Tags and 2D Bar Codes

Well… it just goes to show…. Trying to maintain a blog while working for a fast moving company is, at the very least, challenging. In any event, I said in my last post that I’d provide an additional perspective on less-than-useful convergent technologies. But first, let’s take a look at my definition of a “less-than-useful convergent technology.”

Broadly defined, a less-than-useful convergent technology is any technology that — no matter how cool, elegant or technically sophisticated – does not readily lend itself to creating a more engaging, mobile-enabled digital signage viewership experience. In my previous post, I noted that Bluetooth, although a very cool and wonderful technology, is “less-than-useful”– at least in the States – for creating a convergent digital signage / mobile device experience. Another example of a technology that, in my opinion, is not ready for “convergence prime time” is 2D bar codes.

2D bar codes are similar to those patterned squares on the shipping labels that your UPS driver scans when they pick up your packages. The concept behind a “mobile implementation” of 2D bar codes (which by-the-way has been around since the late 1990’s) assumes that a 2D bar code would be affixed to an object. The bar code would then be subsequently photographed by a mobile device user via their phone’s camera. Once photographed, the user’s phone would provide additional information about the object to which the bar code would be attached. Sounds cool huh? Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as practical as it is cool. First, the user must download an application for recognizing 2D bar codes. Second, the user must experiment with getting a good “interpretable” photo of the bar code. Third, user must know about the technology before they can use it, which is tough because there is no general awareness that this type of thing exists.

Some have suggested that 2D bar codes and similar technologies like Microsoft’s TAG could be displayed as a part of digital signage content. It has been suggested too that the screen could be photographed so that more information connected with the screen’s content could be delivered to the user’s phone. This sounds good in theory, but the aforementioned impediments suggest that other technologies such as text short codes could be easier and more convenient to implement and use. If I was a betting man, I’d bet that even more advanced technologies will supplant bar coding/tagging all together before there is a general awareness that this type of technology even exists.

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