Nice community-building marketing idea that may be the gentle introduction to 2D codes the West needs. For me though, the real treat is the "Find a reader for your phone" form. Select your make and model and it will list any known compatible reader software and give you links to download them. It's so easy to find at least one reader for your phone. By promoting the reader apps out there and giving people a fun way to use the codes Augme is educating the public about their use and helping open the door for mobile campaigns and creative applications that make use of 2D bar codes.


Jaxo: nice barcode generator

Very cool online bar code generator that lets you create QR-codes, Datamatrix, Aztec and PDF 417. You can switch between codes to compare them and technical information about the code is also displayed. There are even some simple drawing tools to let you customize you code with color.

You can try it out online or download a standalone Java application. They also make a reader for phones, but I prefer i-nigma and Kaywa over this one. Still, the generator apps are definitely worth a look.


Nokia Point & Find

Very cool concept, but their press release is all spin (I know, big suprise).

(Blogger wont let me link a URL with an ampersand in it so here it is.)

"The solution is able to distinguish objects – indoors and outdoors and even when they are very small or are moved from an original location – without the need for barcodes, RFID (radio-frequency identification) or other physical identifiers."
Somehow I bet making a 2D code is easier, faster and cheaper than registering an image with Nokia. I also expect that without a marker of some sort, how will you know what will work and what will not? The nice thing about codes is that educating users to use an easily identifiable tool is easier than showing them how to use an invisible one. Users outside Asia are just starting to understand the potential of proximity marketing with Bluetooth, RFID and 2D bar codes.
"Bored on a train, a traveller sees a photo of a beautiful island in an advertising poster. Later, once home, the image is already forgotten. But ‘Point [and] Find’ can instantly link our traveller – and potential visitor – with information about the destination, from tourist notes to special offers on flights, accommodation and excursions."


"Point the camera phone at a poster for a new movie to watch the trailer, buy tickets, find screening times or read reviews, or point the phone at a famous landmark to be put in touch with historical and architectural details or tourist information."


"...it can do this on existing camera phones, without needing hardware upgrades, and does not require costly infrastructure modifications."


"While capturing the image of an object is something every camera phone user knows how to do, ‘Point [and] Find’ is able to use this image to take people instantly to the content they want, with one – or maybe zero – further clicks."
So can bar codes, nothing new here.
"The benefits offered to content providers and developers by Point [and] Find are great, because they capitalise on the immediacy of the situation."
On trains and metros you cannot always depend on a good network connection. Also, I believe the tech works by having the phone send the image to Nokia for processing and response. I would bet this is not even close to instant, and definitely much slower than a code scan.

I wonder how well it will hold up against look-alikes, spoofs and other copies. It sounds like the technological gap between 2D code to image recognition is still a bit larger than the value it adds for marketing at this time. I also dislike the need for network connectivity. You may as well send an SMS instead of sending an image file from your phone to Nokia's servers so you can wait for them to tell you that you are standing in front of a 2003 Ford Bronco and maybe you would like to rent a car. Codes are (the good ones, anyway;)) are interpreted on the device, require no connectivity and can be used to trigger a wide variety of actions such as going to a URL, sending an SMS, making a phone call, saving an event to your calendar, recording a contact in your phone book, making a web bookmark, etc. Psytec's QR-code creator tool also lets you password protect them (though this is not well supported).

Anyway, maybe I am cranky today. I think this could be big in a few years, but at the moment it seems to offer little advantage over bar codes for a large cost.


DoCoMo QR-Code How-To

You don't even need to know Japanese to understand the commercial. Nice.


Brand a QR-Code in 5 minutes

I had wondered how companies like DesignQR and TimesCode and online tools like MojiQ Maker generate working codes with icons or text obscuring part of the code. I suspected that they rely on error-correction to compensate for the modules removed or obscured by the design. Most of the examples I see are type 6 or higher codes even though they contain relatively little information, which would be consistent with using the higher error-correction settings. So naturally I gave it a try.

