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X-ray specs for consumer products

scan the upc barcode with your handheld to expose product's un-healthy side
  [vote for,

this is an idea i had last year. it allows consumers to more effectively, en masse, "vote with dollars". shiny new things on the shelf may have been made in sweatshops, may be brought to you by a big corporate entity masquerading as an earthy/healthy subsidiary, may actually be bad for you, the consumer.

who can keep up? (for if we all really did know the facts, and could more effectively vote with our dollars, it would healthily counteract deceptive advertising and product packaging to some real degree.)

all you need is the palmpilot with the built-in barcode scanner and wireless connection to the all-things-bad-but-hidden database, which will be availalbe in the future. (there is already a scanner plugin availalbe for the handspring.)

i was pleased to learn today that this is being baked. see links. i am posting this to expose the idea to your brutal critique.

gnormal, Feb 14 2001

(?) five second mockup demo http://www.well.com.../reid/viridian.html
[gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) progress and discussion of SCAN http://www.rtmark.c...gi?mode=help&p=SCAN
"Create and distribute a product scanner that accesses a database and shows instantly the terrible practices involved in making the product scanned. In addition, the machine prints out a label customized to the product, that can be glued to the product's packaging on the spot." [gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

How Stuff Works: UPC Bar Codes http://www.howstuffworks.com/upc.htm
For Gordon. (I had no idea, either.) There's a central council that manufacturers apply to for a unique code prefix. A store may still glue its own local bar-codes over the product bar codes, but we're not talking about those codes, just about the ones printed as part of e.g. the can label. [jutta, Feb 14 2001]

(?) resource http://paperclick.com/
free small database and barcodes on a server.... [gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

qode.com hardware and database server http://qode.com
paperclick told me qode's upc database is bigger than barpoint's [gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

WAP communal upc database creation (with respect to gluten!) http://www.celiacdatabase.org/
something like the way the db of good and bad would have to be compiled [gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

public access upc database http://www.upcdatabase.com/
(small and suit-threatened!) [gnormal, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) CueHack http://rtmark.com/cuehack/
Repurposing the :CueCat to display "alternative information" about the company in question. [egnor, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Need the UPC Database? http://www.glondon.com/upcdatabase.html
Lists a number of sources for UPC codes and related information -- including another free UPC database. [Russkin, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) SKU Finder http://www.skufinder.com/
Provides SKU and UPC lookup as well as product photos and other product information. [Russkin, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Like UPC, but more specific http://www.ean-int.org/index800.html
An international standard for SSCC numbers -- unique to individual items for tracking and tracing purposes. Millions of products are tracked this way. [Russkin, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) barcodescanning on your 3G phone http://www.lavasphere.com
A technology company who developed an barcode imaging technology. This software scan method is developed for the videophone and webcam. [CapeRon, Feb 14 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) WRC and FLA Comparison http://students.syr...ool/comparison.html
Still more exploration of the technical difficulties behind "conscience motivated" market transparency. [LoriZ, Apr 06 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Consumerium http://develop.cons...index.php/Main_Page
An organized attempt at something along these lines [LoriZ, Oct 04 2004]

(?) Toshiba to offer barcode -> photo -> blog search http://www.asahi.co...KY200601070120.html
[jutta, Jan 09 2006]

(?) nicely baked! http://www.forbes.c...your-shopping-cart/
[gnormal, May 15 2013]


       I'm going to show my ignorance here. Are all product bar-codes unique? I always thought that stores made them up themselves - there must be overlaps surely - with constantly changing ranges there wouldn't be enough unique numbers would there?
Gordon Comstock, Feb 14 2001

       [See link #3]
jutta, Feb 15 2001

       Jutta - well I'll be blowed. Thank you.
Gordon Comstock, Feb 15 2001

       i learned at internet world in nyc last week that phones with built in scanners could be popular before pda's with scanners. the phones are already common in europe. ideal- do the lookup with wap or sms.   

