Monday, December 24, 2007

Reading Small 2D Barcodes

For a lot of mobile barcode users, reading small barcodes is a quite a problem because most phone cameras are without macro mode or auto-focus. Apparently, such problems bother some Japanese users as well (especially if they are using non-Japanese phones) and they have a pretty good looking solution: attachable lens. For about 1000 yen, you can get a nicely designed lens for your barcode reading pleasure. Check out this Japanese blog for a demonstration (using X02HT and QuickMark) or head straight to an online store to get one.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Capture Birds With Your Mobile Barcode Reader

A group of Taiwanese college students from Tatung University recently added a new element to their already live system for bird ecological information: playing cards with QR Codes. At first glance this might seem like a pretty simple m-learning application as it allows the user to look up various information about the birds in Taiwan via QR Codes. However, these students are smarter than that. They are actually making money out of this. How? By leveraging their rich bird database that they've worked so hard to collect: they turn the birds' photos and recordings into mobile phone wallpapers and ring-tones (they also charge for searches on their database). Their WAP download service has somehow won them first place in a student competition sponsored by CHT a while ago, and the service is still running on CHT's emome site. Their usage of QR Codes may not be particularly innovative (perhaps all mobile content services should provide 2D barcodes for easy access), therefore the key must be that their content and search system are really compelling/interesting for bird lovers. For those interested, you can visit their WAP site here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Survey Results On Japanese QR Code Usage

What Japan Thinks has a recent great post on the latest survey findings on QR Code usage in Japan. The survey was conducted over a 5 day period earlier this month (10/1 ~ 10/5/2007) with responses from 17091 MyVoice internet community members. The survey is slightly female biased (54% vs 46%) with 58% of the samples from people who are under age 40 (which is usually the main age group that uses mobile value added services) so it should be of good reference value to other areas of the world that are looking to promote the use of 2D barcodes.

For details, please refer to the original survey result. The following is the translated results by What Japan Thinks, and I recommend visiting their website as it provides great insight to the Japanese market.
Q1: Who is your current mobile phone service provider? If you have more than one, choose the one you use the most. (Sample size=17,091)
DoCoMo 43.0%
au 28.9%
Softbank 20.3%
Other 0.4%
Don’t have a mobile phone (to end of survey) 5.2%

5.2% don't have a mobile phone?!

Q2: Do you use your mobile phone’s QR code or bar code reader? (Sample size=mobile phone users)
Often use 4.9%
Sometimes use 42.2%
Have used it before 14.6%
Know what QR codes are, but don’t use them 27.7%
Just heard the name 2.9%
Not even heard of them 7.6%
No answer 0.1%

I'm not sure what is the difference between "often use" and "sometimes use", but it's still only at 47.1% total. Is it half glass empty or half glass full? I think there is still room for growth, even in Japan.

Q3: How do you start your QR code reader? If there is more than one, select the method you use the most. (Sample size=QR code users)
From camera 55.2%
From main menu 22.9%
From application 20.1%
Other 1.0%
No answer 0.7%

This only tells us how lucky Japanese mobile users are as I believe both "From camera" and "From main menu" both mean that their mobile phone comes preloaded with a mobile barcode reader.

Q4: From where do you scan QR codes? (Sample size=QR code users, multiple answer)
Magazine columns and advertisements 71.3%
Maps 14.5%
Food items 12.9%
Posters, leaflets in stations 12.3%
Business cards 4.5%
Other 28.7%
No answer 0.4%

A lot of the answers are well publicized so I'm more curious about the Other 28.7%.

Q5: What do you do with the scanned QR code data? (Sample size=QR code users, multiple answer)
Connect to web site 90.0%
Register bookmark 13.2%
Send mail 10.6%
Display text 4.5%
Register in address book 4.3%
Playback or save music, display or save graphic 3.9%
Pass to application 2.4%
Make telephone call 2.4%
Copy to mail 1.9%
Other 3.8%
No answer 0.3%

No doubt that connecting to the web is a great application for QR Codes, but since the majority of the average mobile users outside Japan are usually quite stingy when it comes to mobile data usage, URL links alone will probably not be enough to attract the end users.