So you can take a shortcut to adding a little identity to a QR-code.
  1. Make code with 25% or 30% error-correction using your tool of choice
  2. Grab a logo image
  3. Pull your code and logo into your drawing program
  4. Adjust until you like the result and it scans with your phone
  5. Save
  6. Brag about it on your nerdy blog
I am sure that DesignQR's approach is more scientific than this but it works all the same. Both examples work well on my E65 - almost an instant scan with i-nigma and Kaywa (the only reader's I tested this with so far). I generally like the approach of working the design into the code more, but this is faster and easier and why not combine the approaches?


Bar Code Art

Wow. All kinds of original barcode art, videos, animations and products. All very creative and well done. Here's a sample.


Yet more 1D barcode art

My wife just sent me this link. Quite a few creative applications of bar codes in art and advertising.


Mobiles and Campaign Discovery

I like reading mobile marketing case studies (I think it's a side effect from all the EDGE radiation I have absorbed), and Bluetooth marketing for mobiles looks pretty difficult. Plus given what I have seen it provides little benefit over barcodes in some situations. If I have to get close enough to read instructions I could have scanned a barcode instead. Even someone unfamiliar with barcodes would probably have an easier time installing an application than configuring their Bluetooth.

Since many people are still a little unsure about Bluetooth marketing, voluntary opt-in is difficult to trigger gracefully. This is less difficult with other calls-to-action like SMS/Email, barcodes and RFID where interaction requires deliberate action, but the required action is so simple that a transaction can be completed before the impulse to participate subsides.

  • SMS keywords and "empty mail" (Japan's mobile email equivalent to SMS opt-in) require the user to transmit information from some media to their device. Somewhat inconvenient, but it definitely constitutes a voluntary opt-in.
  • 2D-barcodes require the user to activate their code reader and aim their device's camera at the barcode. The device them reads the information from the media itself. Since the user does very little to facilitate the transfer of information, it would take the same amount of time to input a page of text as it does a URL. It can also be used to trigger the other forms of opt-in such as SMS, empty-mail, web access, client application download, or even further instructions or special information about a campaign. It could contain all of these at once. Granted, these are best suited for print media. People can remember an short code/keyword long after the commercial is over or the magazine is lost, but barcodes demand immediate participation unless they can take it with them (say, on a business card). Still I think the act of scanning a code is engaging rather than tedious (like typing an SMS). You can even embed extra information like what publication the ad is running in or what region the magazine was shipped to, etc. Planned well you could gather some interesting demographics this way.
  • With RFID the user must get their device deliberately close to an antenna. It is possible the use could trigger their chip accidentally, but I haven't seen this happen. RFID is a very nice blend of requiring deliberate participation while keeping the transfer mechanism super simple. "Come a little closer." The problem is that not so many devices are equipped with chips.
    Then again this is my relatively uninformed opinion.
  • Bluetooth is a little different from the others. Most of the time you are prompted to participate without initiating contact (walking or even riding your bike by a shop does not count as an opt-in). Other times you have to follow some instructions to make your device receptive to the campaign. Since many people are concerned about nasty-ware and Bluetooth security this may considered invasive and bothersome. Most of the time the mechanism is bigger than the message. All that work to get this image on my phone telling me to buy your product. If it had been an old-school print ad you might have found my way there in the time it took to get the message via Bluetooth.
"Biased"? I don't know what your talking about. Denso Banzai!

Since most phones have cameras and scanning applications are free and many, there is more of a hardware barrier to RFID than barcodes. Plus it is generally cheaper to place a print ad than a networked RFID station.

There is nothing wrong with SMS/Email opt-in, and as I mentioned barcodes can be used to facilitate these mechanisms in situations where it cannot replace them. For instance, you can scan a code and be presented with an SMS, recipient and message already filled in and ready to send. The same can be done with email. URL's, contact information, encrypted data (like on Japanese work visas), double-byte characters, control characters, and so on. Lots of possibilities, and I have a feeling that this will blow up in 2008 in Europe and the US. At least I hope so ;).



"CR" for "Colbert Response". I thought this would be a good opportunity to create an animated code and show some appreciation for Colbert Nation and The Colbert Report. I admit I got the idea by noticing how Tomi Ahonen and Stephen Colbert look a bit alike.


