Thursday, March 26, 2009

Continous Mode 2d barcode reader for Iphone

The QuickMark reader (v 3.8) was release early in march. Among support for the other major platforms, this version has a build for the Iphone (availabe on App Store). 

2 things stand out:

Conitnous Scanning mode for Iphone ... wow, I was under the impression that the Iphone camera worked in the snapshot mode similar to J2ME but apparantly not. Cannot wait to get my hands on the app and try it out. The user experience will knock the other 2D barcode readers on the Iphone out.

Support for 1D barcodes with configurable server url. This is good news for third party developers offering product comparison services. I am not sure of the actual support though, I bet the HTC Dream ( G1) would have the 1D support but not sure if the Iphone supports 1 D scanning. The QuickMark site mentions that the 1D scanning is supported only on auto focus and macro focus based camera phones.
Links:
Via:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Outsourcing in Sports

Baseball scouts visit India in search for Pitchers.

Wonder if NFL would be going to India too ... unlikely but possible.

Friday, March 20, 2009

2D Barcodes to assist mobile content download

The 2D barcode model by its very nature works well in facilitating the download of content ( wall papers, ringtones, games etc) on the mobile device. I have been a strong supporter of the use of the barcodes in helping download content and I believe that digital content rather than mobile advertising would make the 2D barcode scanning adoption wider.

The use of 2D Barcodes (QR Codes) began in Japan and we had all sorts of applications coming out including the use of barcodes to deliver content.
 
The first time I saw barcodes being used for downloads close to home was back in 2006 when GetJar was using the GOD application to allow users to scan ShotCodes . The model was simple, the scanner worked on most camera phones, the Shotcode was easy to scan even with the quality of images from most cell phone cameras at that time, the scanner would shoot the code and launch the WAP browser that pointed to the download page for the application. The barcodes were published on the website under the Camera download section.  For some reason, I guess GetJar stopped using the 2D barcode system on their site, I do not find it anymore.

I recently came across Cellufun using the same download model using ScanLife EzCodes to facilitate downloads.  They have placed a barcode with all their content, the barcode is displayed in a "GET IT NOW" web widget displayed on either the left or right of all content pages. The barcode currently points to the main cellufun wap site rather than to the individual content page. I was hoping for a similar flow as the Camera Download on GetJar earlier but was disappointed. Its promising to see barcodes pop up on content download sites nevertheless. 

Competing with SMS
The short code SMS technology has long been used in downloading content and rightly so, it works !!!. I believe the mobile 2D barcode technology will work even better in some cases. The way I see it, usability plays a big role:  Launch the scanner app ( hopefully through a shortcut key), wave it over the barcode and voila information is captured and sent as opposed to opening up the compose box and texting in the characters and pressing the send button.
 SMS technology will still remain superior when it comes to pushing downloads on radio or television ( I really don't see people scanning the barcodes of their TV screens ... not yet at least) but its the pushing of content downloads from printed material and regular web sites where the 2D barcode technology can make a significant impact.This being said, the industry behind the 2D barcode technology needs to get its act together and tackle the issues:
1. Standardization: The industry is going through its own "browser wars" phase with everyone coming out with their own proprietery 2d symbology.  The industry must agree on certain formats, I do not think just the one format would be the clear winner as every symbology has its advantages in its own space. 
2. Interoperability: Lets face it, there are plenty of Scanner applications out there and as many resolution systems. The systems need to learn to talk the same language to interoperate. The GSMA and OMA standards for mobile barcodes looks like a step in the right direction.
3. Preloads Preloads Preloads: Burn the scanner app within the native camera module. The end user doesnt need a scanner app, he already has the camera. The 2D system that does this on a larger scale wins...

Peek into the Future
The 2D barcode technology has a Ace up its sleeve, "download content directly from the barcode" , No data connection required(take that SMS).  Imagine downloading a game or wallpaper without a data connection.

Applix and Mediaseek had announced that would work together on a camera based content management system (using CamReader) back in february. The CamReader app in Japan has already been use to download Jpegs and videos directly off QR codes.
The Mobile Multi Color Composite 2D codes (MMCC)created a buzz when they were announced and show a lot of promise in delivering content.  Cant wait till they get adopted in the main stream.

