Friday, March 31, 2006

Cell Phones May Soon Add Scanning Technology

TechNews writes that in an attempt to keep their products from becoming commodity items, handset manufacturers just might start adding scanning functions to their handsets. Kenneth Hyers at ABI Research said, "There are some rudimentary scanning functions now available in cell phones and those features should improve over time."

The article notes that "once a phone is outfitted with a camera, the transition to scanner is fairly straightforward. The key is adding optical character recognition (OCR) features to the phone, which allow small amounts of text to be captured and digitized." Companies ,such as NEC, Realeyes3D and scanR, "have been piloting products that let users transform their camera phones into scanners, copiers, or fax machines."

Hyers said, "In Asia, it is becoming common for professionals to scan business cards into their camera phones and build electronic rather than paper Rolodexes." The article looks at other potential applications such as photographing advertisements, barcodes and other codes.

Ira Brodsky at Datacomm Research said, "I think adding Common Short Codes to print advertising is the best option. A user just has to send a text message to get an SMS message with embedded link back to a Web site." This will require advertisers to embrace the standard.

Another problem is the power of the existing camera phones. Neil Strother at NPD Group said, "Currently most camera phones support VGA (Video Graphics Array) and that only works with one third of a megapixel. I have not seen many individuals using their digital cameras for scanning, so I don't expect much interest in camera phone scanning."

ABI Research's Hyers countered, "I think the scanning functions open up some interesting possibilities to content suppliers as well as hardware manufacturers and therefore will be promoted. Vendors need to put a few more building blocks into place, so it won't be until 2007 or 2008 when we will see a lot of scanning functions built into camera phones here in the U.S."