Improved Logo Codes

So I haven't been blogging at all lately. I've been super busy with work, moving, registering myself in yet another country, learning to dodge trams on my old-school Dutch fiets, etc. I did manage to spend a little time honing my QR and Datamatrix -branding skills. Here are a couple of them that I can share:

Now, I had good results with these codes using i-nigma, Kaywa and QuickMark on a Nokia E65 an 6120c. The BeeTagg reader (they recently added Datamatrix support) might read the MoMo Amsterdam code. Your mileage may vary. These may not be the coolest codes I can show, but they are pretty reliable even from a computer screen with no auto-focus or macro-mode. The Tomi Ahonen code is a QR-code, so all you folks living in Japan (and many of you elsewhere in Asia) know just what to do with it. The MoMo Amsterdam code is a Datamatrix code. Similar to but different from a QR-code, and your keitai might not be able to handle it. Those outside of Japan (and may some of those inside) have a nice selection of free applications to install. If you have access to a Windows machine you can scan them both with QuickMark WebCam. Actually this would be a nice replacement for those $5000 POS scanners with QR-code recognition. Freeware and a $5 web cam can do the same thing with a little programming glue.

Anyways, you can see what is possible here without introducing any new technology or code format. I admit this treatment may detract from the code's readability, but if you are careful you can strike a good balance of branding and functionality. The symbology that is readable to machines becomes meaningful to humans. Out of context, I would bet that given a choice people would rather scan a branded code, as they have some idea of where it goes. These branded codes are less reliant on surrounding context to give them a meaning and promote familiarity.

With QR you can include text in multiple languages, add links to take users to mobile web pages or prompt them to SMS, email or call. They can also be used as a replacement for SMS in some cases, especially print media. Mobile coupons, product information, ticketing, real-world connections to digital services, contact information, game pieces, and on and on. I hope to see an advertising campaign that includes 2D bar codes integrated into urban art. I think it would look cool to overlay some graffiti over a QR-code that gave information about the artist, their portfolio site, whatever. Yep, that would be cool. Maybe someone will do it...


Getting Creative with 1D Barcode

I have been getting into integrating brands and logos into QR and Datamatrix barcodes and was looking for similar work by others when I came across Barcode Revolution and Pfadfinderei. Both companies do very creative work with standard 1D UPC-type barcodes. Here are a couple examples of each company's work, but be sure to go check out their sites to see some more great examples.

Barcode Revolution




It's been crazy relocating from Tokyo to Amsterdam without taking time off of work. I've now got an apartment and a bike, so I'm pretty much settled in. I am a little concerned about the spiders.

I am not so fond of spiders.

There are LOTS of spiders around the parks in Amsterdam.

My apartment is near a park.

When we moved in for real and the owner had cleared out my wife and I could really check everything out. We went to the terrace (a big selling point on the apartment) and took a seat. Without turning my head I could see 6 spiders hanging in midair pretty close to me. One of them was eating a fly. I don't want to get rid of them because I expect they are there because my place is teeming with spider snacks.

Maybe a few spiders is better than swarms of gnats or horseflies. The only spider that concerns me is this little tiny guy in a corner of the terrace. Today we saw him slowly cocooning a horsefly maybe 20 times bigger than itself. Must be pretty poisonous.

Or maybe I should just relax and spray them away with a hose. That's my terrace.



Played with a few of these today at work. No interesting motion-capable apps come preinstalled though (that was my main reason to play with it :(). I'll have to download some I guess. The press release shows a full list of features, so check it out.


Trillcode Take 2

I was a little critical of Trillcode in a previous post about 2 months ago, especially the hype about integrating logos into (below) the codes. In the past months they have made some enhancements that allow you to place an image or animation within the code itself - a vast improvement that places the brand at the center of attention rather than the code itself.
I am still most enthusiastic about the approach Logo-Q takes, even though they charge an arm an a leg (around ¥200,000|€1,300|$1,600) Euro for one. With a little more practice I expect to be showing them up. DesignQR has me just as mystified, charging around ¥57,000|€350|$475 for a monochrome code with a tiny emoji-like image embedded in it. The same thing with more than two colors will run you an extra ¥20,000 (you could do this yourself with GIMP in 2 minutes). I didn't manage to track down pricing for the Trillcode PC Encoder, but I am very interested in finding out. Even if it is pricey, at least your money goes for a tool that you can generate many codes with rather than a designer dot-box that will lose it's purpose hen your campaign is over. Hmmm, now I guess I am being too hard on Logo-Q and DesignQR.



