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For all the expanded technical specifications each new generation of smartphone comes packed with, none may be so impactful as the camera. The most popular camera in the world today, at least according to Apple, is the iPhone. Some outlets have estimated there will be 1 trillion photos taken this year with smartphones.

You read that correctly. One TRILLION. Trillion. With a capital T. As in a thousand billions. As in one million millions. 1,000,000,000,000. I’ll quit geeking out in a minute, but that stat floored me. But if you think about how pervasive the smartphone has become, multiplied by the herculean leaps in camera technology and features within those smartphones, it shouldn’t come as quite the shock I felt when reading that stat.

Everyone knows about the personal or consumer uses for the camera. We use it to capture moments, document when something cool happens (pics or it didn’t happen!), remind ourselves of things in the future, etc. There are countless uses for the camera on your phone, and we’ve seen many of these in action. Instagram exists primarily because smartphones cameras have gotten so good and it enables users to share their favorite photos seamlessly from those phones. There’s a reason Facebook paid a billion dollars for Instagram.

From a social media marketing and branding standpoint, the camera has been invaluable. It allows companies without massive media budgets to shoot and promote whatever they want, all from the palm of their hands. And for massive companies, they can still use the power of mobile to stay in contact with their customers and followers at the speed of mobility. Even if they have massive budgets for media and marketing, the camera on employee phones can be used to share information valuable to potential customers whenever you want to share that information without having to involve PR or ad agencies. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a coordinated social outreach plan with those agencies, but your business has the freedom to express itself as it sees fit, and it can do so without racking up huge consulting costs.

Despite these myriad personal and business uses, they might not even scratch the surface of how valuable the smartphone camera can be to your business.

One of the most innovative industries in leveraging the camera for improved customer experience is banking. Many of the top banks in the world have pioneered Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for use in checking. No one likes going to the bank to deposit checks. It’s a waste of time, fuel and money. So what did banks do? They spent a lot of time and research and development to massively improve OCR such that you could take pictures of the front and back of your check and within a day or two, the funds are in your account. It’s notoriously difficult lift computer characters from an image of writing. But, banks figured out a work around to take a massive pain point from the banking industry and eradicate it.

Another function forward-thinking apps are using is credit card recognition (also using some form of OCR). For instance, in the Uber app, when you enter a credit card to link to your account, instead of having to type in all the numbers manually, you can simply photograph the card and the app imports all the numbers automatically. The camera is an incredibly powerful tool on the smartphone, and futuristic companies like Uber have figured out how to use it in order to better serve customers.

Another feature-set companies have used the camera for is barcode scanning. Almost every physical retailer uses barcodes for inventory management, product identification and customer checkout. The pervasiveness and standardization of the barcode allows apps to integrate barcode scanning into their mobile offering. By scanning product barcodes, apps like RedLaser can tell you everywhere near you where you can get that item, showing you if there are better deals around. Or, it can show you where and for how much you can order it online if you don’t need that item immediately.

All of these apps rely on something almost taken for granted in modern smartphones, but advanced cameras make all of this possible. As this technology and its integration into other apps continues moving forward, you and your company would do well to harness the power therein.

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