Library Issues Technology

Autonomous Self-Checkout Idea

Here’s an idea I had today that I wanted to get down so I don’t forget it…autonomous self-checkout with cell phones. Here’s the idea:

You write a web-service that logs the customer into their account from their cell phone browser, and then takes over the camera on their cell. They point the camera at a bar code on the book in question, and you software looks it up in the catalog and checks it out to the patron.

The difficult part for the library is how to enable the deactivation of the security strips that most of us use…ideally, the security system would be tied to the catalog, and would know when a book was checked out and when it wasn’t, and alarm only as appropriate.

This would take library staff completely out of the checkout process (which self-checkout already does) but would ALSO take any specialized equipment out, and allow for nearly complete patron autonomy in the stacks.

The interesting thing is, I’m pretty sure that all of this is possible with current open source software. Certainly there would need to be some development, but I don’t think anything would have to be completely written from scratch…maybe connectors that transfer data from one system to the other.

Thoughts? Is this being done anywhere? Or did I actually have an original thought?

2 replies on “Autonomous Self-Checkout Idea”

There are already a number of systems that can reactivate the security strip upon check-in. 3M makes a smart check system that not only reactivates the strip, it can sort the materials into item type bins. You’d need to base it on RFID technology in order to turn the security system on and off. In theory, you might be able to communicate with the antenna on the RFID tag with a cell phone-based system. I’m more of a futurist than an out and out techie – you’ll need someone else for the next step!

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