Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Scanning Bar Codes with Cell Phones: A Smart Materials Technology?

The house next door to us is for sale. As is the common real estate practice, attached to the For Sale sign is a box which holds printed marketing materials. As is also a very common occurrence, the box is usually empty. Someone wishing information about the house then has to write down the agent information, go home, access the network, search Google, and navigate to the listing. There has to be a better way.

Recently, I have been hearing alot about a technology that is already in place in Japan which allows a cell phone cameras to scan bar codes. By pointing the camera phone at a code and taking a photo, the customer can download information related to the item on which the code is attached. The customer can bypass long URLs, search engines, and phone menus and go straight to the associated network destination. The bar code can connect directly to different web sites based on time, day of week, or customer preferences (age, gender) and presented in a preferred language or time zone (e.g. EST or PST).

In the case of the house for sale next door, the sign could have printed on it a bar code that contains all the information about the house. The potential buyer could use their cell phone to scan the code and immediately access all the pertinent information, including a link to the listing. They could also take a virtual tour.

An example of these bar codes are QR codes. While conventional bar codes can store about 20 digits of information, qrcodea single QR (quick response) code is capable of handling 7,089 characters including numeric and alphabetic characters, symbols, and binary data. One can store just about anything as a QR code, including images. You may have seen routing QR codes on packages from the 'brown' delivery service. QR codes are apparently quite durable, allowing up to 30% of the code to be obscured or removed by dirt, marks or damage and still readable. QR codes can be printed as a graphic image by any printer. The QR code is an established ISO (ISO/IEC18004) standard.

One of the technologies used to link the code to content using mobile devices is being led by the company qode. Their web site provides some examples on how the technology works.

As I think about their potential in libraries many things come to mind:

- Smart codes on materials could link customers directly to bibliographic information, reviews, or additional networked support materials.

- codes on devices could lead customers to help and tip sheets.

- codes on promotional and marketing materials could lead customers to the library web site.

- codes on handouts could direct customers directly to databases, a journal article or a current bibliography.

I think there is great potential here. What other ways could these smart bar codes be used in a library setting? Please comment away! Sphere: Related Content


Roger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I accidently deleted a comment by Roger:

Hi there,

I am sorry to say, but Qcode has pretty much nothing to do with QR Codes.
It's the japanese telcos and mostly NTTDoCoMo whom together with Mediaseek launched the QR Code in 2003 in Japan.

Now, Gavitec, recently bought by Neomedia who is behind Qcode, was one of the first adopters of the QR Code. And they continue...

But there are a lot more companies on the QR Code:)
And images start looking strangely the same as in Japan:)

Eric Schnell said...

Thanks for the additional information. My reference to quod (or Qcode) was that they were one of the technologies linking bar codes to content.

For the purposes of my post the concept is more important than the specific standards. If qode is not using a code standard then shame on them.

Anonymous said...

And there are other code formats that are engineered for mobile phone optics (as opposed to laser readers with QR). check out Nextcode Corp's mCode at

Swampthing said...

Wait a minute. For the record. Neomedia Technologies licensed old IP from Digital Convergence who owned the Cue Cat idea. They developed Paperclick which was later named Qode.

Qode is a mobile platform the offers one click to content. Kind of like how Google is to the PC.

The gives the mobile user the option to click on the 2D code to find content. The mobile user can click on 1D, UPC, QR, data matrix, keywords, logos, trademarks, slogans, RFID, etc. to go to content. Why type the long URL? I would think pretty soon, once the voice command works, you maybe able to say the word in the Qode broswer.

This platform was once called the next "killer app". Since then, some continue to hide from the fact of even knowing this company exists.

By the way, Neomedia is trying to help develop a standard reader for all 2D and data matrix symbologies.

You be the judge. Just Qode it.

Eric Schnell said...

Thanks so much Swampthing!

streetstylz said...

My blog specifically covers NeoMedia and their mobile platform qode.

Feel free drop by anytime :)


dlethe01 said...

If you are interested to know more about Qode, please see Mr. Jeff Mould’s blog.
He’s the President and CEO of Announce Mobile.

My favorite blog posts:
Why Qode?
2D codes…again
Qode - an indepth look at the technology
Why Qode is valuable to Hip2D?

Anonymous said...

The new Universal Reader barcode-reader developed by HP, NeoMedia, and Gavitec is almost ready :)

* Datamatrix
* QR Codes
* Aztec Codes
* Maxi Codes

The carriers and mobile handset manufacturers are lining up and getting ready for the launch!

Michael V.

Anonymous said...

qode, mobile barcodes and Neomedia are an interesting topic of conversation. If user-generated content defines Web 2.0, then physical world connections are well positioned to defines Web 3.0.

Dan Gallagher said...

Many of these comments seem like shameless plugging by those involved in development. I've taken a hard look at these technologies and came to the conclusion that Nextcode's technology is the most flexible from a publishers standpoint and by far the most we implemented in the Network World publication.

Dan Gallagher -VP Network World

streetstylz said...

Nokia, KPN, & O2 Join The Mobile Codes Consortium

The soon to be released Universal Code Reader (Lavasphere/qode) will be able to read and decipher the industry standard 1D UPC/EAN and 2D (Datamatrix, Aztec, and QR) codes.

Looks like the mobile code reading space just took a giant step forward towards standardization and industry adoption.

streetstylz said...

Deutsche Telekom Joins Mobile Codes Consortium

Deutsche Telekom is one of the world's leading telecommunications companies represented in 50 countries around the globe. As a unit of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile International is one of the world's leading mobile communications providers, with more than 100 million customers in Europe and the United States.

They follow industry leaders Nokia, KPN and Telefónica O2 Europe who joined the Mobile Codes Consortium last month.

Eric Schnell said...

Don and Drew, on the Warner Music label in Singapore, released the single, "Bouncy Bouncy Smack Smack."

Within each CD case is a special qode® insert inviting users to download the application onto there cell phone and click on the 2D code to connect to the mobile web and download special content, such as wallpapers, pictures, and music clips."

brewskih said...

Dan. The majority of the commentors are not developers, but worse yet are NEOM shareholders who try to control the information on all the blogs regarding 2D bar codes. At least 4 of the commenter's here regularly post on that stocks message board.

Eric, I wouldn't put a lot of faith in Streetstylz blog. It was just today discovered that he added text to an article by Case Western University, with their scavenger hunt using 38 phones donated by sprint. In the original article date 7 August it states that the phones were equipped with bar code reading software. In the 8 August version of the same article posted on Streetstylz blog it states the phones had NEOMEDIA TECHNOLOGIES optical software installed on them. So he editted the original article to add NEOMEDIAS name in capital letters so it appears as a link on his site to take you to NEOMEDIAS homepage.

No one at this time knows what software was on those phones, and I think everyone here understands that there are various applications that read AZTEC codes, which is what NEOMEDIAS QODE reader reads at this time. And at this time its the only 2D code that QODE can read. Here are the links to the two articles so you can see for yourself the fraud he committed. By the way do a search while on Case Westerns site and you wont find NEOMEDIA mentioned anywhere, you get zero results found. So how did that text get into Streetstylz version of the news article?