The Asian Scientist: 2D Barcode Transaction Inventor, Pradeep Das Of Pitney Bowes
By Anusuya Das | Editorials
November 11, 2011
We chat with Pradeep Das, director of business & product management at Pitney Bowes, on winning the 2010 Inventor of the Year Award for revolutionizing how cell phone cameras use two dimensional barcodes for business.
AsianScientist (Nov. 11, 2011) – You see two dimensional barcodes like QR Codes everywhere – in malls, newspapers, magazines, and on store signs. Though Quick Response (QR) codes have been around since the mid-90s, there has been a sudden revival of these codes in the present day.
Pradeep has been catalyzing many transactional solutions around this technology for years. Headquartered at Stamford, Connecticut, Pitney Bowes is a provider of integrated mail and document management systems, services, and solutions.
For his United States Patent No. 7,774,283, entitled Method and System for Using a Camera Cell Phone in Transactions – Das won the 2010 Pitney Bowes Inventor of the Year Award.
With Das’ patent, one can use a camera in mobile devices to take pictures of two dimensional codes (like QR codes), decode it, and use it for various business transactions as these codes contain intelligent information that can direct the transaction.
Asian Scientist Magazine had the opportunity to interview this digital innovator earlier this month after pbSmartCodes was unveiled at the DMA in Boston, Massachusetts.
Congratulations on the award and the recent launch of your product. Can you briefly describe what got you interested in mobile technology and how your background education and research experience affected this passion?
In the late 1990s we noticed a big push towards miniaturization – PCs were making way for laptops and people were starting to do a lot of things using mobile devices. Just like the PC revolution or Internet revolution, I believe what we have now is the mobile revolution.
Back in graduate school, I took two courses that I never wanted to take – digital signal processing and image processing. I got hired in UPS R&D primarily because of those two electives!
I used to work at UPS R&D before PB, which eventually launched me into mobile technology research. Handheld devices and miniaturization with optimized battery power and mobility, among others, were the key challenges I was working towards. At UPS, it was about building the blocks of miniaturization and in PB it was about building solutions that take advantage of these blocks.
How has this product evolved into a marketed product?
My ideas were recently integrated into Pitney Bowes’ relatively new suite of cloud-based products called pbSmart.
These products, of which pbSmartCodes is one, are each designed for small and medium businesses to create, produce, deliver and measure their own customer communications in a more customized and personalized yet affordable way to help grow their business.
pbSmart™ Codes is a web-based software solution that enables businesses to create interactive marketing campaigns using QR codes giving their customers a rich multimedia experience on their smart phones.
You have many patents in the field and you have been immersed in R&D for quite sometime now. What motivated this particular invention? What impact do you think it will have on day-to-day lives?
It was Thanksgiving 2003. I was sitting on the couch and watching TV. My nine-year-old daughter asked me to help her out in a school invention project. I told her she had to figure it out herself, and in response she said “switch off the TV and figure out something yourself too.”
We both sat down and thought of ideas. This is when it dawned on me – we can use the camera in the cellphone to decode 2D barcodes and use it for transactional and information exchange purposes.
As for impact – it has had a huge impact already. It is a physical hyperlink to the digital world, a bridge from physical to digital.
It can be used in doctors’ office – for instance, while waiting you can enquire for a particular procedure. If you notice a flyer with a QR code that says, “scan to learn more,” scan it. It will give you a multimedia or audio video message on your phone and a full description about the procedure. It could also provide you a comparison of places offering that procedure.
It can be used for lottery, paying your bills, or for re-ordering supplies. The supply chain can be automated and that is hugely beneficial.
How do you foresee the “mobile” future in a post-Steve Jobs era?
It is my belief that laptops are going to wither away. All you may have is a mobile device that will connect to a keyboard, monitor etc. That will be the computer you will carry around with you.
I believe that cameras and video cameras will become antiquated. All these will become applications within a cell phone. All the data will sit in your cell phones – your display, keyboard, and mouse will be the peripherals. I know certain companies are already thinking of this.
How would you describe the route from innovating to patenting in this economy?
I feel that there are many people in America that have good ideas. The struggle we have is patenting the ideas as individuals.
I believe that individuals should be given an easy way to file their ideas and get rewarded on the success of those ideas. This will encourage a huge force of optimism flooding the marketing with new concepts looking for venture capital.
What advice would you offer to Asian students in the US aspiring to becoming innovators?
I spent early part of life in India, where thinking outside the box was not the norm. You are very confined by the boundaries defined by the organizations around you and the social/cultural structure surrounding you.
My advice for students coming from Asia is to think beyond what is in front of them and look for ideas that can not only be applied within the current industry, but in other verticals.
While enhancing those ideas, don’t shy away from proposing them. You need a champion, but unless and until you talk about it and socialize your concept, no one is going to know about it. If you believe in an idea that is novel, write it, submit a disclosure, socialize it and keep socializing it. If possible, build a prototype and present it. With a good idea and perseverance, you will gain ground, and perhaps also see your concept converted into a product. So, be relentless and pursue.
To read more about Das’ work:
Pitney Bowes website.
Pradeep Das Bio at Pitney Bowes.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.