Is the Barcoding World due to get more Colourful?

19 11 2009

Over the past few weeks I have noticed a growing trend on twitter. More and more discussions regarding the Microsoft Tag. More and more people are talking about how much they love it and use it everyday when out and about. So what is so revolutionising about the Microsoft Tag?

It is similar to most other barcode technologies, like the popular QR Code. It allows information to be stored in a geographical bitmap, but using shapes and colours. This new technology is based on High Capacity Colour Barcodes, which was invented by Microsoft’s own research team. Instead of using square pixels, like those in the QRCode and the Datamatrix Codes, it uses triangle shapes in various colours to store the data.

If you look at the diagram below, you can see how different and strangely simple the tag is compared to conventional barcodes.

Instead of storing the information in the barcode, like the QR Code and the Datamatrix barcodes do, it instead hold’s a unique ID, which when scanned, refers you to the Microsoft server. Doing it this way means that you have the ability to provide a lot more information. It also has the added benefit of being able to measure the amount of people who have scanned a particular Microsoft Tag and have been referred to a particular ID on the Microsoft server.

Reading these tags has been made simple, Microsoft have provided an application to download on to a variety of platforms for your smartphone. These include Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian S60 phones. In order to make the application work, a camera and an internet connection is required. If you would like to download the application for, check out this link and click on your appropriate phone.

I have previously seen barcode scanning applications on other phones, noticeably those designed to be used for the QRCodes, and following my recent blog article regarding this, the technology didn’t come up to scratch. With the Microsoft Tag, you are able to read it from any direction and even from far away.

Even better news is that anyone can go on to the Microsoft Tag website and create their own tag. We have done our own:

Rugged_and_Mobile_Ltd_Microsoft Tag

This technology has the potential to be used massively out in the retail and advertising world. Just imagine walking around town and noticing an advert that you are interested in and scanning the Microsoft Tag taking you directly to a website with all the information for you to look up again later, as and when you need it. I think the barcoding world is going to get a lot more colourful!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

New Global Communication Standards Announced

12 11 2009

Over the past few years mobile communications have grown significantly, mainly due to the trend of being able to do practically anything on our phones. Due to this rapid change in the market, it has been necessary to put in place global standards. The GS1 had developed and put in place a Management Board in order to implement standards in to the market.

The aim of the Management Board is to develop the global standards for mobile commerce and lead global companies in the development of these standards for trusted and efficient mobile communication between businesses and customers via mobile phones.

The Board has recognised the opportunity to extend the GS1 standards that are already in place for Business –to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) processes. Areas such as Barcodes and RFID tags, Data Exchange and Product data relating to consumer information will be affected.

It is hoped that Manufacturers, Suppliers, Operators, Retailers and Associations will come together to agree upon these open and global mobile communication standards. This is also an effort to avoid complexities whilst also reducing costs and ensuring interoperability. Companies are actively encouraged to join the GS1 Management Board and take an active role in the development of the GS1 mobile communication regulations.

Mobile Technology, and mobile communication, is increasingly becoming key to companies marketing campaigns to consumers, and it is hoped that the GS1 regulations will drive efficiency and develop how consumer action is developed on new and emerging mobile technologies.

This is a great step forward in to understanding and considering the needs and wants of the consumer. How many times have we received a text that is spam or is trying to sell us something we don’t want? I have and I know many others have as well. This is a great step forward in regulating how companies go about their mobile marketing campaign, and speaking to everyone in the process is a great start in making it more efficient and providing to the needs of consumers.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Are QR Codes set to take off?

10 11 2009

Scanning barcodes with your Smartphone, whilst out in town, has slowly proven to be very popular. It is an ideal way of getting information quickly on your smartphone. Barcodes, or QR Codes that are increasing in popularity, are now being used in travel guides. The idea is that when you take your travel guide away with you on holiday, you scan the barcode in your guide and you receive more information such as maps and relevant websites, direct to your phone.

QR Codes are used to provide a functional relationship between you and your guidebook, offering you more information and help via the use of your phone. QR Codes have recently taken off in Japan but remain relatively unknown in the UK and the US. There is no need for a barcode scanner as the QR codes can be read through the smartphone camera.

One book already taking up the new codes is “Earthbound: A Rough Guide to the Earth in Pictures” which has about 250 photos from all over the world. In the corner of the page is a QR Code, which offers a link to the location of what is pictured in the photo. You are able to see the location of the picture through the use of Google Maps.

