Recently, Mobio Identity Systems published a report which stated, “mobile barcode scanning increased by 4,549 percent in the first quarter of 2011 on a year-over-year basis.” Other companies, such as ScanLife and Microsoft, have also reported similar findings (i.e., percentage growth rates in the hundreds or thousands), but what does all of this really mean? Before trying to answer the question, let’s consider the following scenario.
Suppose in March 2011, I scanned only one barcode and in April 2011, I scanned 46 barcodes. That would equate to a 4,500 percent increase in scan activity. So, if I as one person could drive a number like that, does that mean that Mobio’s report was based on a single person making scans? Of course not, but Mobio, as well as the others, never seem to divulge the numbers from which the percentages are derived (i.e., in the scenario above the 1 and 46 scans). In my mind, it seems as though it would be a lot more useful to know the actual number of individuals making scans from one time period to another than to know a percentage amount.
While it is not my intention to punch holes in the work that has gone into compiling the data and publishing these trend reports, I do believe the right number, the more accurate number, the more telling number, should be reported, as opposed to somewhat baseless percentages. No one is a bigger fan, advocate, evangelist for barcodes than I am, but failure to view the barcode industry and its trends on real numbers reminds me of the dot-com bubble, and we all know how that turned out.