Hewlett-Packard (HP) has developed a colour-matching technology for mobiles that could help you next time you go shopping. Its Color Match mobile service will be handy for when you can't tell whether a shirt will match your trousers, or need to choose a paint for your walls.

The Color Match mobile service technology has been developed by HP Labs over the past two years. It combines colour science, imaging science and mobile networking technology to match colours that complement each other. It then provides product advice over your mobile phone.

The Color Match technology can be used anytime you need to define a colour, or find matching colours, said Nina Bhatti, principal scientist at the digital imaging and printing lab at HP Labs. For the ladies, this is particularly useful for buying cosmetics. You can use the service to buy products that are best for your skin tone.

To use Color Match, take a snap of yourself with the camera on your mobile phone while holding a specialised colour chart under your face. The picture is sent via MMS to an 'advisory service' on a server.

The HP software then corrects and analyses the photo; locating the face, adjusting lighting and calibrating the colour. Skin pixels culled from your face on the corrected image are compared to an existing database of previously analysed images.

SMS sent with recommendations

Based on this analysis, the advisory service sends a return SMS text message within seconds, recommending which cosmetic colour and shades would best match your skin colour.

The Color Match service will also be able to suggest matching colours for clothes, interior design and any other items you'd like to match, Bhatti said. Images can be taken with any camera-equipped mobile phone and the service will work with all operators.

The photo analysis will work regardless of image quality, camera discrepancies or lighting conditions, HP said. You'll also need a colour chart, such as the ones often distributed in stores.

The technology, which isn't out yet, has been developed primarily as a consumer application. HP is currently seeking partners to make this technology available to consumers, the company said.

Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata , said the service should find a big audience with cosmetic customers. "This is a much more personal implementation of HP's imaging technology," Eunice told the San Francisco Chronicle . "It's not about a printer somewhere; it's about what makes me look good."