About a month ago I wrote a little about Logo-Q and DesignQR and how they allow you to add images and logos within or integrated with QR-codes. It's not too difficult to see how they did it. Each QR-code can be broken down into pixel-like elements. If you just try to maintain the contrast between dark and light in the code you can make the codes much more interesting. When I get back to Holland I want to try this with some other barcode formats. These examples are a little crude, but not bad for 45 minutes of experimenting with Gimp. Especially considering that Logo-Q charges around 200,000 yen and up for one code. With a little refinement I could probably automate this:

  • Choose background color
  • Choose foreground color
  • Choose and place image
  • Choose dot pattern shape
Maybe I'll hack around with the Ruby qrencoder module or the qr-code Firefox addon.

Google Calendar and Checkout Go Mobile

So Google calendar is now officially mobile. No more hacks or v-cal exports to my phone (not necessary, anyway). Plus you get a nice link to a map if the event contains location information. Also Google Checkout is mobile as well. Users verify their identity via PIN rather than account credentials. Can't wait to try it out. Now if they will just let people pay in euros and yen as well as dollars and pounds...

Mobile Monday Amsterdam!

Wow! Just in time for my move to Holland. Now I won't have to take the train to Düsseldorf or Brussels to attend MoMo. Possible problem is that so far almost all correspondence is in Dutch and I have only just managed to learn how to order beer and ask people where they are from. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the June 4 since I just came back to Tokyo to pack it in for Holland, but I definitely plan to be there regularly. Sadly I rarely made it to the Tokyo MoMo due to my company's love of late, long Monday meetings so I am doubly happy that I am moving to glorious Amsterdam.

Mobile Adverising: How do I focus this thing?

Tom Wheeler, Managing Director at Core Capital Partners has recently published two articles on mobile marketing that draw a lot of parallels to cable television's advertising model. They are very interesting reads that got me thinking more deeply about distribution models of mobile advertising.

Mobile-related services are personal, but a one-to-one distribution model is costly to implement. Rather than trying to target "everyone" mobile marketing campaigns and ads can still target each individual, and this is easy to do on a mobile web site or with an SMS/email magazine. For casted media and programming, however, it becomes a little more difficult. If you are broadcasting a video feed to a wide audience, how can you target the users on an individual basis? Mr. Wheeler explains how the advertising landscape in the mobile space now closely resembles that of cable television in the 1970's. At first we tried to reach the widest audience possible, but niche programming channels directed at narrower demographics will more effectively target users and probably see a higher conversion rate, if not higher overall participation.

Targeted mobile services resemble a magazine rack at a large bookstore. Anyone who has picked up a fashion magazine (or certain tech magazines) knows that ads can make up more than 50% of it's content. Some people even buy them for the ads. Why? Because they are narrowly targeted and relevant. If only every other ad was pertinent to magazine's theme it would indeed be annoying and you would skip over them to avoid wasting time mentally filtering pages and pages of advertisements. Cable is similar in that I probably won't ever see a Hooter's commercial on Lifetime.

Television commercials are pretty broad in focus. Sure, you will see more toy commercials interleaved with Saturday morning cartoons than during a basketball game, but your favorite station doesn't know you. It just makes educated assumptions about your interests based on demographic research. Mobile services can get to know you though your profile information and behavioral analysis, not a just control group of people similar to you (though cross-referencing similar users is a good way to recommend new products to you). Your favorite mobile service has the means to know what you like, when you like it, what ads you have responded to, etc. If this information is being gathered, it may as well be applied in a way that improves the user experience.

As screens get sharper and larger and networks get faster, the audience will probably tolerate ads taking up display real estate more readily. This will also give marketers an opportunity to provide more interactive campaigns and more interesting incentives.


