Question about "scannable bar code" on a mobile display

8 May 2008 - 9:34am
6 years ago
10 replies
3470 reads
Dante Murphy
2006

Hello Morten-

Enjoyed your presentation at Interaction08. I wonder if you can provide
some information, based on your extensive research and knowledge of
mobile platforms.

A client has asked about the feasibility of displaying a scannable bar
code on a mobile device, like a cell phone or PDA.

Here are my questions:

Do most devices support the requisite resolution for this to work?

How does the difference in size and scale of each pixel and display
impact the readability of the barcode?

Have you ever heard of or seen this in action?

How would the user get this barcode...would it have to be MMS, or would
the e-mail client be able to display this kind of content?

I am hoping you can provide some insight, or point me to a good source.
I am copying the IxDA list in case anyone else out there has any clues.

Thanks,

Dante

Dante Murphy | Director of User Experience| D I G I T A S H E A L T H

229 South 18th Street | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA 19103 |
USA

Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com

www.digitashealth.com <http://www.digitashealth.com/>

A brand of Digitas, a member of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe S.A.
(Euronext Paris: FR0000130577), the world's fourth largest
communications group, second largest media counsel and buying group, and
a global leader in digital and healthcare communications.

The information in this email and subsequent attachments may contain
legally privileged, proprietary and confidential information that is
intended for a particular recipient. If you are not the intended
recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying,
distribution, retention or use of the contents of this email information
is prohibited. When addressed to Digitas Health clients or vendors, any
information contained in this email is subject to the terms and
conditions in the governing contract. If you have received this email
in error, please immediately notify us by telephone or by return email,
and delete the email.

Comments

8 May 2008 - 10:13am
Jeff Howard
2004

Hi Dante,

Here's an account of an iPhone being used to board an American
Airlines flight by scanning a PDF of the boarding pass barcode
displayed on screen:

http://gwhiz.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/aa-boarding-pass-iphone/

// jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=28823

8 May 2008 - 3:52pm
Barbara Ballard
2005

On Thu, May 8, 2008 at 10:34 AM, Dante Murphy <dmurphy at digitashealth.com> wrote:
> A client has asked about the feasibility of displaying a scannable bar
> code on a mobile device, like a cell phone or PDA.
>
>
>
> Do most devices support the requisite resolution for this to work?

Yes. But that's the wrong question. The correct question is, can the
scanning device scan the bar code on the mobile phone? The answer to
that question is ... in places where they are using visual scanners,
like in much of Europe, it works fine; in the US, the laser scanners
won't work.

> How does the difference in size and scale of each pixel and display
> impact the readability of the barcode?

The various mobile bar code companies have worked that out nicely. I'd
have to go research to see who is currently in the field.

> Have you ever heard of or seen this in action?

Yup. Just not really here. Okay, there are some installations on
getting truly paperless airplane tickets: display the ticket data on
the phone and the check-in scanner can read it. This is an environment
in which the scanner is controlled, so it works better. (maybe movie
tickets could do the same, but you'd be behind the competition)

> How would the user get this barcode...would it have to be MMS, or would
> the e-mail client be able to display this kind of content?

Any which way a picture could get to a phone. MMS is a good answer (be
sure you know how to really send MMS so they get to end users). A web
site could do it (be sure to size the image so that transcoders don't
resize it). An application could do it (but the user would have to get
the application). I wouldn't do email unless you really wanted it on
computers as well, because so few people have email on their phones.
Unless you want to focus on a small set of phones. Consider also IM.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

Design For Mobile 22-24 September http://design4mobile.mobi/

9 May 2008 - 1:24am
Morten Hjerde
2007

Hi Dante!

The problem this tries to solve is usually how to identify yourself to a
machine. Mobile barcodes sounds like a good candidate, it has been tried,
but I haven't seen any cases of successful widespread adoption.

The problem is partly reliable and cheap delivery to the phone. MMS is
expensive to send. Most people don't have email set up on their phones.
There is also the problem of reading the barcode off the mobile. The
differences in phone capabilities and screen resolutions makes it almost
impossible to guarantee that the barcode can be read. You have to have a
backup system in place.