The V-Code (video 2D code) is another technology that could completely revamp the content download space. The only drawback is that since its a video code, it cannot be used on printed material but delivering content from websites would be a breeze especially in markets like India where data service on mobile phones is just picking up and there is a big demand for graphic content.

Barcodes, Barcodes and more Barcodes....
Qr Code started off as de facto standard in Japan but never really caught on in the rest of the world in the early years as the phone cameras were incapable of handling the density, this seems to be changing now as there is a wider adoption of smart phones. Datamatrix, more prevelant in Europe did get a good start with the Imode specification in France but I am now not sure as to its international appeal. Proprietery technologies (EzCode, Qode, BeeTagg, Microsoft Tag ... ) have had success in the recent years in several mobile phone based campaigns due to the ease of scanning that they offer.

I do believe that the 2D barcode industry should actively focus on the digital content market and provide solutions that make it easier for content providers to push content to the end user through the 2d codes. Content embedding barcodes show promise but until they become a reality the 2d barcode technology can rely on the on the in-direct model of taking the end user to the wap page with the link to download the content. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mippin Mobilizer for your Blog

I have been playing around with the Mippin Mobilizer to get a mobile version of my  blog.  I must say its a pretty cool service.  The service generates a WAP page from a existing RSS or Atom feed, ideal for blogs. I created a wap version of my blog: http://mippin.com/punitraizada (check it out on your mobile device - scan barcode below).


Scan the code on the left to view my blog on your mobile phone. To get the reader visit http://getscanlife.com on your mobile device.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cool use of QR codes and Google Chart API

Came across the Cristian Contini's blog. Check out the cool use of QR codes to allow the user to get the perma link of the post. Really simple to setup. Neat idea.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Collector uses BeeTagg to attract Mobile Customers

Menu Collector is UK based website that provides users with take away menu's of resturants.  The website is currently being developed and at present has only the small area South Wales covered with a limited amount of menu's. 
The thing that attracted me to the website is that they have decided use BeeTagg(image on left) to promote the site to mobile users.  Nice to see the spread of 2D barcodes.

The code currently points to a RSS feed that is not viewable on mobile devices. This is where I believe the Feed2Mobile technology from Kaywa will come in handy. 

QR Code Art

Came across this the Craft Blog. Learn how to make your very own QR Code scarf :). 


Saturday, March 14, 2009

ScanLife: Multiple Action Codes aka Menu Codes

Checked out the Menu Codes on ScanLife yet?
If not then you should definitely give it a try. ScanLife allows publishers to associate multiple actions with the same barcode. The actions are displayed to the end user in a menu, the end user selects the action he wants to execute.
- From Scanlife Website:
"These codes come in handy when you have a lot to offer. They're also incredibily useful when you want the user to choose what's right for them. They can check out a movie preview, find the closest theater or maybe even buy tickets - all in one code!"
At present 7 different actions can be embedded into a Menu code in any order: Web (for web sites), SMS ( snd txt), CALL ( phone call), MMS (snd mms),  CONTACT (vcf), EMAIL and NOTE (txt note).

The possibilities of this code are endless, these are ideal for Voting Campaigns (allow users to vote by Web or SMS for the options), Product Mktg campaigns (allow the user to choose the promo material he wants to see specs, wall papers, more info).
I used the menu code to publish my personal information (img on right). The menu code can easily replace the barcode on the back of my business card as it gives the end user the option of what information he would like to use rather than having to download the entire info and then having to sort through it.

You can scan the my barcode  (img on the left) to get my personal menu on your phone. To download the scanlife reader visit http://getscanlife.com on your mobile phone.  At present the menu code is supported by Windows, palm, symbian, Iphone and the Android platforms. There is limited support for this feature in the Java based readers.