Back in T-Town

Whew! I just got back from a very busy three weeks in Amsterdam. Between work, looking for an apartment, getting my papers processed and reporting back to Tokyo I had no time for blogging and little time for reading my usual amount of industry news. So I played catch-up this weekend and have been wading through my feeds for juicy mobile news. There was quite a lot of it to wade though! Now back in Tokyo I need to execute my exit plans (apartment, bank account, pension, furniture, utilities, etc.). And play with the new motion-sensor 904i DoCoMo phones before I fully relocate to Holland :).


Animated QR-Codes

ITDesign, makers of DesignQR referred to in the previous post have come up with "movie QR", or animated QR-codes. Basically it looks like they are just animating the images that are embedded in the code. You can see an example below (rather long CM, skip to the last part to see the example).

Scan the code to visit the keitai site and download the follow-up video to find out if Black Jack is Japanese or a foreigner. As a bonus you get to see the kung-fu schoolgirls double-kick QR-Boy in the face. Nice.



There have been a lot of 2D-barcode upstarts as of late, most of them focusing on making their dot boxes attractive and marketing-friendly. QR-codes, the standard here in Japan, are looked upon as ugly or industrial-looking with low potential to be integrated into a company's look and feel.

Not so. Check out LogoQ and DesignQR. They crush most of the marketing claims touted by other companies, and they can be read with any standard QR-code reader. You know, the reader that comes standard in nearly all Japanese keitai and many Nokia devices. Go ahead, scan a sample.

Here are a few samples from LogoQ.

Here are a few from DesignQR.


A walk on the For-Side

Terrie's Take has an insightful article about the rise and fall of For-Side in Europe and the circumstances surrounding their withdrawal from the European market. Definitely worth a read.


Mobile Marketing Trends in Japan

eMarketer is running an article (tomorrow according to the date ;P) about how mobile marketing is seeing a revival in Japan. Using keitai as promotional tools is not new in Japan, but there has been some serious growth over the past year according to the referenced Dentsu 2006 Expenditure Report (PDF).

The use of mobile advertising in nationwide mass campaigns by clients in industries such as beverages and automobiles is already a well-established approach, and total spending in this medium rose to ¥39.0 billion (up 35.4%) in 2006.
Another referenced report from NPD Group indicates that 2D barcodes have become one of the most used features on Japanese mobile phones. Emarketer has made a nice chart:

Anyway, you should check out the original story at eMarketer and have a look at Dentsu's website for variety of free reports.

Snap Happy

Another example of upping the "physical world connection" ante from the 2D barcode players. Magnet Harlequin, a UK marketing/technology company, is using image recognition technology called Snap Happy to analyze images sent in by users so a suitable response can be sent back to the user. This is already in action as it was used to promote the latest Mr. Bean movie in the UK earlier this year. Users snap a pic of the movie poster with their mobile and send it via MMS. They then get directed to some free Mr. Bean content. Very nice. Indeed this is one small step to "creating an internet of physical things". This appears to be just what Mobot is doing.
While I do think this is very cool and has tons of applications, I do not think this will displace barcodes any time soon. At least not barcodes that can store information (and not just a reference to information on a server somewhere). Server-side image recognition is an interesting call-to-action, but client-side decoding is faster and more practical in less sensational, everyday cases.


Microsoft’s New Multicolor Bar Code Technology

I guess it was just a matter of time. Microsoft has announced High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB), a new barcode technology that uses colors and patterns (and looks a little like Colorzip). Visual appeal seems to be the main draw here, as the press release focuses on the asthetic value and small, unobtrusive size. I think it fits in nicely with the pinata motif in the press photo, but so many colors would definitely clash with more conservative packaging. I actially think that a monochrome QR code would look better, even if it was a bit larger than the HCCB code.

The new code offers several advantages over existing black-and-white bar codes most people are accustomed to seeing on product packages, enabling new consumer experiences, more visual appeal where aesthetics are important and the ability to incorporate advanced security features.
I did not see any details about data capacity, though it claims to "enable the inclusion of more data in the code itself". Of course, it wouldn't be a Microsoft technology if it didn't come with DRM:
New security features can also be incorporated into Microsoft’s multicolor bar code. DatatraceDNA plans to provide technology for anti-counterfeiting security protection features through nanotechnology that is invisibly embedded within the material and ink of the Microsoft bar code and product packaging.
Wow, so much for a cheap 'n easy marketing tool. I wonder if it will work without the nanotech.