Q6: Do you know about colour QR codes? (Sample size=QR code aware people)
Yes, and often use 0.7%
Yes, and sometimes use 2.9%
Yes, and have used them before 1.6%
Know what they are, but not used them 14.0%
Just heard the name 9.8%
Not even heard of them 66.3%
No answer 4.6%

They are probably referring to ColorZip from Korea. They claim to support quite a few devices from their list, but I'm guessing that they are not as widely pre-installed as the QR Code readers, thus affecting its visibility and popularity among end users.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

QR Codes Show The Way

The Taiwan Academic Network Conference 2007 is being held this week at Taiwan National University. This year's theme is on ubiquitous campus and mobility, and one of the papers submitted is on using QR Codes to improve campus accessibility and navigation ("Study of Indoor Wayfinding Systems based on QR Codes and Spatial Navigation Models", by Yen-Yin Chu, Chung Yuan Christian University).

Chu's basic idea is to have QR Codes posted around the campus to help people unfamiliar with the environment find their way around.

It works something like this:
1) The user scans a 2D barcode (the encoded data looks like this: and enters their destination
2) The user views a webpage with a real photo of the environment along with an easy to follow direction to the next stop
3) After the user gets to the next point, he/she will see another QR Code to scan for the next set of directions
4) Eventually the user gets to wherever he/she intended

The demo implementation uses QuickMark's mobile barcode reader and their preliminary test results get a rating of 3.5 out of 5 for its navigation capability. For further details please refer to their presentation file.

Personally I think it is an interesting project but necessarily practical. A lot of times it is just easier to put up signs or ask for directions than learning how to make use of QR Codes, especially for the average mobile phone user who most likely do not yet have access to a mobile barcode reader. Nonetheless it is a good start and I am sure more location based services can definitely find a way to be incorporated with the use of 2D barcodes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DBN Art Incorporates QR Codes

Taiwan's first "software art" exhibition was recently held at National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts from 10.2 ~ 10.5.2007. The art exhibit is titled "Eeriness of Simplicity and Complexity" (translated) and the art pieces were created using Design By Numbers (a.k.a. DBN), which is both a programming language and language for visual artists and designers. The art pieces were put on display using LED devices. Amongst the 14 art pieces, is a special piece of art created by Po-Chi Huang and Wen-Chen Wu (I do not know the title of their work). It is special for 2 reasons: 1) it utilizes QR Codes and 2) it is rated R (I must admit this is more astonishing).

The Pet Shop Boys' recent Integral music video featuring over 100 QR Codes has been a hot topic for 2D barcode enthusiasts, but it looks like there are other lesser known artists aware of QR Codes and are starting to experiment incorporating them into their artworks. To me this is interesting because sometimes it is hard for me to grasp the artists' ideas behind their work and maybe the featured QR Codes will help provide me some clues (or confuse me more) as well as foster some interaction with the artist.

Sources:, sinner66 blog

Friday, October 5, 2007

Show Girls Show Off QR Codes @ Tokyo Game Show 2007

Photos from the recent Tokyo Game Show has some show girls from Softbank pointing to their QR Code tattoos, encouraging the visitors to scan the 2D barcodes with their mobile phones. I guess this is a good incentive for people to try to get a mobile barcode reader if their phone doesn't come with one. I wondered if people might find it a little awkward or impolite for people to read QR Codes off each other, but it looks like these young ladies from Softbank don't mind at all. Or maybe they are just being professional about it?

