Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Next Generation of Barcodes: QR Codes

It's something of a cliché to say that something or other is "just so 20th century," but in the case of barcodes, it's kinda true. For proof look no further than Japan, which has a history of exporting ideas to us after they've been fully baked into the culture, for good (anime) or ill (I'm still on the fence about karaoke).

QR Codes are essentially two-dimensional bar codes, and they've been in use in Japan for about seven years. As camera-enabled mobile phones became more popular, companies found a nifty application for them: they made QR Code-recognition software available to phone users, who could snap a picture of a QR Code on a product and have more information sent to them instantly. The two great things about QR Code implementation is that companies have found creative uses for placement and the type of information you can get, and that patent holders Denso-Wave have made the spec available to all, which fosters that kind of creativity.

Alan Schulman has written a great article on QR Codes on iMedia Connection, but also points out that Japanese companies aren't the only ones who have been noticing the pixellated squares. Microsoft is planning to launch its High Capacity Color Barcode later this year, which uses the same concept but with, as the name implies, color. And if Microsoft is looking to one-up someone else's idea, you know it's probably a good one



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