Mobile Barcodes and Marketing in China

China Economic Review has a story about how mobile barcodes and related technology are being used for mobile marketing in China. sigh... I really need to start talking about something besides dot-boxes...... Anyway, the article mentions three companies in China that are pushing their own 2D-code technology.

  • Gmedia: Datamatrix-looking code
  • MyClick: image recognition, or at least image frame recognition
  • Inspiry: appear to be selling encoders/decoders for various barcode formats
Once again there is a little hype here.
SMS advertising is a 'push' technology, leaving consumers at the mercy of advertisers. But with barcodes, the consumer chooses whether or not to click.
Now why is SMS advertising only a push technology? There are plenty of SMS-pull advertisements in print, radio, television and online. You know, "Text 'BUSH' to 4231 for your free 'Dubya' ringback tone!". You decide whether or not to text. I think most people can send an SMS faster than they can find and open their code reader and snap a good shot of a QR-code. At least the code-scanner does not have to wait for an SMS response (though some barcode formats require an active internet connection to work).

I am really interested in seeing how fast and reliably arbitrary image recognition solutions like Mobot and MyClick develop this year. They would certainly be "QR-Code Killers" in the mobile marketing world.

Mobile bar-codes are great marketing tools, but I think it will take some work to wean people in the GSM/GPRS world off SMS texting. The referenced article also mentions that poor connection speed will slow the adoption of QR codes. Perhaps, but they can still be used to deliver virtually anything an SMS can (actually, most 2D barcode formats can store much more than 160 characters). I suppose outside of Japan and Korea 2D barcodes are considered new technology, and will be used to promote more advanced campaigns rather than as a new approach to the same old.


SNS in Japan

Wireless Watch Japan has a story on Disney's Wonder Days, the latest SNS on the Japanese mobile scene. There is a nice video clip showing the user experience and features available on Wonder Days and Mobage-Town. Worth a look if you are interested in seeing whats brewing in the social networking pot over here.

KDDI Mobile - A Japanese MVNO in the US

This seems to have surprised a lot of people based on the ML chatter and blog static around right now. KDDI, Japan's #2 carrier behind DoCoMo, will launch an MVNO on Sprint's network in the US branded as KDDI Mobile. Now maybe they will start providing more global handsets in Japan besides the low-end Sanyo A5514SA. I think this shows that the MVNO movement has gotten serious and the US mobile market still holds opportunities.


Barcodes and Marketing

I thought I knew of a lot of companies purveying their own (or a partner's or parent company's) 2D barcode technology, but I didn't know the half of it. It's pretty amazing how much marketing potential these things have. Even so, while everyone is scrambling to differentiate themselves and position their dot box in a rapidly crowding market they are overselling the whole idea of mobile barcodes.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's really cool that countries besides Japan and Korea are seeing this as an alternative to SMS-based content discovery channels. Plus they can look cool, in the right light I guess. They are getting covered more in the media, even mainstream, non-keitai-freak news. I referenced a story in Financial Times about how mobile industry leaders are taking this technology seriously a few posts ago. A few days ago the New York Times ran a story about how this new technology can communicate with your mobile and included their very own barcode using Neomedia's qode the Aztec 2D-barcode format.

Great. So everyone agrees that it has potential.

Lateley I have seem some blogging about Trillcode and their ability to add logos to their codes.

Adding logos close to the code is possible with almost any code format including QR-code. How different is the Trillcode above different from these examples?

left to right: QR Code generated by Moji-Q Maker , Bee Tagg, standard QR-Code with a little embelishment

If brandability is the goal, then I would recommend an mcode.

They work in a variety of shapes (square, rectangle, L-shaped) and can use multiple colors in the pattern to help match the brand. However, the code that has the most potential in this arena is Colorzip. While most of these that you see look like this:

They can also look like this:

Still cooler is stuff like what Mobot has going on. While other mobile scanning tech is meant to give your phone a "real-world connection", mobot is trying to do that without the use of dot boxes.

