Mobile tech update – tiny 2d barcodes and cheap, printable RFID

kovioWe got two interesting stories in on advancements in mobile technologies today. The first is from German company PANMOBIL, which has created a scanner to take advantage of truly tiny 2d barcodes. The second story could be a game changer. Kovio is a spin-off company from MIT, and has raised $20 million in a fifth round of funding for it’s tech proposition – panmobilprintable RFID tags. They cost six times less to produce than current tags.


Kovio has been steadily marching towards the lime-light for a few years now. It came to our attention as it just announced a $20 million round of funding. Basically, Kovio uses silicon-based inks to print chips, circuits, sensors and displays. It uses “thin film” technology to print on. The end result is low-end chips that are printed like an inkjet prints on paper.

The most immediately profitable idea from this is in RFID tags. Currently RFID tags take about 12 weeks to create, and cost about 20 cents each. The Kovio method could see that reduced to a creation time of less than a week, at a cost of 3 cents per tag.

What’s RFID?

Very briefly, it’s an extremely short-range (10 cm or so) wireless technology. Mobile devices can read information from RFID tags, or use them to communicate with other devices. Amongst others, both Dairy Queen and Air France have had successful implementations of RFID.

What we think?

Holy cow. If RFID tags can be produced that cheaply and that quickly, then they’ve very suddenly become a much more serious threat to mobile barcodes. A huge advantage to barcodes was that all a manufacturer needed to produce them was ink. If Kovio can make it so that the same is true of RFID, then tags could easily be placed on every product in existence.

Via VentureBeat


Really, really small 2d barcodes have been around for a while now. There have been companies operating in the area since at least last year. The codes haven’t seen much commercial use because, frankly, they’re too small for consumers to effectively use. There’s no point having a 2d barcode on something if it’s too small to find, and too difficult to scan.

PANMOBIL has created a solution for that, in a limited way. Its product is called a Small Code Pointer, or smartSCANNDY:

small_code_pointer_for_smartscanndy smartscanndy

This hand-held scanner is aimed at companies with large catalogues. According the PANMOBIL, the size of modern 2d codes causes “heavy” catalogues to be larger than they need. Using smartSCANNDY, the code is pretty easy to scan. The device has a USB cable at the back – when plugged into a web-connected PC, the device can automatically upload all of the catalogue items scanned onto it and complete the purchase.

What we think?

I feel like PANMOBIL has solved a problem that there was no point in solving. Maybe having too many 2d barcodes in your catalogue is a big problem in Germany, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. The smartSCANNDY is definitely a consumers device, but how many people do you know who order enough goods from catalogues with tiny 2D barcodes to need their own Small Code Pointer? I could see this technology being implemented at somewhere like Argos, but a consumer product just seems like a waste of time and money.

About Cian O' Sullivan

Ace reporter, Cian, has moved on from GoMo News. He is currently the office manager for Photocall Ireland - Ireland's premier news and PR photography agency. You can check out the site at If you want to contact him directly about anything, Cian's new email is cian at photocallireland dot com.
This article was published in Mobile Agencies, Mobile Devices, Mobile barcodes, mobile news and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mobile tech update – tiny 2d barcodes and cheap, printable RFID

  1. klaus says:

    I found an interesseting article on the website of panmobil about the smartscanndy. Seems that the smartscanndy is more a b2b – product because german reseller useing the barcode scanner of panmobil for their ordering system.

    For example a famous tool manufacurer gives the scanner as a gift to their clients to speed up their ordering system and make it failsafe

    Here is the story:
    Europe`s famous trader of tool and production material is working successfully with the barcode scanner “memoScanndy” produced by PANMOBIL.

    The times of a tiring process of placing orders manually by typing into them info the computer, sending faxes, emails or even on the phone are definitely over at the German company Würth. This proved to be too cost-intensive and fault-prone.

    Instead of noting down complicate article numbers and order quantities, the traders now easily capture the barcodes of the articles to be ordered with the mobile barcode scanner of PANMOBIL. When the dealer plugs the scanner back into the cradle, the captured data are automatically transferred over the computer to the web-shop of Würth. The input-mask of the web-shop opens with all ordering details, so the dealer could change or accept his order. Normally, the goods will have been delivered by the next day.

    This ordering process is fast and secure so that dealers profit from it by saving time during the order process and by reliable delivery times. Würth benefits as well, especially through the better transparency and an optimized resource management which lead to cost savings and advantages in the competition. The implementation of the SCM technology with the memoScanndy results in a win-win situation for Würth and for dealers.

    Found it here:

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