To create your very own Menu code, login to your account on scanlife.com and select the Menu icon () from the create code section on the left.  If you do not already have a account, you can register for a personal ( free) or Commercial account

Friday, March 13, 2009

Manik gets active on the Blogosphere

Manik finally gets onto the Blogging bandwagon. Check it out:

JAGTAG, "Request 2 Get" flows with barcodes

JAGTAG is a proprietery 2D barcode symbology that offers pretty much the same functionality as the other 2D symbologies. The main selling point emphasized here is that you do not need a scanner ( or reader) application installed on your phone. The system works through the MMS ( email for Iphone) model where the end user simply has to snap a picture and MMS it to 524824. Iphone users can email their code image to iphone@jagtag.net.  This is similar to the model used by Mobot and some other companies.

I tried the service out with Shabbir's Iphone and it was pretty good. Took a picture of the JAGTAG in low lighting and sent out the email, I had the response back via email (image on the side)  in under 2 minutes. The only peeve about the service, I got back the email with a Quicktime video file that I couldnt play on the Iphone. Not a very good user experience but I guess that just depends on the content provider and is not necessarily a reflection of the service. 


Some issues that JAGTAG would have to solve if they want to really make it a viable solution (if they havent already solved them):
  1. Latency issues, MMS and the subsequesnt SMS back can run into latency issues. I bet the actual time that the JAGTAG server takes to decode the image and act on it is in milliseconds but the time taken to send an MMS can lead to a bad user experience
  2. Success Ratio: The end user needs some training in how to take the image so that the complete barcode is in the picture and size of the barcode modules ( black dots) is large enough for the server algorithm to decipher.
I am currently not sure how a regular user will be able to create JAGTAG codes, would definitely love to add one to the side bar. 

ScanLife EZCodes in Brazil

Saw this on the 2d-code blog.

Citro├źn a car company in Brazil launched a campaign to promote its C4 Hatchback model. The campaign uses Ezcodes to allow users to view specifications, download wallpapers etc right on their mobile handset. 



Thursday, March 12, 2009

UpcodeWorld : Virtual Competition

UpCode is offering a chance to win 100 Euros, all you have to do is download the UpCode reader (available here), on your phone (supported list) and scan a UpCode. 

The idea behind the competition is that you scan a upcode and then embed another picture onto the scanned code image (mashup) and upload this mash to the site. The number of votes on a picture will decide who wins the prize on May 1st 2009.

Its a neat idea to get the people to download more readers, but there are just too many manual steps.  You can get the details of the competetion on the UpcodeWorld site. 


UpCode is a 2 D barcode designed to be scanned from mobile phones like the Ezcode and BeeTagg codes.  The UpcodeWorld site is the place you go to create your own Upcode.  I guess the system is still under development as of now. 

Web as a mobile Enterprise Application Pllatform

John Huffman wrote up a interesting post on why the web (WAP) platform is just not cut out for enterprise applications as yet. He points out the following reasons for the thin client approach not making the cut:

"Latency - The first big obstacle was the screen refresh problem. Any time we wanted to change application state required a round trip to the server and a screen refresh. With AJAX this is better, but it does makes development more difficult.

Device Features - One of the main reason that we people use mobile devices is for all of the cool features such as barcode scanning, magnetic stripe readers, cameras, video, messaging, etc.   Not to mention a pretty powerful CPU, persistent storage, and the other features of a portable computer. With web apps, you are generally limited to the functionality of your browser. To some extent you can get around this with ActiveX controls and third party browser extensions such as Motorola’s PocketBrowser, but this is all custom.
Bells and Whistles -Audio is a critical component of Enterprise applications. For some reason Microsoft all but eliminated sound from the mobile web. Without audio cues, alerting users of errors is less effective. Again we can use third party tools for this such as PocketBrowser, but…
Web Standards Support - Here’s another big frustration area that drives developers crazy. It’s only natural that the Microsoft developers made some trade offs when they implemented the mobile browsers, but clearly they weren’t targeting it as an application platform from their choices. Take the single window limitation, i.e. no popup window for displaying error messages or alerts. Or not supporting absolute position.  While these types of limits don’t prevent development, it just makes things more difficult."

