Ming the Mechanic:
Portable Product Truth Device

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Portable Product Truth Device2002-12-31 03:39
5 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Here's an idea for a useful gadget or application: You walk around the supermarket and you see a product or a brand you might consider buying. Before you do so, you enter it into your little handheld wireless device. Maybe even by scanning the barcode. It then looks up information about that company and/or product on the net, organized to be from sources you trust in that regard. So, not simply a google search and certainly not the company's own website, but the inside scoop from people with no vested interest in faking it. It gives you a quick snapshot about who owns the company, what they're doing in the world that is good or bad, what the product actually is about, and how other people have liked it. Instant consumer guide investigatory report. The technology is not hard, as it is just about there. It is more in the packaging of it. A wireless PDA or cellphone with a simple web browser. Small barcode readers are available, but it should be integrated. Aside from that, the trick is mainly in putting the knowledgebase together in a way that can be trusted, and providing an interface that makes it a 5 second no-brainer thing to do as routine. Of course you want to know that the company in question employs child slave labor and that they've patented Basmati rice, and that previous customers liked the alternatives better. And you'd want to know what those ingredients really mean, right there on the spot. Such a device could change the world overnight. Even if you aren't an activist eco-freak, it would inevitably change your choices.

...[later in the day] Ah, Seb Paquet mentions CueJack is doing something very much pointed in that direction. It uses the cheap CueCat barcode reader. I remember getting one for free attached to a copy of Wired, but I think I threw it away because I didn't know what to do with it at the time, as its proposed use (looking up a company's website while you were reading a magazine) sounded stupid. DigitalConvergence that made them has gone under. But there is now apparently an open source database of UPC (the system used in barcodes). CueJack will look up in that, and will do a search engine search on 'boycott', 'corporate abuse', 'profits' and that kind of thing in relation to the product. Cool, those are big steps in the right direction. But, I'd want housewives to be able to have it in their purse, and preferably something more direct than searching in search engines.

And then Paul Hughes has a piece on very similar ideas about "Participatory Capitalism":
"I think as wireless, wearable internet access become ubiquitous, we are going to see consumer power re-assert itself in an unprecedented way. Imagine for example, CueCat (a technology previously with little purpose), except this time each barcode is cross-referenced with a moblog not only neatly containing everyones opinion of this product, but also its ethical/corruption index. These types of measurements would be made via decentralized ad-hoc smart mobs in conjunction with individual reputation systems. So, not only will you be able to vote with your pocketbook, but you will be able to make informed, even ethical consumer decsions based on people you trust. I can see this web-of-trust rapidly superceding top-heavy "consumer" capitalism, transforming it into a bottom-up grass-roots participatory capitalism."



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5 comments

31 Dec 2002 @ 05:06 by paquetse : CueJack
sounds pretty much like what you're talking about. http://rtmark.com/cuejack/#howdoes  


31 Dec 2002 @ 12:25 by ming : CueJack
Ah, yes, great! Now, I had one of those CueCats, which Wired sent out for free to all subscribers. I hope I didn't throw it away.  


31 Dec 2002 @ 12:36 by sharie : Ideas
Great idea, but the company who develops it would probably sell out for millions, and then guess who the new owners would be. It would only work if the company would never be sold. If it was your company, and someone came along offering you millions, wouldn't you sell it?

The chemical companies have paid 30 times the market price just so they could manipulate the market.  



8 Aug 2004 @ 08:03 by pinkmink : Truth Device
If the person or company that built this device and its usefullness on a larger scale, has any idea what they really have in their hands, and do not see it as the goose that laid the golden egg...then they are not smart enough to know how to profilt from it, except in the short term frame of mind. They will sell out to a very high bidder with an ulterior motive, and not see that their product has a profit in use by the masses and its effectivness on limiting the buying of useless products, and a waste of our resources.
Having access to a such a useful device, made accessible to the conscience masses who value such items for their usablility via a large information database, and linked to sources that give the pertainent data that makes a real difference in the marketability of a product no matter what it is...would only serve the whole planet and thier profilt margins when it comes down to having things that make a real difference in our lives, and how our planet is affected by the comsumption of its resources. Not that the third world countries could benefit from it at the individual level, I think that it would serve to assist in allowing us to make certain choices that would affect a products real value and allow third world countries to not be exploited for their human an dnatural resources. Who cares if the corporate giants make another million or not, I surely don't care...but as a consumer of goods and someone who cares on an individual level about how a product comes to fruition and who and what it all affects, I think that knowing a bit more about the product than what a commercial has touted or influenced my choices with an emotional need, then I cannot see how it could not benefit. not only the choices I make on a signular level, but combined with a number of citizens in the state I live in, not to mention the continent itself or the globe, it would eliminate a usless product from being made, and a senseless waste of our limited natural resources, which include our human endeavors...not to mention money.
Mimi  



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