Barcoo: mobile barcode scanning can be useful

Mobile technology inspires an incredible amount of social applications and location-based services. Not all of them are useful. That’s why I was delighted by a talk on Barcoo that I attended yesterday. The basic idea: You scan the barcode of a product to get data on it from their server. So far, so boring. Things become interesting and useful due to Barcoo’s clever ways of aggregating data.
  • Rich data, crowdsourced: Barcoo users are very active in contributing data (approx. 55% participate). This includes locations of shops where a product can be bought (GPS helps here), product ratings, ingredients, pictures. Their conclusion: crowdsourcing works well if participants benefit from the results. Contributions do have to be edited though. The presenter alluded to all kinds of photos being submitted...
  • Consumer protection: Barcoo works with consumer organizations to protect shoppers. For example, they warn about false advertising. When Germany had a problem with dioxin-poisoned eggs, Barcoo reacted quickly and you could enter the producer ID on an egg package to find out whether there was a risk or not.
  • Comparing products: By transforming the various ways of presenting ingredients into a standardized format, Barcoo helps with comparing products.
  • Privacy: is definitely invaded, because they can cross-reference what products are scanned with who scanned it, when and where. This even hints at shops that have yet to be recorded. On the plus side, Barcoo does not require your real name (like Facebook does), you get a user ID of your choosing.
    • A German company: Barcoo has to comply with the relatively strict privacy laws in Germany. That’s good for users, but makes it harder for Barcoo to compete with American startups.
  • Marketing possibilities: Barcoo wants to keep Barcoo as ad-free as possible, but has to make money. One thing that they are exploring, apart from ads that are displayed every now and then, are small consumer surveys. A user scans a product and then is asked a question about it. The given example was: “Do you keep Nutella in the Fridge – yes/no?”. Nutella, incidently, is their most-scanned product. Again, user participation was very high. This has great potential for newly introduced products, because you can get a hold of buyers on a global scale, instead of hanging out at a single shop and hoping to catch someone.
  • Quick application updates: The Barcoo app is based on web technologies. This allows them to quickly deploy new features (such as the dioxin information) via their servers, without going through an app store submission process.
  • Number of users: Barcoo currently has 2.4 million users, 41% of them have used it in the last four weeks. 250,000 users came to the platform in reaction to the dioxin scandal.