Has 'Point & Search' Finally Arrived in North America?

This week at CTIA Nokia announced "point & find" for the UK and US. Software embedded in selected Nokia phones (e.g., the N95) allows people to use the phone's camera to do things like:

Point at a movie poster and watch the trailer, read reviews and check showtimes in your neighborhood. Oh, and we can get you there with directions to the cinema, too!

Scan a barcode with your camera phone to get the latest product information and read dependable reviews. And we'll show you where to find the lowest prices online.

This functionality has existed for some time in the US and Europe and is widely used in Asia (QR codes). Nokia has had a "point & shop" arrangement (similar idea: codes in newspapers) with The Sun newspaper in the UK for at least a year. And Yell, the UK yellow pages publisher, is experimenting with QR codes on its printed phone directory.

Versions of this functionality are being pushed by a number of companies that want to convert mobile phone cameras into search tools or ways to deliver more data and information from traditional media and objects in the real world. Some of those companies include Mobot, Neomedia, GeoVector, SnapTell and Scanbuy. One broad extension of this functionality is "augmented reality."

What's also fascinating is that these scenarios represent a totally different way to search, shop and generally get information. than the conventional mode of text entry being used today on smartphones. Of course the two are not mutually exclusive and should exist side-by-side. QR codes and their companion methodologies might also be a way for coming generations of non-smartphones to get lots more information than they can access today on the go. 

In Canada, MediaPost is reporting, the National Post newspaper is starting to use QR/2d barcodes to create a way to deliver more information to consumers (including video) and a way to give advertisers more value from newspaper advertising. The provider of the codes and the functionality in this case is Scanbuy. However smartphone owners must download the app that allows the codes to be read. A version of the software exists for all smartphone platforms. 

The Nokia software above is already pre-loaded on the applicable phones. 

Before Google shuttered its print newspaper ads program, QR codes were one way that Google tracked print response for its advertisers. In a simpler way, short codes can perform much the same function.

Some version of this "point & search" functionality should start to take hold in the US, especially if the software can be preloaded on phones. It also gives new life to traditional media, as suggested above.