Photo source: cjin's fantasique world, guillaume's Flickr Album

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Decoding Pet Shop Boys Music Video

English music artists the Pet Shop Boys recently released a new album called Disco 4, and in it is a song titled Integral. What is special about it is that the Integral music video is literally littered with QR Codes. Watching the video for the first time today, I was surprised by the number of QR Codes blinking and flashing throughout the music video. I am sure that some people will pull their hair out trying to scan for those 2D barcodes and never get any results. Well, I ran the video 4 times and found 74 unique QR Codes in it. They are all web links to websites that relate to the main theme of the song, which according to their official site, is freedom and civil liberty. There might be more than the 74 codes that I found, but I'll leave those to the hardcore fans. There are also a couple of URLs that link to missing pages, and I wonder if the video I watched was its final version (their official site mentions that an unfinished version was released a week prior to its official launch).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Singapore's Mobile Barcode Initiative

EzCode is the codename for the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's mobile barcode initiative, which is basically a government sponsored program with the goal to promote the use of 2D barcodes in Singapore. An IDA representative visited Taiwan's Open Mobile Internet Alliance and its members a few months ago to learn about Taiwan's experience in mobile barcodes and it seems that they are making some progress.

IDA is currently offering a rebranded mobile barcode reader by Tagit and supports both QR Code and Data Matrix. However, it is obvious that their reader is still in its early stages and has a long ways to go after spending a few minutes playing with it. The EzCode reader simply does not do a good enough job recognizing barcodes (the module size needs to be quite large, as evidenced by their free online barcode generator).

But the thing that I find most unfortunate, from an end user's point of view, is that IDA decided to make up its own rules for encoding the contents of 2D barcodes. There are currently 5 types of barcode actions or "tags" defined by IDA: URL Link Tag, SMS Tag, CALL Tag, TEXT Tag, and VCARD Tag. Only the URL Link Tag is compatible with other mobile barcode readers (because it is defined simply as http://someurl), the rest of them will be viewed as plain text (SMS Tag is recognized by QuickMark, however). The weirdest tag is their VCARD Tag, which despite its name, does not conform to the RFC vCard standard at all.

EzCode's VCARD looks like this:

While a real vCard should look something like this:

I find this strange because it seems that IDA has done a lot of homework beforehand and they should have been aware of the pros and cons involved in content format standardization. I think it might be better for the end user if they chose to adhere to an existing standard, either DoCoMo, OMI@, Orange, etc. That way tourists won't have to install an additional application when visiting Singapore to take advantage of their 2D barcodes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Link To Weather Info Via QR Code

Typhoon number 12: Wipha is affecting the northern part of Taiwan today. If you are interested in the latest mobile weather updates from Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau, you can either access the QR Code on their website for the WAP version or visit for the PDA version (I think they should have made a QR Code for the PDA link as well).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

QR Code On Wheels

Advertising is nothing new for the buses here in Taiwan. Buses are pretty much covered with ads, inside and outside. But my friend Joyce spotted an unfamiliar scene this week on her way to work: a QR Code printed on a bus.

The QR Code doesn't carry much info, simply a telephone number: 0800805680, which is the service hot line for 5680 (a company that provides computer maintenance/repair services). Although Taipei's traffic isn't that great and there are plenty of bus stops and traffic lights, I still wonder if it's easy enough for people to scan a 2D barcode on wheels. I actually think it might be simpler if they just print 080-080-5680 on the bus because the numbers are catchy enough to be memorized easily, but at least this will help people get used to having these mobile barcodes randomly show up in our daily lives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Truth About Food Traceability

Kuang Chuan (dairy products company) recently had a new product on the market, the Blue Label milk. And this particular product claims to be the first milk product to implement a traceability system. A 5 digit alphanumeric code is printed on each bottle underneath its expiration date, and the consumer is able to look up its production history details by entering the code on the company's traceability webpage.

My initial reaction to the Blue Label's traceability feature was how is the customer able to look up the relevant information before their purchase? I then consulted my friend Joseph, who currently works at Kuang Chuan and happens to be familiar with the Blue Label product, and he told me that it is true that their system only allows the customer to look up the data after the purchase. This obviously doesn't make much sense so I asked if they considered using 2D barcodes, and it lead to an interesting discussion about the vendor's point-of-view in regards to food traceability. And the key points / highlights are:

1) Vendors have no interest at all in food traceability because it only adds cost and not revenue
2) Vendors are being forced by the government to implement food traceability systems
3) Consumers do not care about the food production process because what they really want is for all the products to be safe and have someone accountable when something wrong happens (meaning bad products should have never reached the shelves in the first place)

I do agree with Joseph's opinions, but I wanted to try out their traceability system anyway. So I bought a Blue Label and entered its trace code on their website, and indeed I was presented with a lot of information and test data about my bottle of milk. However, I felt it is a little too much data for the average customer to understand and I did not find them particular helpful either.

