The NY Times (free subscription required) has an interesting article on the newish use of cellphones to read codes to download data.
It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic film: House hunters, driving past a for-sale sign, stop and point their cellphone at the sign. With a click, their cellphone screen displays the asking price, the number of bedrooms and baths and lots of other details about the house....In Japan, McDonald’s customers can already point their cellphones at the wrapping on their hamburgers and get nutrition information on their screens. Users there can also point their phones at magazine ads to receive insurance quotes, and board airplanes using their phones rather than paper tickets. And film promoters can send their movie trailers from billboards.
I have hoped that this kind of thing would take hold. Rather than spimes that use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, this uses the photo recognition abilities of cell phones to enact more voluntary downloading practice (RFIDs can and will alert everybody around you certain identifying information). This technology has a huge upside. Just think how cool it would be if you could go to the grocery store and buy food that was grown closer to home using more sustainable techniques just by downloading an algorithm to your cell phone and then pointing it at a code on the product. No bizarre lifehacking necessary. There is also a huge possibility for abuse (as there is in all communications technology deployed so nimbly). Marketers would have unparalleled access to your affinities, eyeball share, and mind share. Think Vennevar Bush's walnut-sized headcam streaming directly to Verizon and Cingular. As this techology takes off (and I think it will), we should demand particular firewalls between individual access and personal identities (beyond what we have for computers currently, since this data would attach all sorts of locality information with this affinity information).