Some of the marketing-oriented code formats (Shotcode and Colorzip for instance) can only hold a reference ID and actual data retrieval requires a connection to a server. I suppose this is a combination of wanting to stay in control of usage and keeping less-optimized codes.

Many marketing scenarios proposed would work better (or at least be more convenient to the user) with RFID or Bluetooth approaches. For instance, it is difficult to scan stuff on-the-go. Take out your phone, start the app, maybe a second menu to navigate and now your are ready to scan. Maybe a quick-launch or running in the background would help you scan those codes while you are rushing about.
Granted, Bluetooth and RFID are more expensive, but for the on-the-go situations they are much more convenient. Suica in Japan, for instance, lets you pay for your train ticket on your way through the turnstile. Just get your card or suitably-equipped mobile close enough to the sensor and you are good to go. Can you imagine the lines if everyone had to scan a code to pay? It would be easier to just buy a regular ticket. The example the NYT gave of people driving around scanning bar codes of houses seems kinda ridiculous to me.
The point is that RFID and Bluetooth (and other such technologies) are better suited to some scenarios. If they are driving by it, Bluetooth. If they are walking by it, RFID. If are standing by it or holding it, then barcodes would work (and definitely be cheaper ;)). The idea of someone having an auto accident because they were trying to scan a billboard is pretty ridiculous.


Japan's Cellphone Edge

Just came across this great blog about the mobile industry in Japan. Lots of good market data and news coverage.

Mobile groups study barcode plan

Ok, I have been rehashing month-old 2D barcode news for a while now, and would like to throw a few other topics into the mix. With all the travelling back and forth between Amsterdam and Tokyo I haven't had much time for blogging, but I plan to update more frequently. But first one last mention of the goings on for mobile barcodes.

Financial Times reported (a month ago ;)) that on 27 February "Leading mobile communications companies" would be meeting to discuss the future of 2D barcodes in the mobile advertising market. One interesting thing mentioned is that DuPont plans to put these codes on all their products shipped worldwide. This will create "internet enabled" physical objects resulting in an "internet of things" according to a quote from Charles Fritz, chairman of Neomedia.

I also found out from the article (I am sure everyone else already knew :P) that there is a Mobile Codes Consortium (or
MC2). I would guess that QR-code is the format of choice (I think I saw one on their web site) since I did not see any references to specific types of barcodes up for consideration in the article. Then again, Neomedia is a member of the consortium. Anyway, interesting to continually see more support for this technology outside of Asia.


Lots o' free stuff out there...

Mobile web technology is maturing fast. It's also becoming cheap and available as carriers, device manufacturers, browser developers, commercial software developers and the OSS community make and increasing number of tools, libraries, frameworks, device profile databases, rendering engines and media transcoders available to the masses. Most of today's popular scripting languages now have at least a few mobile-oriented modules available. Even Firefox has a few extensions that are specifically intended as tools for mobile development.

These days most people who can build a PC web application can make that application mobile without too much more effort. Even the carriers are beginning to open their portals (or parts of them anyway) to the general public. With all this technology freely available and the industry hype about .mobi, "convergence" and mobile SNS's the mobile web will probably get a lot more love and an injection of creativity from developers and subscribers alike as the technical and financial barriers to entering the mobile space are lowered.


Bee Tagg

The Pondering Primate has a nice post about Bee Tagg, one of many 2D codes in the mobile world. Some marketing campaigns that are using of Bee Tagg's codes are referenced as well.
Actually, the Bee Tagg web site has a page with examples of a lot of different code formats. It really seems like 2D barcode technology vendors are paying a lot of attention to the appearance and brand/logo-friendliness.


Moji-Q Maker

All About Mobile Life has alerted me to Moji-Q Maker. It lets you make custom-colored QR-codes with text embedded in them. Very cool.


Actually, my AU keitai does not seem to recognize the meta-data in the code. It recognizes the URL, but appends two semi-colons to the end of the URL, which gets a blogger 404. If I could encode a URL only without the title, etc. then it would work perfectly.

