An embedded feature of the Samsung Wallet on the upcoming Galaxy S4 smartphone could give merchants an easier and cheaper way to accept mobile payments and coupons at the point of sale.

Today, many software-based mobile wallets, including the apps integrated with Apple's Passbook, present two-dimensional bar codes to be scanned at the point of sale. These bar codes can't be read with the same laser-based scanners used to read the bar codes on products such as cereal boxes. Samsung's technology changes that.

Technology embedded into the proximity sensor of the Galaxy S4 will allow app developers to generate one-dimensional bar codes by sending pulses of light from the phone to the sensor in POS scanners. The light mimics the black-and-white sequencing of a standard bar code, enabling consumers to redeem 1D mobile bar codes for coupons, loyalty cards, gift cards and tickets using their phones — all without requiring merchants to upgrade their POS hardware, according to Mobeam, the developer of the “light-based communications” technology.

When Samsung Wallet was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in February, it was panned by many for mimicking many of the features and design traits of Apple’s Passbook. But the potential to enable 1D bar codes in the Samsung Wallet would be a clear differentiator between the two offerings. It would also present an opportunity for more rapid merchant adoption of digital payments and couponing capabilities in their mobile apps.

“We can’t speak to any of that just yet,” Mobeam spokesman Brian Purchia responded when asked whether the capability would be featured in Samsung Wallet.

“The next step is definitely us working with the many mobile commerce apps that are out there and have them integrate our technology into their apps,” he adds.

Representatives for Samsung did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The reflective screens, backlit displays and polarizing filters on most smartphones prohibit laser scanners from reading 1D barcodes, Mobeam says. Most bar codes displayed on digital screens rely on a 2D pattern, which require specialized scanners to read them.

According to Apple’s developer website, Passbook supports three types of 2D bar codes — Aztec, PDF417 and QR codes — but does not support 1D bar codes.

One challenge facing the potential implementation of 1D bar codes with Samsung Wallet is that the Galaxy S4 is so far the only device with the necessary hardware to generate the signals. Older technology in the Samsung mobile device lineup may need an alternative method to generate redeemable bar codes to be compatible with Samsung Wallet.

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