology to your cellular camera-phone. With Scanbuy, and your phone, you can scan the barcode of any product in any store, and immediately find out who is selling it elsewhere, and at what price. It’s like a marriage of GreaseMonkey’s comparison pricing scripts with the cell phone.
Over on DDJ’s website, there’s a great article describing how Scanbuy built this service. It’s a mashup of Amazon and barcode scanner software run on the handset. A downloadable application is loaded onto the handset, and uses Amazon’s API to access the Amazon database on the backend.
The potential is enormous. As the NY Times article says:
Should the "shopping phone" fulfill its promise, deep discounts will become standard and universal, and stores will have to seek an edge in less familiar ways – perhaps by dressing their workers in clingy costumes the way Las Vegas casinos do. That would be one route: pile on the thrills. The other, more likely, more cost-effective route would be to stamp out the thrills entirely and cultivate a dreary bare-bones efficiency that will make today’s Wal-Marts seem like Roman palaces and today’s Wal-Mart employees look like emperors.