Barcode Reader & Real-Time Web Services

NRC combined


Aid agencies dealing with crisis situations face many challenges when deploying services in remote areas. Those challenges can include limited resources and often minimal or no infrastructure in place.

We were impressed with how the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) met those challenges when implementing cash-value voucher programs at the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan. [NRC is the lead partner of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in providing shelter and basic household items in those camps.]

Their innovative thinking could prove helpful in similar situations globally – whether for refugee management or for other crisis situations, including epidemics and natural disasters.

How did they do it?

Roger Dean, the cash and voucher coordinator for NRC Jordan, created a database of unique voucher IDs; embedded those IDs within QR codes (a special 2-D barcode); and then printed the vouchers, each with a unique QR code.

He then deployed Android smartphones to track voucher distribution and their subsequent use at these camps. He used codeREADr’s web services to host the voucher database and the codeREADr app to validate and track voucher use in real-time (*).

What’s so special? Consider that Mr. Dean put this successful program together in just a couple of months using a printer, a handful of smartphones and the codeREADr app. That’s impressive.

What are the benefits to the refugee population?

According to an NRC policy brief, “The move to a cash and voucher system provides refugees with greater choice, flexibility and transparency through their ability to choose what basic items their household needs and when to shop rather than having to attend often crowded distributions at set times and receive specific items.

More generally, cash-based programming (cash grants, voucher programmes and cash-for-work) can empower beneficiaries, particularly women within the household, can reduce negative coping mechanisms and have broader multiplier effects for both refugee and host community populations than traditional in-kind assistance.”

Congratulations to the NRC Jordan team and best wishes for your continued success! Thank you for the opportunity to be of service!

(*) In areas where there’s no internet connectivity the codeREADr app can validate against a database stored on the device, too.

Retail Price Auditing

iphone 6 retail audit with shelves

It’s pretty common these days to see consumers in stores scanning an item’s barcode with their mobile phone. Generally they’re checking competitive pricing or specifications before purchasing. Logical, right?

Well, if you look more carefully, sometimes that person may actually be an auditor hired by the corporate office or by brands to check the pricing displayed for a sampling of items.

We’re seeing a trend where auditors are throwing away their pencils and paper methods and instead using codeREADr . They simply scan the item’s UPC/EAN code and an online or offline database reveals the expected price and promotional pricing for that item.

In some cases the auditor is an employee of the store itself and will fix incorrect labels, whether for price, description or promotion terms. In other cases the auditor works for independent firms that are paid to audit and document such discrepancies. They are often called ‘mystery shoppers’.

They can document discrepancies using form fields and menus and optionally take in-app photos linked to a formal scan record. Each scan record has a time stamp and optional GPS location which, along with the other data collected, can be used as proof of the discrepancy and help improve report accuracy.

Auditors with paper lists don’t remain ‘mystery shoppers’ very long. However, with codeREADr the list of audit items is stored in-app along with the pricing, description and any related instructions, This information is presented to the app user after each scan or item look-up.

Since many stores don’t have good Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connectivity, most clients use the app in the offline mode and then sync audit data once they leave the store.

Look here for an instructional article with step-by-step instructions and a video (or PDF document) showing in-app screenshots.

iPhone 6 camera
UPDATE 11-1-2014: We tested both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ yesterday. While both devices scanned faster than earlier iPhone, iPad and iPod devices, the actual focus times and decoding times were not markedly improved – at least not yet. We may need to make some adjustments to the scan engine’s settings.

However, the time to process those scans locally (on-device) and to connect with our cloud based servers were both noticeably faster. Based on that, we would highly recommend these devices.


Apple’s ‘focus pixels’ technology for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus uses on-sensor phase-detect autofocus, a significant upgrade from the contrast-detect autofocus in the previous models. According to Apple, this technology will make the focusing almost twice as fast as the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 6 Plus also features optical image stabilization where the lens can physically move to compensate for hand movement. This is expected to help for low light conditions – an important benefit for most of our clients – and we suspect it will also improve how fast the camera focuses.

Why is this important for barcode scanning?

The codeREADr app’s SD PRO scan engine uses the built-in camera of smartphones and tablets to scan barcodes. Using most iOS devices and recent-model Android devices, it scans so quickly and accurately it rivals many purpose-built, industrial barcode scanners.

The key is fast focusing. Once in focus, SD PRO can read barcodes in tens of milliseconds. Will the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus make barcode scanning even faster? It seems so.

