Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Mobile Phone as an Authentication Device

Purveyors of brand security technology have often resorted to proprietary scanning devices for checking the authenticity of products. For example: laser pens to make taggants fluoresce or cumbersome scanners with private keys to read barcodes. This is fine for a dedicated security force looking for one type of product - but limits how many people can authenticate products. Some vendors have modified camera phones with lenses or filters - but this doesn't make them any more widely useful than a proprietary scanner. Now, camera phones are emerging as a feasible technique for reading barcodes - and we see some promising trends that should encourage more mobile phone manufacturers and carriers to adopt this technology. This will have a dramatic impact on the ability to use a mobile phone to verify products.

Microsoft recently announced it will support QR codes on its Windows Mobile devices. The beta site is down - but watch this space for updates. QR codes are very widely used in Japan - and look like they will take off in China too.

Nokia also recently announced that the US version of the N93 will be able to read QR codes. This will be the first US cell phone shipped with this capability.

There are multiple startups (incl: Semacode, Kaywa, Shotcode, qode, quickmark) offering downloads for mobile phones to read both open-standard (datamatrix, QR) and proprietary (shotcode) symbologies - and it remains to be seen how the US and European markets will play out. All of these, however, require a Symbian or Java phone - which are seldom found in the US.

YottaMark launched its mobile phone authentication service in the summer of 2006.