Kuang Chuan did come up with a way to encourage consumers to try out their traceability system though, they had a mini game on their site in which you can enter your receipt number (the one with your purchase of the Blue Label milk) to see if you won a HTC Touch. Unfortunately, I did not win.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Liberty Times Introduces QR Codes

Taiwan's Liberty Times newspaper had one and a half page of QR Code introduction in its extras section yesterday. The article provided a brief intro to what QR Codes are, how to download and user QR mobile barcode readers, as well as plenty of examples of QR Codes in action. The pictured list of examples include QR Codes found on online games' boxes, airline posters, food packaging (for food traceability), hamburgers (for nutrition facts), t-shirts, and Taipei's Cultural Passport. It also mentions QuickMark's more advanced applications for QR Codes, such as GPS navigation and m-wallet (vending machines). The second page continues to list a few phones that support mobile barcode reading capabilities, as well as a more extended list of phones that are able to add the QR Code reading feature via online downloads (basically a copy of QuickMark's list of supported phones).

The only news to me was the QR Code used in by the online game Fanta Tennis Online. A quick search revealed that it was a marketing collaboration between Gameflier and FarEastone, and their press release said that the barcodes can be found within the game, on the game's instruction manual, and on its official website. Since I've not played this game, I'm not completely sure what purpose it serves. I did try looking for the QR on its packaging as shown on the newspaper, but did not see any on the ones I found at the store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Send Feedback With QR Codes

I was cleaning my room this past weekend and found that the box of my Japanese anime toy had a QR Code on it as well. Since I wasn't completely sure about what the Japanese instructions meant, my friend Toyoki helped me out by actually scanning the barcode and following through with its actions.

Basically, Bandai (the toy company) is soliciting feedback from its customers. The end user scans the QR Code to initiate a blank email to be sent to, and Bandai will email back to the user a list of URLs. The user then selects the URL of the product he/she wishes to provide feedback on, and they can start filling out a questionnaire after they access their chosen link. The company also offers to draw 100 lucky users each month and grant them a prize of a QUO Card preloaded with 1000 yen. The QUO Card seems pretty cool too, it is a prepaid card which can be used at over 36,000 participating stores. Including convenience stores, restaurants, gas stations, drug stores, and more. Or if you are interested in Bandai products, you can access their new site at

I don't plan to do this all the time, but just for fun I'm going to try scanning this QR with the mobile barcode readers I have handy. The QR Code was obviously created for the Japanese mobile phone users, so it might be interesting to see how well these decoders fare.

QuickMark: Since I'm not using a Japanese phone, it is expected that not all of the characters will be rendered correctly (because the phone does not have all the corresponding character sets), but this particular phone still supports enough legible characters for me to get the gist of the message. QuickMark recognizes the QR as text but email and other functions can still be achieved by accessing the Open Notes function.

Kaywa: Being a QR intended for the Japanese audience usually means that the module size is quite small, and it is also the case here. The N73 that I'm using has auto-focus so it really shouldn't be a problem, but for some reason Kaywa wasn't able to focus on this particular barcode. I tried several times, but perhaps it just isn't my day. Although I wasn't able to get Kaywa to work this particular instance, I'm guessing that Kaywa functions the same as i-nigma.

i-nigma: The email was parsed correctly and functional, but unfortunately none of the Japanese characters came out correct.

ScanLife: ScanLife mistook the Japanese QR as a Mainland China QR (CMCC = China Mobile Communications Corporation) and closed itself after 2 warning beeps. Oh well, at least it proves that ScanBuy is indeed targeting the Chinese market.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

QR Code Billboard In Taipei

Pictures of QR Codes being displayed on big billboards are easy to stumble upon when one tries to research the subject, but they usually take place in Japan. Thanks to my colleague Yuki, the word is that a QR Code billboard has been spotted in Taipei.