We are very anxious to test these devices and already have them on order! Keep your eye on this blog post as we will be reporting test results in the coming weeks (the 6 Plus won’t arrive until mid-October). If you prefer to have the results emailed to you directly please contact us.

[Note: When deploying codeREADr for enterprise applications, iOS and Android devices each have specific advantages – some relating to device performance, others to business considerations . If you are not sure which OS to choose, let us know and we can help you choose based on your business needs.]

What do the following ‘first use’ offers have in common?

  • Membership discount for the first visit to a venue or destination, such as a hotel or amusement park.
  • Student discount for the first time eating a local restaurant.
  • Event attendees get a free drink the first time they present their ticket to an on-site vendor.
  • Exhibitors give special gifts to expo attendees the first time they present their badge.

They all enable cross-marketing opportunities with potentially high-value offers and, importantly, the offer recipient already has the means to consummate the offer in their pockets, i.e. their ticket, badge or member ID.

Professional marketers know cross-marketing helps to mutually and cost-effectively target the right audience, based on location, context or affiliation. Add to that is the logistic simplicity and cost savings realized by not having to generate and distribute printed or electronic coupons and vouchers.


Then why don’t we see more of this type of cross-marketing? Because redeeming offers through the merchant’s POS system can be costly and complex to set up and, critically, the ticket, badge or member IDs are not readily available from the source, especially not in real time, and would be particularly difficult to integrate if there’s more than one source.

Here’s a simple method to break down these barriers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scanning Pass

Marketers can now readily issue mobile coupons and vouchers literally moments before check-out, especially if they are location-based offers. But how do they redeem them?

Think of “Tweet-a-Coke” (Coca Cola) or “Tweet-a-Coffee” (Starbucks). Or offers simultaneously running on wallet applications, such as Apple’s Passbook and Google Wallet? Sophisticated retailers, like Starbucks, can handle real-time redemption, as can services like those offered by Groupon and Living Social.

However, what about the creative marketer that doesn’t have access to the merchant’s POS system? Or can’t merge the offers issued by multiple issuing platforms into a single, validation database in real time? There would be a lot more mobile offers out there if the redemption barrier could be eliminated.

With our enhanced ‘database-insert’ feature we enable merchants to use smartphones and tablets to redeem coupons and vouchers in real-time. And we can do it without requiring that the marketer integrate with POS systems, third-party databases or competing services.

How does it work?

Read the rest of this entry »


It’s difficult to manage re-entry at events that accept print-at-home or mobile tickets because they are so easily copied. Perhaps we can help?

We just released ‘photo-postback’ technology for our codeREADr app. It can be integrated with ticketing and access control systems or independently deployed. It doesn’t require access to or integration with an event’s ticket database.

How does it work?

When a patron temporarily leaves the venue, an attendant uses the codeREADr app to scan their ticket with an iOS or Android device and then takes their photo. The ticket ID and photo are linked and stored in your own Dropbox folder. When the ticket is scanned with codeREADr upon re-entry, it’s validated and the stored photo presented for visual verification.

For a short video and step-by-step instructions please look here. It’s available with our standard and SD PRO scan engines – see video here.

Would this added security be worth $10-$20?

We welcome your comments, including feature suggestions. Would you like to try it on your own phone or tablet? If so, please let us know at



How do you change student behavior and enforce disciplinary measures? You need to record offenses, keep track of student permissions and verify them in real time using smartphones and tablets.

Can you enforce consequences and influence future behavior? Can you effectively enforce the removal of standard or special privileges? Or record offences and fulfillment electronically?  Yes, you can. Let’s look at one of these in greater detail.

A common problem – students repeatedly late for class 

A school’s tardy problem can be difficult to overcome unless there’s a way to enforce the consequences for repeated offenses.

Let’s say you have a special-privilege program for students in good standing – like the option to go off campus during lunch period.  If the student is repeatedly late for class, you can remove that privilege.

But how do you know if the student has that privilege as they leave the campus? You could use the codeREADr app installed on smartphones or tablets to scan each student’s ID as they leave campus.

The app would automatically check a simple on-device or online database to confirm if the student has that specific privilege – and, importantly, that it wasn’t recently suspended for any reason. The app would instantly present the app user with a green ‘valid’ screen if the student has permission. If they didn’t – or if the ID was faked – the app would instantly present a red ‘invalid’ screen. Read the rest of this entry »


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