Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BB & 2D barcodes

'Barcodes of the future' is an article re the use of 2D bar codes with now ubiquitous mobile phones' cameras to provide web-based information for consumers... From the article: "Picture this: you are out and about on a Saturday afternoon and see an advertisement at a bus stop for an outdoor concert. In a corner of the advertisement are a couple of barcodes. Wanting to find out more about the concert, you pull out your 3G-capable mobile phone and take a picture of one of the codes. It transfers you to the official website of the concert, where you find out that it is to be held tomorrow night and some of your favourite bands will be performing..."

A two dimensional (2D) barcode can contain a lot more information that the "original" one dimensional barcode. It wasn't long before someone in Japan married this with the cellphone camera, so that "taking a picture" of the 2D barcode would launch the phone (mobile) browser and take the consumer to the encoded url. The number of potential applications and uses for this concept are limited only by the imagination (read the article for a number of examples...)

As with the "simple" 1D barcode there are a number of different symbologies in 2D barcodes, including QR (originally developed for inventory applications); EZcodes (developed at a Swiss university); Data Matrix (developed by Acuity ciMatrix); Microsoft's tag (see below); etc. Some applications are agnostic and can read all symbologies.

This blogger decide to try this out on his Blackberry Bold, and looked at four different software applications:


First up was NeoReader, available for a number of handsets including the BB. A quick OTA download from here (i.e. get.neoreader.com) and the software was installed on the Bold. Generating a 2D barcode for this blog's url took seconds, and 'snapping a picture' of the barcode took me directly to the blog url that was encoded... (Note: this application also worked without any problem with barcodes generated on Nokia's Mobile Code site)
NeoReader home
Create 2D bar code

Microsoft Tag:

Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon and has its own version of this software called 'Tag' which can be downloaded directly onto your phone here (i.e. http://gettag.mobi). A couple of caveats - first you have to register to use the site to download the software generate the 2D barcodes, etc.; second , they seem to have developed their own version of the 2D bar codes (see below). Note: it looks like a future iteration of the Tagreader software might be able to read their own format and other formats as well (as there is a 'placeholder' for other formats), but at present you are stuck with their barcodes (that come in color or black & white.)

As it is, you can see that 'snapping' a picture of the barcode takes one to the web site encoded...


Another piece of software that is designed to do this as well is i-nigma, downloadable via mobile browser here. Unfortunately I was not able to install and try it out due to an error downloading and installing the application...


Finally, one more application is ScanLife by a company called ScanBuy. It can be downloaded OTA here (i.e. www.getscanlife.com). It is necessary to register on the Scanlife web site to use the application (although non-commercial registration is free)... Also works like a charm - 'snap' the barcode and get taken to the encoded url....

Bottom line: As tested, all of the applications that this blogger managed to install worked without any problems. Eliminating the Tagreader application due to its different 2D barcode, this blogger can recommend ScanLife or NeoReader... and would probably go with the latter for very casual use since no registration is required. Now if only there were some 2D barcodes out there 'in the wild' to scan!

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