Enhancing Consumer Mobility with 2D Barcodes

<Complaint> The US is always behind in mobility. Asia is always 1+ years ahead. For example, watching TV on a cell phone is normal over there, and it's a dream here. </Complaint>

So, while the US networks are being enhanced to support video in a quality way, other interesting capabilities are on the way to the US. After a recent customer inquiry about 2D barcode reading on a phone and a little help from Loke, I've learned some background on a craze in Japan that is working it's way over here.  And this is not really new - you can find US folks talking about this, but I had not seen or heard of this until MEDC this year.

One of the interesting facets to this is that this can be applied to all sorts of consumer scenarios. For example, this is already being utilized in ticketless concert entry and cashless vendor machine transactions in mobile phone scenarios.  This was also used in a different kind of way at the US MEDC this year - 2d barcode signs were posted around the event, and a provided app on Windows Mobile 5 could read these and then display a map of your location. Another scenario is for localization. All sorts of things can be put into a barcode - and one of the populate types of data in Japan is URL's.

I found that a 2006 study of emerging phone features shows that Japanese consumers most wanted and used. I would have thought GPS would be #1, which we in the US are still waiting to have in the mainstream (even though the carriers could provide this to us today). However, the top feature was barcode reading. Vendors and service providers are looking for all sorts of ways to utilize them. Imagine walking up to a garment, scanning a code with your phone, and then getting a Silverlight presentation about the garment, seeing it in other colors, finding other related accessories, seeing other promotions, and other RIA capabilities.

Another interesting example is on web content. Imagine a 2D barcode that is a RSS feed. And then a mobile aggregator that could read in the barcode and add to your subscriptions. What if I wanted notifications about a vendor from walking around at a trade show, and I could scan their RSS URL from their booth... I could go on and on - or turn this over to my local PSA who is never ending in applying technology to solve business problems or create competitive advantage. John, don't forget transmitting these via MMS...

2D barcodes exist in several popular formats - one of those is QR Code (as in Quick Response, created by Denso Wave, and approved by JIS, ISO, and AIM). There are several sites that provide different ways to generate the QR code - like via code or directly on the web page.  Below, I've gone to Kaywa and generated a QR code of my blog URL.

So, that's good that we can generate a QR code, what about reading them? There are a bunch of options here. Thinking here specifically about how to read on the device and from a managed application, I found several options. Loke said to look at QuickMark and MoDaCo. A search found others as well. Most that I saw were standalone readers that interact with the camera, and display the text.  I'd like a way to do this from manage code, preferably something that would interact with the Windows Mobile managed API (for camera support) but haven't seen to many good options. Hopefully, someone will point out a library out to me.

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