The solution that are in widespread use around here is SMS and/or credit
card. It is common to receive a reservation number on SMS when you purchase
a ticket (airline, cimema etc, etc.). You read out the code, or hand over
the phone to the person behind the counter. In cases where there is no
person behind a counter, you swipe your credit card as ID.

The cases I've been involved in, we have designed our way around the need
for something like barcodes. I'm not saying it can't be done. I've just not
seen a case where it really pays off, where it solves any pain for the user.
You want barcodes to make a system faster, cheaper, easier. But all I've
seen is fiddly, unreliable, and frustrating :-).

NFC (or RFID tags) built into the phone is probably the way to go, but that
is still maaaany years off.

--
Morten Hjerde
http://sender11.typepad.com

9 May 2008 - 2:03am
Sam Woodman
2008

Sounds as though in Europe and the US sending out an SMS to access a
code is still only the real viable option for the time being, however
I wouldn't say that RFID tags are still "maaany years off". There
have been successful pilot projects here in France combining RFID
enabled telephones and the metro system.

I recently worked on a project in Japan where QR codes have been the
norm for many years now. The user simply takes a photo of the QR code
and this is used to activate a download to their telephone. For
example, at bus stops, a user can photograph the QR code printed on
the timetable in order to download the timetable to their telephone.
This isn't perhaps terribly relevant to your project, but it is
interesting to see how Japanese mobile technology is evolving as it
is much more advanced than here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=28823

9 May 2008 - 2:11am
Dave Malouf
2005

Let's see if I can bring some more light on this. Morten's answer is
really good, but there were some things that were mis-communicated in
parts of the thread.

I work for the company that invented the barcode and barcode scanner
and is the largest seller of scanning devices and OEM engines in the
world.

Barbara, imaging (I think you said visual scanners) are required to
do this properly, but you are incorrect in your assumption that they
are somehow more standard in Europe and N. America. While I agree
there are more Laser Scanners in the US b/c there are older and more
legacy systems especially in standard retail environments, many many
enterprises are well on their way to imaging scanners as a norm. It
is the only way to scan not only barcodes from a screen, but also to
do any sort of 2D barcode scanning. The AA example couldn't have
happened/worked if they weren't already using imaging scanners.
Almost all ticket scanners are imaging due to the use of 2D scanners.

Morten said something about NFC/RFID being years away. Well THIS is
geographic. In Korea and Japan, NFC being built into phones is well
the standard. The entire train system of Tokyo and others in Japan is
totally based on these technologies. There are lots of cultural
reasons that these technologies won't deploy in other areas and I
don't think it is years away from the US, I think it is forever away
from the US and I believe that BC's is actually the right answer for
us. I think Europe will probably go the direction of NFC. This is for
the same reasons that the US won't do chip & pin even though that is
a standard in Europe (if not the rest of the world). We are just
weirded out culturally by RFID. Look at the Walmart debacle.

I like Gretchen's example of taking pictures of barcodes and sending
them in to find out what they mean. I do know that there are phones
out there that come with barcode decoders built in. Motorola's MC35
for example has a camera scanner built in (1/2 digital camera; 1/2
barcode scanner).

Using barcodes as a 2-way encoding communications/data management
device is a bit "weird" in consumer facing scenarios, but I think
there are cases where it can be really useful.

Dante, since you are working in the arena of health, you should know
that barcoding is a standard in patient care and document management,
so there are a ton of applications in this regard.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=28823

9 May 2008 - 2:49am
Kontra
2007

> I work for the company that invented the barcode...

While researching for a project to obviate the need for barcodes in a
particular industry, I read this succinct and colorful history of the
barcode:

http://www.barcoding.com/information/barcode_history.shtml

The barcode was invented by Joseph Woodland in the early '50s and he
never really formed a company. And as far as I know, most of the
companies that utilized barcodes commercially in the 60's and 70s like
Philco, Slyvania, RCA, Computer Identics, etc., have either left that
business, closed down or merged with others.

It's interesting also to note that the inspiration for Woodland's
barcode was movie soundtracks and Morse code.

--
Kontra
http://counternotions.com

9 May 2008 - 1:58am
Sanket Bindle
2008

Hi Dante

You can easily use "QR codes" which has some functionality like barcodes but
are visually different.

QR codes are just .gif image files that can be easily sent through mobiles.
QR codes can be easily produced by many freely available websites and then
you can use them anywhere.

They can be easily read by mobile phone with cameras of 2 Megapix upwards
very well, but resolutions below that sometimes have difficulty to recognize
them.

Many countries like Japan use them extensively and mobile phones there come
with bundled softwares(readers).
Also for Symbian S60, UIX, Nokia series 80 and many other platforms, free
and paid software readers are available.

You can refer http://www.semacode.com , a vendor for mobile software for QR
codes.
Many others are there.

Sanket Bindle
Information & Digital Design,
National Institute of Design

9 May 2008 - 8:24am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On Fri, May 9, 2008 at 3:11 AM, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> Barbara, imaging (I think you said visual scanners) are required to
> do this properly, but you are incorrect in your assumption that they
> are somehow more standard in Europe and N. America. While I agree
> there are more Laser Scanners in the US b/c there are older and more
> legacy systems especially in standard retail environments, many many
> enterprises are well on their way to imaging scanners as a norm. It
> is the only way to scan not only barcodes from a screen, but also to
> do any sort of 2D barcode scanning. The AA example couldn't have
> happened/worked if they weren't already using imaging scanners.
> Almost all ticket scanners are imaging due to the use of 2D scanners.
>

And, of course, the bulk of my work will be in consumer devices that
need to work in retail environments. The main point is that you have
to know what the scanners are going to be able to do.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

Design For Mobile 22-24 September http://design4mobile.mobi/

12 May 2008 - 2:34am
Marcus Coghlan
2007

Just wanted to follow up on the comments by Gretchen and Sanket on 2D
bar codes - in particular the QR Code from Denso.

For the last couple of years I spent in Japan, this little baby was
popping up all over the place - subway posters, business cards, bar
coasters, websites, the back of supermarket receipts ... you get the
picture. Most of the mobile phones over there come with the reader
preloaded and there are a couple of free generators available (Google
QR Code generator) as well as the official one available from the
Denso site..

Anyway, as cool as (I think) that is, its kinda going the opposite
direction to what Dante was asking about. But, from the guys and gals
who brought you the code comes a range of scanners that you might be
interested in.

This one
(http://www.denso-wave.com/en/adcd/product/qrcode/qk11/index.html)
caught my eye with the following line -
"Superior reading speed achieved even on mobile phone LCDs with
different contrasts, colors and reflections."
However, there are range of others @
http://www.denso-wave.com/en/adcd/product/qrcode/index.html

Might be worth a look.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=28823

12 May 2008 - 8:13am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On Mon, May 12, 2008 at 3:34 AM, Marcus Coghlan <marcuscoghlan at gmail.com> wrote:
> Just wanted to follow up on the comments by Gretchen and Sanket on 2D
> bar codes - in particular the QR Code from Denso.
>

This is the other side of the coin: using the phone to collect data
from the environment; it's a topic about which I am quite
enthusiastic.

A quick technology history of Denso and QR Codes - they were using QR
Codes in industrial environments, in which they could use high quality
optics. When the operators (especially NTT DoCoMo) decided to go with
cameraphones, they decided they wanted QR Code ability, so they
required better quality cameras in the mobile phones.

The Japanese code system is designed for these high quality devices.
Western phones will not reliably read them, though some higher end
devices will.

If you want to try such things in Western locales, you will probably
want a different form of code and the back end infrastructure to
manage it. http://reader.kaywa.com/ seems like a winner to me. There
are a few others, including some just using 1-D codes. There is also a
bit of work on simple image recognition; one company is specializing
in recognizing movie posters.

Please note that I continue to talk about devices in the mass market,
not in specialized environments. If you can control the hardware you
have more flexibility.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

Design For Mobile 22-24 September http://design4mobile.mobi/

Syndicate content Get the feed