Just in time for Black Friday: students turn iPhone into barcode scanner

Nov 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Comparing prices over the Internet has become a common practice for consumers. Now, just in time for Black Friday, a group of Missouri University of Science and Technology students is putting that ability to comparison-shop in the palm of your hand.

The Missouri S&T students have created an application for the that turns the device into a scanner. Using image-processing techniques and the iPhone's camera, the application - called barcodescan - reads a product's Universal Product Code (UPC), then scours the Internet for prices, product reviews and other online information about that product.

The system should come in handy for iPhone users who are browsing at a bricks-and-mortar store and see a product they're interested in researching.

"Users can even save results into custom lists, which can then be shared with friends," says Paul Parham, a senior in engineering management who is coordinating the product's release. Parham is one of several students developing digital products and services through a company called the Interdisciplinary Design Collaborative, or IDC for short. IDC was created in September 2008 by Michael A. Orlando, a senior in electrical engineering and interdisciplinary engineering.

"We found a poor selection of applications for the iPhone that can read one-dimensional barcodes, so we set out to make our own," says Parham.

An early test version of the app, available for free to iPhone users, has been downloaded more than 250,000 times, Parham says. A more robust version, originally priced at $4.99, is now available for 99 cents "for the holiday shopping season," Parham says. The app may be downloaded via the iPhone's app store or from iTunes.

IDC recently released another iPhone that lets users know how many days before Missouri S&T's next annual St. Pat's Celebration. The St. Pat's "Daze" application is of particular interest to Missouri S&T students and alumni, since the St. Pat's event has been an annual celebration on campus since 1908.

"We wanted to make something to let everybody know there was someone on campus making iPhone apps," says Orlando, a St. Louis County native who is also pursuing a master's degree in engineering management at S&T. "We thought, 'What better way than St. Pat's to get everybody's attention?'"

Orlando, who currently serves as the company's chief executive officer, began IDC in 2008 with the idea of providing a way for Missouri S&T students to put their technological talents to work.

"We saw that there were a bunch of students working minimum-wage jobs around town, and we saw them as an untapped resource for developing new products," Orlando says. He worked with the university's Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) to develop a business plan and get the company off the ground.

"I was skeptical at first" about Orlando's plans, says Barry White, director of the SBTDC. "We see students every week that are looking to start their own business, but these guys are classic overachievers and they proved they would make it happen."

Two other students also hold executive positions with the company: R.J. Miller, a senior in interdisciplinary engineering and graduate student in engineering management, who is the chief administrative officer, and Colby Hall, an MBA graduate student, who is the chief operating officer. Ten Missouri S&T students are on the IDC payroll.

Provided by Missouri University of Science and Technology (news : web)

Explore further: Apple sees iCloud attacks; China hack reported

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New iPhone app works by bump, not touch

Apr 08, 2009

It is somehow fitting that University of Chicago business school students would develop an iPhone app that works by bump, not touch, on Apple's famed screen. After all, it was a former U of C professor, President Barack ...

Smartphone app by U-M students promotes good deeds

Jun 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Beautify your world. Leave an inspirational message in a public place. Connect with a family member. Those are just a few of the proposed acts of kindness pushed out to users of a new smartphone application ...

Apple App Store downloads hit two billion mark

Sep 28, 2009

Apple announced Monday that more than two billion applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch have been downloaded from its App Store, just five months after hitting the one-billion download mark.

Skype comes to iPhones on Tuesday

Mar 30, 2009

Skype has confirmed that a free software application enabling iPhone owners to use its Internet telephone service will be available in Apple's online App Store beginning Tuesday.

findNano app puts nanotech in your pocket

Nov 12, 2009

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) has developed findNano, an application for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch that lets users discover and determine whether consumer products are nanotechnology-enabled. Nanotechnology, ...

Recommended for you

Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles

2 hours ago

The U.S. government is adding more than 3 million vehicles to a rare warning about faulty air bags that have the potential to kill or injure drivers or passengers in a crash.

Fighting cyber-crime one app at a time

2 hours ago

This summer Victoria University of Wellington will be home to four Singaporean students researching cyber threats. The students have been working with Dr Ian Welch, a lecturer in Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer ...

Using sound to picture the world in a new way

3 hours ago

Have you ever thought about using acoustics to collect data? The EAR-IT project has explored this possibility with various pioneering applications that impact on our daily lives. Monitoring traffic density ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

warra_warra
Nov 25, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
russell981
not rated yet Nov 25, 2009
This is a wonderful story-thank you. Perhaps this innovation will help the grocery stores to get their technology enhanced-registers are wrong about 5% of the time-check those receipts. A great use for UPC is to find out the price of items-Walmart used to have self scanners, but haven't seen them lately.