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Sep262007

2D Barcodes - raising the bar

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2D barcode
2D Barcodes You're in the street looking for somewhere to eat. Instead of reading the menu posted outside a restaurant or perhaps even relying on an attached review, what if you could use your camera phone to take a picture of some code and instantly get recent diners reviews on whether the food is good or not? And maybe some inside tips on getting a good table, the best time to dine, where to park and perhaps even the name of the hottie serving drinks at the bar.

The technology to make common objects clickable, like hyperlinks on a website, is available today with 2D barcodes. These digital tags look a bit like empty crossword puzzles or expressionist paintings. Users can create them online, print them out, and paste them around the city. Then anyone with a phonecam can click on them and a program on the phone decodes the pattern and redirects you to a Web page.

One site, called Smartpox is using these barcodes to build online communities to promote bands, bars, restaurants and even scavenger hunts.

I've just created an account there and here's what my code looks like to direct you to this website.9bcd860308143126.png Members can slap up a barcode wherever they like and in-the-know passersby can get the lowdown. 231239-1054438-thumbnail.jpg
Slap up a 2D Barcode anywhere

At Semapedia you can drop in any Wikipedia URL to instantly generate a 2D barcode pointing to the corresponding entry. The poster on the right reads Hey this is a physical hyperlink to Wikipedia. Scan the code or enter the URL in your phone.

David Harper says

In Japan, for example, QR codes have become part of everyday life, available on everything from business cards, id cards, magazines, newspapers, flyers, posters, stickers, food products,puzzles, web sites, billboards, more billboards, CDs, confectionary delights, calling a cab, vending machines, coffee cups, advertisements, and tickets. All these little codes eagerly await — ready to link people to content that matters to them — mobile sites, profiles, videos, podcasts, products and other little pieces of content (think ringtones and wallpapers). Individuals also have joined in on the opportunity as publishers themselves — printing codes on stickers, placing them on their web sites or blogs, even walking around with cute little stampers to easily affix codes practically anywhere for any reason. As such, QR Codes have become the door to the mobile Internet for the average mobile user.

Other uses of 2D Barcodes
In the U.K. you can now buy postage stamps over the internet using 2D Barcoding.

Other ways 2D barcodes are being used include Smart Ovens, produced by Samsung. They read special 2D barcodes - known as SmartCodes - on food packaging which tell the oven how to cook the food, including the correct temperature, microwave power and time.

Here's a video on 2D Barcodes being used on a French Treasure Hunt Show -

And another video - the U.S. Airforce using the same 2D Barcode Technology -

BTW it looks like this video is from New York-based Scanbuy who make 2D Barcode Software. They say mobile is the web access device of the future. In some parts of the world it already is. In Japan, 90% of people access the web on a mobile. It's a similar story in the Phillippines and India.

In Japan, 65% of phones have the 2D Barcode software. In US 70% have the cameras but no software

In Japan, 84% of 2D Barcode usage is in magazines. 231239-1055059-thumbnail.jpg
2D Barcode
You read an ad...want to know where the product is available...scan the code, combine it with GPS and away you go.

Scanbuy are launching a pilot in January next year with the five biggest U.S. carriers. Using their ScanZoom shoppers snap a picture of a product’s bar code and get direct access to PriceGrabber's or Amazon's information for that product - product descriptions, customer ratings and e-tailer prices. Online buying on the spot is possible too - ScanZoom say they could have a facility to tell users which other real-world stores within one or two miles offer the same product at a lower price.

2D Barcodes and Food
Three years ago in Japan, DoCoMo Sentsu, developed a 2D Barcode System for tracking fish meat. Fishermen (at sea) upload information including their names, location of catch, etc. via a satellite communication link. When the fish are unloaded from fishing boats at ports, they are boxed and a 2D barcode (QR code), encoded with the uploaded information, is pasted onto the box.

After the fish is cooked in a restaurant, dishes are served to customers together with the 2D barcode. Customers can view the encoded information using their mobile phones while enjoying the meal.

Meanwhile McDonalds are testing this technology with McDonald's Portugal and McDonalds Germany both using Mobile Couponing.

What Are 2D Barcodes?
2D stands for two dimensional - meaning they contain more information than conventional one dimensional barcodes. Conventional barcodes get wider as more data is encoded. 2D barcodes make use of the vertical dimension to pack in more data.

A conventional 1D barcode looks like this - 1dbarcode.gifIt has a single row of bars - like a picket fence. The barcode is called one dimensional because all the data is encoded in the horizontal width. Increasing the data content can only be achieved by increasing the width. Beyond a certain point the barcode becomes too wide to scan easily.

2D Barcode
The illustration at the top left is a PDF417 two dimensional barcode. Data is encoded in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions. As more data is encoded the size of the barcode can be increased in both the horizontal and vertical directions thus maintaining a managable shape for easy scanning.

And this is QR Code a barcode format supported by S60 3.0 mobile phones qrcode.php.png

This reminds me of French Burglar Codes - the chalk marks that thieves leave outside houses. How big does the barcode need to be for your camera to take a good picture I wonder? Because if you could make these things about the size of a coin they could be very discrete. I notice that Mobiletag says they must be a minimum of 1.7cm. BTW here's my Barcode Tag that I can use on website/emails/business cards - 522146151063.png I love the concept - especially for a guerilla marketing campaign. I wouldn't mind betting a lot of us are going to be using this technology extensively within a year.

Have a look at all the different applications for 2D Barcoding in this terrific article at Trendwatching.

Mobile Bar Code Camp NYC Nov 3
If you're a geek or a professional wanting to know more about this technology you might like to take part in this MobileBarCodeCamp bringing together mobile enthusiasts, explorers and professionals in North America to share the current state and their visions for the future direction of mobile bar codes and other cellphone-readable physical hyperlinks. MobileBarCodeCamp hopes to support the many voices helping to unlock the potential of a “hyperlinked first life”. Topics may include - but are not limited to - mobile code formats, mobile code readers, mobile gaming, mobile web sites, entrepreneurship, social mobility and presence, near field communication, physical hyperlinking, the importance of open standards, protocols, and platforms, and mobile bar code usage on other continents.

There's a very good explanation of QR Code on the DENSO site. This company is a subsidiary of TOYOTA and it initially applied barcode technology for car parts management. Now its in the public domain. Their code can encode Japanese Kanji and Kana characters as well as music, images, URLs and emails. And as such it's the de-facto standard for Japanese cell phones. 2D Barcodes - raising the bar

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Reader Comments (1)

Reminds me about the Mobile Tag... wanted to introduce this on my business card, but a little too "avant courreur"... Go visit it, it's quite interesting: http://www.mobiletag.com/beta/en/

All the best, near neighbour!
September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMinter

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