       this being the case, the first step would be to build up the database. a communal project where contributors submit upc records (upc code number, product name, comments). it's gonna be baked fast....
gnormal, Feb 25 2001

       one problem seems to be that someone owns the concept or scheme of upc numbers. but can a number be owned?   

       retailers "have a copy" of the upc database in order to run their pos/backoffice system. i "have a copy" of a small subset of the database over on my cd rack (if i had one). but there seems to be some problem with holding too many of those numbers at once... currently, where you have opportunity to use a database to do a upc label lookup, you are returned things which aid your purchase (description, location, price, manufacturer). i suppose it is not in the interest of the "owners" of the infinite cache of upc numbers, for their clients to be complaining that there is a database out there that returns other properties of those goods (conditions under which they were produced, where produced, materials contained, origin of materials, manufacturer, parent company of producer. etc.)   

       but a big public domain db can be assembled legally via volunteers. wouldnt everyone agree that this will eventually happen?
gnormal, Feb 25 2001, last modified Feb 26 2001

       But it's ok to do exactly the same thing to individual people? <Re the 'Instant background check' thing.>
StarChaser, Feb 27 2001

       of course they wont like it. that's a pretty early stage in which to give up though. but how can they stop it? we can make the database. we can scan the codes. they can stop using upc i guess. but how could they replace upc with something that consumer electronics cant keep up with?   

       i dont think this should be done with people, although i cant see how to stop it. it probably exists already- gossipnet? another difference- we're not talking about the quality of the person or necessarily the company, but of the product.
gnormal, Feb 27 2001

       New link.
egnor, Apr 17 2001

       It should be seen as a chance to impress upon these companies the value of championing clean and humane manufacturing records. Disclosure of low-impact and humane method should be met with real-world, economic reward in the form of consumer purchase and loyalty. I've got no problem with a company bragging on their clean-and-green manufacturing history, and if they wish to reform otherwise harmful practices, this should be built into a rating system as well. I'm going to be suspicious of any company that does not divulge manufacturing information. What do they have to hide anyway?
digidj, Apr 18 2001

       Sorry for the long post! I publish the Responsible Shopper site mentioned at left and we've been looking at options for a PDA-based scan or lookup offering. The idea is certainly feasible -- the real question is what implementation is most reasonable right now. Providing social and environmental information on product sources is incredibly difficult, but getting information on companies is much easier. You don't need an ideal dissemination system to start (one that connects a product to every significant social and environmental factor in its life cycle); you just need an architecture that's scalable in terms of types of information (put in what company information you have and add product information as it becomes available). A simple system would only require three pieces of information: a way to easily and reliably identify the product (easy, UPC), a relationship between the source and the product's UPC (hard for specific factories, but easier for consumer brand companies), and information on the source (again, harder or easier depending on what you call the "source"). Also, the decision to buy a product or not on non-traditional (social) factors doesn't have to be restricted purely to information directly concerning the product -- if a company has other practices you respect or dislike, those are just as legitimate reasons for action. Finally, you also don't need 200,000 UPC's. Most Americans, for example, stick with a very limited set of products throughout their lives (just look at marketshare stats). A database of perhaps 10,000 products would probably cover a huge percentage of the top-sellers in all major categories.
Russkin, May 23 2001

       Nice to see that someone else is also interested in "data mining" for other-than-business purposes.
LoriZ, Jun 01 2001

       Print out a new sticky label, with a new bar code, and walk out of the store with a fantastic deal on that expensive bottle of wine.
Ling, Jan 09 2006

       Naughty [Ling]! Glad you churned this, though, it's very interesting.
moomintroll, Jan 09 2006

       I must confess that it was Jutta's link that drew my attention.
Ling, Jan 09 2006

       update- soon we will not need a proper scanner! cellphone cameras now have sufficient resolution to read the barcode out of the photo via image processing. thanks jutta. this is good news.
gnormal, Apr 22 2006

       today it was done properly! (see link to forbes)   

       funny, when i imagined it, it required a palmpilot with a barcode hardware expansion. i think it was 1998, and i just got my first cellphone (erriccsson), with a rubber antennae.
gnormal, May 15 2013


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