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