I couldnt agree with him more on the frustration at the lack of support for Web standards.  In the mobile world anything goes including very loose implementation and own interpretation of the standards. Device features is another strong point in the demise of WAP. The WTAI spec seems to have been abandoned, I would have hoped that more URI schemes would be added to support access to camera etc but the mobile browser for now is just not heading in that direction. 

Another approach would be a thin client application that embeds the browser inside it. This still gives you flexibility to modify the interface from the server and the thin client can access the device features. On BREW, IHTMLVIEWER control is something I have used, pretty flexible though it works only with the HTML 4.1 standard out of the box but certain features can be modifed. On most smart phones including Iphone the browser can be embedded inside the app. This gives flexibility to the server component to adapt and modify the user experience with ease.

Original Post: http://www.steponesystems.com/blog/?p=247

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blackberry Browser and the CSS setting for WAP pages

The blackberry browser ships with a default setting that turns off the use the CSS style sheets ( and HTML tables). I believe this is done so that the pages load faster. The user can turn on the use of CSS style sheets through options but in my experience a large number of users do not know that this option exists. This can be a pain for wap developers if the wap page is sensitive to be displayed only in a particular style.

I had been struggling with trying to find some HTTP header or something similar that will allow me to detect on the server whether the blackberry browser has the CSS option turned on or not. As expected, did not find any. 

There is another approach, the power of CSS itself can be used to make the user more aware of the options.
The hack would involve:
  1. Come up with text that tells the user that the page is best viewed with CSS turned on. (Possibly add a link to a page that tells the user how exactly to do this).
  2. Setting the style of the information text above using 2 properties : visibility and display.

What we do is add a paragraph (p tag) of text that tells the user to turn on the CSS option as shown in our page on the left. You can use any element like Span, a or div. Just make sure you set the style accordingly and the browser supports the html element.

If the CSS is tuned off then the page will display with the all black font etc as shown in the left and our text will be displayed to the user (mission accomplished). 


To hide the text when the user has turned on the CSS setting, we use the properties: visibility and display.
.styletext
{
    font-size: xx-small;
    color: #000000;
    text-align: left;
    visibility:hidden;
    display:none;
}
<p class="styletext" >
This page is best viewed when you turn on CSS on your browser.
</p>
The reason I use both the properties is that I do not know what phone will support which property. The visibility property hides the element and the display property removes the element from the view. The image on the right shows how the page would look when the CSS is turned on by the user. 

Please note that the screen shot is from a blackberry curve and this phone does not seem to support the display css property and hence you see the empty white space on top. The kickstart phone actually removed the white space from the top too.

You will find list of supported CSS properties on the blackberry here. The visibility and display properties are available from browser version 4.6 and later. Do not trust this though. I found that even though the visibility property was supported by all the phones I tested, the display property was only supported by the Blackberry Kickstart (9100).

Phones Tested and this hack works:
- Blackberry Curve
- Blackberry Pearl
- Blackberry Kickstart

Steps for Toggling CSS and Tables option in Blackberry:

1. Open the Menu and select "Options"
2. On the Browser Options screen, select "Browser Configuration".
3. Select / Unselect the "Support Style Sheets" | "Support HTML tables" option.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Embed almost anything on your HTML page

Amit Agarwal has compiled a excellent list of thingies. A must read for all web developers !!!.

Article: http://www.labnol.org/internet/how-to-embed-in-html-webpages/6365/

SplashURL uses QR codes (SplashQRCode Bookmarklet)

Found this on Tony Hirst's blog.
The Splash Url service seems similar to the tiny url service. It shortens the longer URLS into smaller versions. This can be of help during presentations etc. One feature that Christopher Gutteridge has added is the ability to generate QR codes from these smaller links.
Pretty neat idea. I installed the SplashQRCode bookmarklet on my firefox and it works well. I regularly use the Mobile Barcoder plugin in firefox for all my converting urls to QR codes needs and one problem I always found was that the QR codes for longer urls ( e.g. the urls of blog posts) can get ery long and this leads to a big ass barcode.  Scanning these barcodes is a pain.  Using the Splash URL plugin you get QR codes with decent sizes.
I am currently not sure whether the small urls are stored somewhere on the server and will be available if I scan the QR code say later in the evening. 
One thing I picked up from Tony's blog post was concern over how to monetize the transaction. One idea is, when the user scans the QRCODE, show him a wap page with some branding and adverts. The user can skip this page and go to the final page by clickin the link.  If an institution does not adverts to be shown before its pages, let it pay a fee of say 1 cent a scan. The goal is no money to be charged to the end user  (person who scans the QR code). 