The QR Code contains a URL and it looks like the purpose of this advertisement is to sell more advertisement, which will be placed on the packaging of free tissue papers given out in parking lots. The format of the QR Code content doesn't adhere to the standards suggested by Taiwan's Open Mobile Internet Alliance though. If you like to see the actual billboard in person, scan the QuickMark barcode for location information on how to get there.

Since the person who made this QR Code probably wasn't aware of the content format issues regarding barcode generation, I thought I'd do a simple test to see how some of the popular mobile barcode readers perform under this kind of situation.

QuickMark recognized the QR as simple text, but allows one to pull up Notes and access the URL link, add to bookmarks, add to contacts, or perform other functions from there.

Kaywa is the other reader that allows the user to browse the URL as the author of the barcode had intended. Both i-nigma and ScanLife were only able to decode the QR as regular text strings and provide no further functionality. So it looks like although Kaywa and i-nigma both use 3GVision's engine, they each have their own parser and handle the decoded data differently.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

QR Codes On Rice

Ever wondered if your food is safe to eat? I haven't, but I'm just trying to avoid the dreadful truth. Japan has implemented its food tracking system (with QR Codes) for some time now (supposedly due to the news of the Mad Cow disease and counterfeit products back in 2001) and Taiwan's Council of Agriculture has decided to follow suit.

QR Codes are placed on certified products so that the complete manufacturing process of agricultural products can be easily looked up by consumers. Of course, too much data can sometimes be a bad thing for mobile devices, so one gets only the most important information, such as date produced. And since mobile barcode readers and mobile internet access still aren't popular enough with the general public, kiosks are placed at selected locations (supermarkets) for 2D barcode scanning purposes. This is the second year of action for these QR Code stickers (it has been redesigned), for more information, visit the Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System website.

I wonder how this is going to work if these products get distributed to the traditional markets though, where the shoppers tend to be of the mom/grandmom demographics and usually do not have or know how to use mobile barcode readers?

I also have doubts as to whether they encoded their QR Codes correctly, since both the barcodes displayed on their website and an actual sticker revealed a curious looking URL when scanned (something like HTTP>&&QRC.TW&_Q)1000mTAHB0pnRQ).

References: QuickMark, InfoTimes, EpochTimes, COA, TAFT

Thursday, August 23, 2007

2007 Taipei Cultural Passport

Back in June, Taipei City Government's Department of Culture Affairs launched their annual campaign to promote Taipei's tourist attractions called the 2007 Taipei Cultural Passport. They published a little booklet filled with sightseeing information and are freely distributed at various locations such as the airport or the MRT.

This year, QR Codes were promoted as a new feature on the international version of the Taipei Cultural Passport. Their reasoning behind this idea is actually quite interesting. They had 2 language versions of the Passport contents for the international version: English and Japanese. However, they simply did not have enough room (any perhaps budget) to print both languages in the booklet. Considering how common it is nowadays for Japanese mobile phones to have built-in mobile barcode readers, they decided to encode all the Japanese content into QR Codes.

The finished product contains 2 QR Codes for each tourist attraction, one contains the entire text description in Japanese and the other containing the contact/address information of the place. Since complete paragraphs were encoded into QR Codes, the barcodes are extremely dense. And because of the limited printing space, the physical size of the barcodes had to be reduced as well.

The result is that only phones with cameras that support macro lens are able to read those barcodes. The good news for them is that unlike rest of the world, the majority of Japanese mobile phones actually do have great macro lens capability, so at least their target audience will be able to benefit from the QR Codes.

They printed 25,000 copies of the international version and the last I heard was that it ran out pretty fast and had plenty of requests for more copies. Maybe we will be seeing more of these barcodes from the Department of Culture Affairs next year?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

QR Code + Emoticons = ?

FarEasTone recently have been running an ad on the mini-newspaper Upaper to promote Nokia handsets as well as QR Code. Upaper claims on its frontpage that it averaged a daily distribution of 1,155,297 copies in July, so this ad should have gotten plenty of eyeballs. Upaper is distributed for free at various MRT stations in Taipei.

The QR Code in display contains the simple text: "hey~ you are a little strange" (translated from Chinese). It turns out that these QR Codes are supposed to be used like secret messages. They are even made into magnets (along with a board for display) and are gifts to customers of specific phones. So it might work like this: if you are too shy to say something in person, you can choose to stick QR magnet on your cubicle and your colleagues will have to have a barcode reader to figure out what you have in mind. They are also giving out special QR Codes that give exclusive access to ringtones & wallpapers of popular music artists, more detailed information can be found at FET's promotional webpage or you can click here to try scanning some of these codes (I was able to read the codes directly from the images using QuickMark on N73).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bottle Of Tea

My colleague recently returned from Japan with a bottle of green tea, and on it was a peculiar looking sticker with a hidden QR Code underneath. So I try to find out what one can do with it.

The QR Code contains the URL: and can be accessed from either the mobile or the PC. However, they do not have a mobile version of their website if you access via your phone. From what I can understand, these special stickers are only placed on drink bottles sold from vending machines. There is a 14 digit code on the sticker for the user to collect points, which in turn can be used to redeem certain prizes once you've accumulated enough points. The user is also supposed to create a login ID before they can start entering the 14 digit code and collect points, but it isn't obvious on their site on how to do so.

I am not particularly impressed with the process (the prizes seem pretty nice though), but I think it is worth noting that Japanese companies are willing to print QR Codes even when the barcode has so little to do with anything else other than to direct mobile users to their site (they actually spell out the encoded URL on the sticker too, so the QR can be totally unnecessary). I am sure that a lot of companies outside of Japan will question the benefit of printing this kind of 2D barcodes for such little purpose, and this is one of the main reasons why the rest of the world is still lagging behind Japan in terms of mobile barcode adoption.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spreading The Word On Mobile Barcodes

Popular Taiwanese blogger amarylliss recently blogged about her recent experience with QR Codes and has started to display QR Codes on her blog.

DigitalHome prints an introductory article on QR Codes in its July 2007 issue.

If you don't read Chinese, no worries. is a new blog that is committed to blogging about 2D barcodes as well -- in Spanish.

The point is, the majority of the general public still needs to be educated on 2D barcdoes, and I'm glad to see some effort going on. There are definitely a lot of mobile barcode enthusiasts out there and here are some blogs and/or articles to give one a head start on this subject, in no particular order:

Rex's blah blah blah (Chinese) - One of the most informative introductions to 2D barcodes and with great industry insight.

The Pondering Primate - Probably the blog that coined the term "physical world connection", always up to date on the latest developments on mobile barcodes.

QR Code Blog (Japanese) - Though discontinued, the blog's attempt at blogging with QR Codes is still quite interesting to see.

All About Mobile Life - Kaywa expert's blog always has something nice to share.

Bar code Insight (Chinese) - Observes the mobile barcode developments happening in Mainland China.

Tommi's S60 applications blog - Developer at Nokia shares views on mobile barcode applications. - Has an in depth review and comparison of various 2D barcode readers.

David Harper's Different Things - WinkSite founder introduces QR Codes.

BeeTagg Mobile Tagging Blog (Swiss) - BeeTagg's official blog.

streetstylz - NeoMedia's unofficial blog official blog, I think.

Make a Difference - Blog by NextCode's director of product management .

ShotCode Blog - ShotCode's official blog.

It's great to see that a lot of people are actively raising awareness on mobile barcodes. Again, there is a lot more information out there, and it's tough to list them all. Remember, search engines are our friends...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Data Matrix On Nokia Batteries

This week, Nokia issued a product advisory for their BL-5C batteries manufactured by Matsushita between 12/2005 ~ 11/2006. There have been rare occurrences of battery overheating and customers are allowed to exchange their batteries if they have any concerns.

Most of us have long noticed the Data Matrix barcodes printed on Nokia batteries or on the phones itself beside the IMEI, but this is the first time I see them close to being used to interact with the end customer. In this case, of course, the end user uses the Battery Identification Number (which is what is encoded as the Data Matrix) to determine if they have a good battery or not.

I guess in such scenarios, the phone wouldn't be able to scan the barcode on its own battery. So, it might be pretty convenient if one can use his/her webcam to perform this kind of task. Scanning barcodes can be achieved by using an application such as QuickMark for WebCam or HOOP, but making sure that it knows where to look up the information (Nokia's database) would require some sort of arrangement between the application and the database. Probably wishful thinking on my part, but it'd be cool though.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scanning Barcodes On The Bus May Be Tough

Using the mobile device to look up bus schedules is an easy and useful concept to grasp, and so the Taipei City Government launched such a service earlier last month.

Although a QR Code is printed on the promotional poster, it is simply a link to, where the user gets to download a Java Midlet that is specially designed to keep track of the whereabouts of the buses in Taipei City. Swiss company BeeTagg also launched a similar service with PostBus Switzerland Ltd last month, except that their mobile tag links directly to the bus info.

This news is already a month old, but I finally ran into one of those posters last week and was eager to try scanning the 2D barcode posted on the bus window. It took less than a second before I realized how difficult the task can be. The bus was not exactly crowded, but I was standing and the bus was moving. On top of that, the poster is positioned on the lower half of the window, so I had to stick out my arm in front of the seated passenger's face to get to the barcode. It must have been a weird sight indeed.

For more detailed news and info: m-bus application screenshots, or if you want to check the Taipei bus schedule on the web: Taipei e-bus system.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Popularity Contest: QR Code VS Data Matrix

QR Code and Data Matrix are clearly the two most popular 2D barcode standards at this moment, but which of the two is more popular? Using "qr code" and "data matrix" as keyword entries on Google Trends reveals that Data Matrix has an advantage over QR in terms of search frequency, but the overall trend shows that QR is quickly gaining momentum.

Google Trends also breaks down the data into regions, and perhaps to a lot of people's surprise, Taiwan ranks way up there in terms of search frequency for the the term "qr code". Looking at Singapore's data (compare its graphical representation when sorted by QR & Data Matrix respectively) also reveals how great the Taiwanese interest is in QR Code. I believe this is the result of a group effort by the members of the Open Mobile Internet Alliance, which includes operators, device manufacturers, software providers, and content providers to promote the awareness of mobile barcodes.

From the end users' perspective, they are starting to see QR Codes pop-up around them, on magazines, newspapers, websites, and even produce. And more new handsets that support mobile barcode readers are also coming into market, for instance the majority of the devices by Asus, Eten, GigaByte, HTC/Dopod, and Nokia come preloaded with or supported by QuickMark's barcode reader. With the contents and tools both coming into place, this trend should continue.

Friday, August 10, 2007

QR Code Sighting @ Wikimania 2007

Wikimania 2007 was held here in Taipei last week and QR Codes were utilized in their marketing material.

Anyone who attended their events were able to receive a tourist map with QR Codes pointing to detailed info about certain tourist attractions in the nearby area.

A portion of the map was also printed on UPaper, a free mini-newspaper distributed at the various MRT stations in Taipei. The map was a collaboration between Wikipedia, udnDigital, and IconLab.

Unfortunately, the QR Codes did not implement the latest spec defined by OMI@, which would allow the barcode to contain the name, address, telephone number, website, as well as longitude & latitude coordinates for GPS navigation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mobile TV @ Mobile Monday Taipei

This month's topic at Mobile Monday Taipei is Mobile TV and David Tsai (project manager, GigaByte) and Francesca Lai (project director, Public Television Service Foundation) both made interesting presentations on the topic. Of course, David showed off the latest GigaByte T600 PDA phone which is able to receive both DVB-T and DVB-H broadcasts; while PTS showcased its live contents for the mobile TV. There were live also demos on phones from Nokia and Samsung, and some photos of the prototype phones being developed by Asus, Mitac, Motorola, and Compal were also presented. Both presenters mentioned that the local Taiwanese operators' interest in mobile TV are quite high, but there are still aways (3~5 years) to go before significant adoption will take place in the local market. In fact, the Taiwanese government has yet to grant license for DVB-H and there are currently 5 groups conducting field tests/trials in various parts of Taiwan.

David highlighted 2 main differences between DVB-T and DVB-H:
1) DVB-H is designed to have better battery efficiency, which is quite important since people wouldn't want to miss any important calls just because they watched a few minutes of mobile tv.
2) DVB-T is designed for home settings while DVB-H is tailored for mobility. This means that one has a better chance of getting DVB-H programming when traveling in a car or on a train. However, it still depends on how strong the signals are in certain areas. According to David, the T600 is able to receive DVB-T signals when driving at only 60 km/hr in Taipei versus 80 km/hr in Vienna, Austria.

There are currently 16 free channels on DVB-T today in Taiwan, and users can get free sneak previews of the contents on DVB-H as well since they are still on trial.

Monday, July 23, 2007

QR Code T-Shirt DIY

By now everyone has probably seen those Sony Ericsson commercials in which they use the SE logo as part of their tag lines, such as: I (SE) Music and several others. And of course, printing QR Codes on t-shirts is nothing new, so I decided to create one just for fun. It will probably be even more fun if I get to wear a real one on the street though, wonder what people's reactions might be? Hey, are you reaching for your mobile barcode reader already?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

QR Code For Price Comparison Results

Amidst all the excitement about the potential of mobile (2D) barcodes, one of the most frequently asked questions / comments is probably something along the lines of: Where can I find such mobile barcodes to scan? What happens when I scan a mobile barcode?

There are certainly numerous examples out there, but today I'd like to share with you one of those QR Code sightings at

FindBook is a sort of the local Taiwanese version of BestBookBuys or PriceGrabber. Their latest feature is to show a QR Code on the price comparison page, which contains the best price of the book of interest. That way, instead of taking out your paper and pen to jot down the info, you will only need your mobile phone to keep the search data handy.

Since the data contained is the QR Code is just plain text, it is fairly staright forward to use. Simply scan & save and you're set to view it whenever you like.

It's always nice to see websites incorporating the use of mobile barcodes and FindBook's attempt is a good start that hopefully stimulates more advanced applications/services. For instance, what if the user is able to receive price discounts or vouchers at certain bookstores as a reward for scanning the 2D barcode?

Not trying to be nitpicking, but for my particular book price comparison, the information encoded inside the QR Code is the price info of a pure online bookstore (no brick-and-mortar presence), rendering the action of storing the price information on the mobile phone redundant and useless.

Terracotta Soldier

The recent exhibition for the Terracotta Army of the Qin dynasty at the National Museum of History in Taipei is actually quite interesting. There aren't as many artifacts as I expected, but still plenty enough to give people a good idea of what China was like thousands of years ago.

For those who've never heard of the Terracotta Army, they are replica figures of life-size soldiers that were meant to be buried with Qin's first emperor so that he can continue to conquer/rule wherever he is going after death.

Personally, I felt the ticket price is a little expensive considering the size of the exhibition (NTD 400), but I got lucky as a lady sold us her extra tickets for half the price. Nonetheless, there were plenty of visitors yesterday, mostly parents with their kids (homework for the summer vacation perhaps?). The exhibition lasts till 8/2 so if anybody is interested, you better hurry.

Since we're not allowed to take photos of the authentic Terracottas inside, I had to settle on the replicas outside the museum. Actually, you can even buy one if you like them so much (NTD 10,000+ ). And if you are wondering what that mysterious looking thing is on the bottom left hand corner of the picture, it is a 2D barcode. You will need to download QuickMark's application either to your mobile phone or your PC (webcam required) to read it. If you scan it with your QuickMark enabled webcam, it will take you right to where the Terracottas were first discovered. Check it out!