Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cell-phone secrets

Register columnist

You're walking through the grocery store, Web-enabled cell phone in hand. You wonder, is that gallon of organic milk really environmentally friendly?

Your cell phone can help answer that question, with information from

If you point your mobile browser to that site and type in the product code for Horizon Organic 1% Milk (UPC Code 742365264108), you'll tap into a database of environmentally focused consumer comments. For Horizon 1% milk, the overall rating is fairly good – 3.57 out of 5 – based on comments such as "better for people and cows too – fewer pesticides, etc." and "Locally-grown food is the best way to go."

The system still has many shortcomings, starting with its cumbersome requirement for entering UPC codes. In the future, consumers may be able to access GreenScanner data by taking a cell-phone photo of a product's bar code.

Another of the system's drawback is that only a few products are currently included in the database. (Got milk already? You can also try Poland Springs water with UPC Code 075720008513.)

GreenScanner's author, Bill Tomlinson, assistant professor in the Department of Informatics at UCI, says the quality and quantity of the ratings will improve as more people get involved.


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