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Inquisitor now on Iphone


Yahoo Search released the Inquisitor application for Iphone on March 5th. The app speeds up searches like no other through a nifty auto complete and suggestions feature.


"Inquisitor Mobile Search auto-completes your search and gives suggestions as you type to refine your search. When you type in your query, websites and suggestions appear immediately below the search box. Inquisitor also speeds up your search by quickly loading site summaries and allowing you to navigate between results and the browser with just one click."

More on Inquisitor:

Yahoo Search Blog Post:

Friday, March 06, 2009

12Pixels, Draw on your mobile phone, 1 pixel at a time.

The 12Pixels sytem provides a end user the ability to draw and share pixel based imagery using only the keys on the standard mobile phone. See the video below, you will be amazed at the stuff you can do with such a simple interface.

12pixels was recently released in Japan in association with Sony Style. The images drawn by the end users can be saved on the phone as wallpapers, converted to emoticons and even sent to friends in messages.


I loved the simplicity of the user interface to make the images, even though the system is not flexible enough to make the monalisa but sure makes it simple to make emoticons. Cool toy to have !!! Some of the works of art are below, you can find more here and here. A blog post by the creator describing the project is here.

                 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A list of barcode readers

Simone O'Callaghan has put up a pretty comprehensive list of barcode readers on her blog.

Check it out: Current graphical tag readers for mobile phones

Cardstar : Scan 1 D codes from your phone and save

Picked this up on barcode.com.



The CardStar iPhone application allows users to store their rewards and membership cards on their IPhone from where most merchants can scan them directly from the IPhone screen using the regular laser scanners.This is neat ! think about the clutter it will remove from people's key chains. My key chain currently has (apart from keys) the little barcoded tags of Pathmark, Shoprite, Stop n Shop, NYSC....(the list goes longer each time I visit a new store).

Whats taken such a app to come out for so long?
Previously, 1D barcodes, which are used at most stores, could not be scanned directly from the LCD screen by Laser scanners (used in almost all retail stores at point of sale). Working with the Symbol CS 1504 scanners in my early years taught me this lesson the very painful way.

The CardStar people however, have figured a way out. Scanning a barcode from the screen is difficult as the screen is really made up of red, green, and blue lines, which interfere with a laser scanner. The folks at CardStar were able to get around this by re-configuring the way the barcode/image is rendered on the LCD in portrait mode. Nice !!!!

The success of the application lies in the high successful scanning percentage and the technology offered by CardStar has shown pretty high numbers in controlled environments and general environments. I believe more tests would be conducted before there is a push for adoption. I for one am a big supporter of this technology as it really does not impact the retailers as much and hopefully the application on the phone will be free for the end user in the near future :) (Its currently priced at $0.99).

More info on the App: http://www.mycardstar.com

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

QR codes used to Tag monuments in Dutch city of Utrecht

The Utrecht Monuments Fund is celebrating 65 years. The foundation is responsible maintainence of historical buildings in the city of Utrecht. The foundation, working in partnership with One Shoe has placed QR codes on the buildings to allow people to get more information on the buildings. 

Visitors can use their mobile phone to scan the barcode and visit a mobile website that contains the historical facts of the particular building , including photographs of the interior and exterior. This allows the visitors to have a interactive experience while they tour the old heritage buildings.This is believed to be the first time QR codes are being used for tagging monuments.

I am amazed with the traction that the QR codes are getting in Europe. I would have imagined that the 2 D symbology of choice in the european market would have been Datamatrix. 

I was trying to find a mention of the scanner that the foundation is recommending but couldnt find any. I guess any QR code scanner would do since the codes are all direct codes and have the url of the mobile site encoded in them. 

More Information: