Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes are commonplace in Japan, but the technology hasn’t taken off in Canada.
Roughly 90 per cent of phones in Japan have 2D barcode readers and 75 per cent of those are used regularly, said Marc Meloche, president of Montreal-based MMMobile, the Canadian distributor for 3GVision Inc.’s i-nigma mobile 2D barcode solution.
Meloche expects the same widespread adoption to take place in Canada by 2013. “Could it fail? Could it not catch on as it did elsewhere? It’s almost impossible because all the players involved, in whatever role, have something to gain from it,” he said.
There are several 2D barcode formats out there, but the most commonly used are Quick Response (QR) and Data Matrix, said Meloche. Data Matrix is a better format than QR, but QR has the “recognizability factor,” he said.
QR, the first 2D barcode, was invented in the 1990’s by Tokyo-based Denso Wave Inc. for the automotive industry. But it wasn’t until NTT DoCoMo Inc. and 3GVision co-created the ability to insert hyperlinks into the code in 2002 that the technology really opened up for consumer use, he said.
The benefit of using either QR or Data Matrix code is that they are open source, so virtually all of the 2D barcode readers out there can read them, said Meloche. The proprietary codes, such as BeeTagg from Connvision Ltd., can only be read by their own readers, which limits their use, he said.
ScanLife, a 2D format from New York City-based Scanbuy Inc., is a popular proprietary code in Canada, said Meloche. “Canada Post is using it, but if you don’t have the ScanLife reader, you can’t read it,” he said.
Two-dimensional barcodes can interact with smartphones in multiple ways, such as directing users to a Web page, to dial a phone number, send a text message or e-mail, open a map or add contact information to an address book, he said.
And the potential applications are endless, said Meloche. Examples include food packing that sends users to online recipes, billboards that redirect to movie listings and newspapers that link to online horoscopes.
Two-dimensional barcodes can also be printed on non-traditional surfaces, such as clothing or even food.
Creating a 2D barcode is a simple process and there are several online services that allow users to create 2D barcodes for free. 3GVision’s site, for example, offers to create 2D barcodes free of charge for non-commercial, personal use.
It takes a couple minutes to create a 2D barcode on 3GVision’s site – enter a title for the code, select either QR or Data Matrix format, choose a file size and decide whether the barcode will link to a Web site, encode a message, provide contact details or send a text.