The Next Big Thing – Hyperlinking the Real World

This is a really interesting development. I already knew about the idea of hyperlinking the real world by attaching tags to objects and then reading those tags with a camera phone and linking back to the internet or a database. There are lots of different kinds of tags, including semacodes and barcodes. In Japan shoppers can read the barcode of an item in a shop and then connect to the Amazon database and check the shop price with the Amazon price.

When you start to think about this idea you realise it is going to be huge. They say you should never forecast, especially about the future, but my guess is that this is going to be as big a thing as the development of the internet itself. There is such a huge range of possible applications and very little is needed to kick-start the idea. Most people have a mobile and many have a camera in their mobile. All that is needed now is for the phone companies to start supporting tagging by providing software that users can download to get started. This is already happening in the East, but not yet in the UK.

In the UK we appear to have a user/provider problem. Providers are not tagging things because there are no phones capable of reading the tags. Users, or rather the phone companies, are not supporting tagging, partly because there are no tags to be read, and partly because they have not figured out how to make money from the service. The phone companies are supporting mobile phone payment systems because the credit card companies are pushing these as a way of earning commission on small payments that are currently made by cash. There is no such powerful champion for tagging.

When you read the second half of the linked article you realise that the Swiss have come up with something extra. Their idea is that you can make the phone-tag process work both ways and by doing so you can control devices using the alignment of a mobile phone to a tag. If I understand the idea correctly you can enable a phone to detect the alignment between the phone camera and a tag on a device, and then feed back this information to control the device. What a brilliant idea.

We seem to be entering a new phase where the internet is moving away from tied to the desktop and out into the real world. WiFi is part of this, so is stuff like Google Maps and now there is this.

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