Earlier this week, I went to Mobile Monday where I saw a presentation of a new (well, at least in Japan) technology, and even if heard on that topic before, I must admit it was pretty impressive. The technology is called ColorCode and the company behind it is ColorZip. Originally developped in South Korea, it has started there earlier than in Japan and it is apparently successful and gets encouraging results so far. Japan is next. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Europe and the US following very soon.
A brief history first. Everyone knows about “1D” barcodes. Black and white lines easily scanned and containing a small string of information. But because those codes were only capable of storing a maximum of approximately 20 digits, Denso Wave Incorporated came up with QR codes, which is pretty much the same thing but with squares instead of lines, and that’s how the codes became 2-dimensional.On the right is a QR code that contains the URL of this website. It is nicer, contains more information in a smaller space, but it is still limited in content capacity because the more info you cram into the code, the smaller the points get, which will affect the readability by the scanner. The size limit is pretty comfortable, over 7,000 characters if it is digits only, half that for alphanumeric content. But still, it’s limited.
To remove this limitation in size, comes the next generation of code, where the information is not in the barcode itself anymore, but on a remote server accessible through the code. In other words, you scan a code with your mobile phone, it connects to a server and downloads information, then presents it to you. The little code on the left could “contain” an URL, a ringtone, or an mp3 for instance.
The code contains much less information because all it needs is something similar to a domain name (or a keyword). The content on the server can therefore be much bigger, and does not need to be text anymore! ColorCode will allow you to download anything and everything, from text to music, to video, to drinks in vending machines.
And because the code contains less information, the squares are bigger, and therefore readable from further away, and faster. In fact, Colorzip announced we will start seeing this technology being used on TV (shopping channels I guess) as early as this summer.
And if you think it would be overkill for situations when a simple QR code would just do, one of the beauty of being color based is that the code is not dependant of the shape of the squares. This means “size and shape can be customized, even in the shape of a QR code, therefore allowing you to get the best of both worlds. In effect, in instance where ColorCode does not replace QR code, it will simply incorporate it and become the next standard. See samples below, and expect to see a lot of these codes very soon.
(Note: Neither 3Yen nor me personally are affiliated with ColorZip. We might cover it in an advertorial somewhere on the network later on, but this article was written because I believe this technology is very cool and opens many opportunities.)