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The Traceability of Everyday Things

Posted 17 February 2011 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Opinion.

We wonder if we are witnessing the emergence of a new type of ecolabel?

Traceability and place-based media are fast growing trends, and increasingly being applied to everyday “stuff”. Connecting consumers to the products they buy (using smart phones as their mediator) is enabled by technologies such as QR codes and smart phone apps of all persuasions.

A few interesting new services to illustrate:

Real Time Farms – a website and Android app that gets its community to build a database of food origins. Shoppers at farmer’s markets in the U.S. can snap pictures of produce, homemade jams, and other items while browsing and send the images to Real Time Farms where they are then tracked.

Harvest Mark – offers a code to scan and a logo so consumers can follow their food all the way back to the farm  and discover how, where, and when it was grown.

Shirt Scan – displays a QR code on your shirt that links scanners to more information; such as where the shirt was made; or more amusingly perhaps, to something about the wearer. My friend was given such a t-shirt for valentines day. If scanned, the QR code printed on the shirt linked people to her blog. Even if it got some geek points, she was slightly perplexed on the privacy front, not the least because someone “scanning your shirt” could be misconstrued.

Frivolities aside, these tools have huge potential for increasing the accountability and sustainability of global supply chains.

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