QR-code Extensions For Firefox

Here's a couple handy extensions to view a QR-code for any URL with Firefox.

  • Mobile Barcoder: Pops-up a tooltip-style window with the QR-Code for the page you are currently viewing.
  • QR Code: Uses Javascript to generate a QR-code with CSS.
You can also download some interesting QR-code Javascript tools and libs at D-PROJECT.

Orange Flashcode

Orange has decided to use Abaxia's MobileTag technology as their barcode format of choice and will begin preloading scanners on their handsets and using the codes to drive traffic towards promotional and premium content. The codes are being marketed as Flashcodes.

You can make your own Flashcodes (for contact information anyway) at the MobileTag Beta website if you register or at Orange's contact code creator.
At Orange FR's site you can naturally only create a contact code for a French number.

Oh, and if you happen to be French and living in The Netherlands you should definitely check out www.thefrenchtouch.nl.

Kid's Keitais

Children's phones have been present for a few years, but now all four main wireless carriers in Japan have all started marketing keitai for children. Docomo has their Kid's Keitai, KDDI has their Junior Keitai, Softbank has their Kodomobile, and Willcom has their Papipo.
These phones come with parent-oriented features like limited web access to kid-safe sites, white lists for numbers calls can be received from or made to, location maps to track you child's position and panic buttons that sound alarms, call a pre-set number and start taking pictures and collecting GPS information to automatically send to the parents phone by email. Wireless Watch Japan has a nice article about mobile phones for kids in Japan. There's also a video interview with AU Designing Studio's Manager Natsuko Kimura where she demonstrates some of the features of KDDI's keitai's for kids.

Here's a commercial for the KDDI Junior Keitai campaign

Binibining Pilipinas

A code-based approach to SMS voting. Smart subscribers can scan the code of the contestant they want to vote for, and apparently receive an MMS containing a picture of their contestant of choice. The Decode codes used by Smart are based on Nextcode's mobile barcode technology. The Binibining Pilipinas website appears to be down at the moment, but here's a pic of the promotion.


This is a shirt

Ohhhh, I get it...


The Original Interactive Pants

Thanks to Symblogogy for covering this in the linked article. I checked out the web site and press release of Denim Code's 2D barcode-branded jeans marketed as "The Original Interactive Pants". Hmmm.
I've seen lots of t-shirts and baseball caps with QR-codes and barcodes on them, but I think 2D barcodes are really becoming hyped up as marketing tools now, which is pretty cool since there are some pretty imaginative things you can do with them. In this case I think it is kitch that is the main attractor, but the codes point to mobile video contents so as the content gets passed around, their concept and brand get promoted. The codes appear to be based on Abaxia's MobileTags.

Actually, if for each piece there are multiple codes to chose from it might encourage multiple purchased as customers start to collect. Clothes with personalized messages in the code would be cool too.


Ok, so I started blogging after being in Asia and Europe for four rather important years in the evolution of mobile technology, so my blog posts are a little late to the party. I had heard about colorzip about a year and a half ago or so (I remember seeing some in Korea) and thought they were pretty cool. Here is a "standard" colorzip pattern.

Colorzip provides a hybrid reader that can scan colorzips and QR-codes, so I finally downloaded the client to my AU W42SA and got to work finding sample codes to scan. It seemed to work rather well, so I looked into how it worked on the company web site:
The matrix of blocks and analog data pertaining to the number of colors are digitized and then processed by a dedicated server using addresses registered for the codes.
A typical ColorCodeTM interaction flows like this: First the ColorCodeTM is authenticated. Next the number associated with the code is transferred to the server. Finally, the content is transferred to the mobile device or PC.
So it looks like the code itself is only a reference to the actual information, a URL for example, and not the URL itself. I guess this is so Colorzip can control the usage of their technology. Shotcodes also work like this, but from what I can tell they also transcode the site for mobile devices (high, medium and low optimization). Color codes are cool and the code gallery on the Colorzip web site shows some great marketing potential.

Note: I believe these codes are only samples and will not work.

Even so, it seems less cool to me than codes that actually carry the data within the code like QR-codes or mcodes.