Sounds pretty cool, especially if you are planning a round the world trip and can take advantage of actually going to see where the picture has been taken. I think this is an idea that has a lot of potential. Just imagine going on a city break and scanning a QR Code in your travel guide that brings up a map of where the point of interest is. You can then use this to work out how to get there or browse the internet to bring up the website to tell you the opening times.

Travel Guides do have a shelf life and the information in them can sometimes be inaccurate, what better way to get the most accurate and up to date information than to scan to relevant QR Code and connect via your smartphone to all the links you need. There is one worry though, will the technology be able to keep up? It’s great that the QR Codes are being used, but can you rely upon your smartphone being able to read them?

Personally I have had problems trying to get my smartphone to actually read the QR Code. There was a lot of setting up involved and some confusion before I was able to get it working. I have read multiple forum posts commenting on how hard it is, even for the techies, to get this to work. I am really looking forward for technology like this to become more widely used, but in order for it to have any chance of survival it relies up the tech being up to scratch and being easy to use.

Have you had any experience reading QR Codes with your smartphone? How easy did you find it?

Want to read more? Check out this blog article by Cybertips

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

The Police get smart-ish!

5 11 2009

We were always aware that phones saved us time and here is a big testament to that. Police forces across the UK have taken up the new technology of smartphones to enable their officers to spent more time on the beat. The Police force have said that smartphones now give each of their officers an extra 30 minutes on each shift to spend on the front line. The smartphone has enabled them to access databases and case briefings that are usually only available in the office.

Thirty of the UK Police forces have now been issued with the smartphones and it is thought that many more will take them on. The UK government has given £80Million in funding to help the scheme. One Police officer has said that the smartphones have reduced their time in the office by 10% at a cost of only £270 per year. It has given officers access to police records, pictures of missing people and the ability to send information back to the office without having to be there.

In the future it’s hoped that the GPS enabled smartphones will have the ability to give officers on the beat relevant information for the area they are currently in. This could further reduce the officers time in the office and would have a positive effect in reducing crime as well as giving a live high level strategic view of offer deployment. There are worries however with all smartphones there is a risk of being lost or stolen and are they “Rugged” enough at this price!?.

There are concerns over the potential loss of data and data getting in to the wrong hands. With the development of remote access and remote wiping of smartphones this shouldn’t be a huge worry.

On one hand I think that this scheme is money well spent. If it means that an officer is kept up to date with police reports and incidents within his vicinity, then this must have a positive effect in reducing the amount of crime. However at an average of £270 per device per year for an officer to have a smartphone are they going to be rugged enough?  Either way it’s a small price to pay for what make be a big impact to communities across the UK.

What do you think, let us know if you think this is money well spent ?

Cheers to IT Pro for the link

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

The News No One Wants to Hear, “Google is Entering your Market.”

5 11 2009

Google recently announced that the new Android 2.0 operating system will be able to provide live Google Maps Navigation. This will be able to provide turn-by-turn directions, automatic re-routing and 3D street level views. Tom Tom beware!

This is a serious threat, Sat-Navs, especially those provided by Tom Tom, the market leader should be worried. When this news of the Google Maps Navigation was announced, Garmin’s Share price dropped by 18% and Tom Tom’s by 13%.

The Google Maps Navigation will have search and local based services, designed to give the best routes and also provide information on local restaurants, hotels, and places to go. It will also have live traffic updates to help speed up your journey. Another major feature of Google Map Navigation is has put an end to the yearly updating of maps on your Sat-Nav, Google Maps will be sent directly to the phone over the phone network, eliminating the need to remember to keep your maps updated.

This is seriously worrying for Sat-Nav providers as what Google are offering with Google Map Navigation will be provided for free, eliminating the need for someone to buy a standalone Sat-Nav. Sat-Navs are fighting back though as they already have more advanced features such as the ability to tell the driver which lane they need to be in order to travel along a guided route. This is something that mobile phone map providers, especially Google Map Navigation, have not managed to handle just yet.

One problem Google needs to face in order to get the Google Map Navigation in to the mass market and make it user-friendly, is to consider the technology that is used in Sat-Navs and its size. Sat-Navs are traditionally larger than GPS enabled phones as they have more ability to provide accurate information due to the technology within the device. The Sat-Nav has to be larger in size in order to accommodate this.

Google have made a real head start and bringing usable maps to the mass market for free is a huge step, one which will leave Sat-Nav providers quaking in their boots. But Google Map Navigation has a long way to come. It needs to ensure the hardware that enables the maps to be read easily on a phone, the hardware needs to be small enough so it can fit in to the slim design of new phones. No one wants to go back to the 80s.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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