Saturday, October 18, 2008

Having fun with 2D barcodes before NFC arrives

I had some sparetime and thought to check out what one could do with 2D barcodes. The main idea is that when you see a 2D barcode you point your smartphone's camera to it and hold it there for a while. After this, something happens. This something depends on the content of the 2D barcode. It can be either a link, a phone number, an e-mail address or a business card. If you try the code below, you'll notice that it contains my work information (first name, last name, phone number, e-mail address).

In addition to camera phone, you also need barcode reader software. Some Nokia phones have the reader pre-installed but there are also numerous 3rd party softwares. For more information about 2D barcodes, you can check Nokia's site. You'll find also a tool for creating your own 2D barcodes.

I didn't do anything special with these codes, I just added barcode to back of my business card using a sticker paper which I found from my workplace.

Although 2D barcodes aren't too easy to use, they have some clear benefits: they are free to create and you can put them basically anywhere. I've seen them recently even in newspapers in some municipal elections ad.

With these two benefits, you would have the possibility to tackle the traditional chicken and egg problem. You can just add 2D barcodes anywhere and this way get more users, probably relatively slow, but still. With numerous 2D barcodes on the wild, I believe there would be more and more 2D barcode readers pre-installed in phones.

When users have learnt to "point-and-click" using 2D barcodes, transformation to NFC will be much easier. NFC is much more user-friendly than 2D barcode because you don't need to have an additional reader software installed and turned on. NFC is also much faster, "swiping" is usually enough for activating the session.

NFC has all the same use cases than 2D barcode plus a few more. You can pair devices, initiate proximity payments and exchange information between devices with it. Unfortunately NFC is not yet available widely but there are some different kinds of pilots around the world. Nokia is bringing their first NFC-capable phone, Nokia 6212 Classic, to the markets soon. (Yes, there is also Nokia 6131 NFC, but it hasn't hit the mass markets.)

So before NFC comes, you can play with 2D barcodes in the meantime. How would you utilise these 2D barcodes? What is the most weirdest place you've seen these?

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