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.

No comments: