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QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCode

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.

QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCodeA 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.QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCodeOn 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.

QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCodeTo 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.

QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCode

(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.)

Posted by Yves in Services | 6 Comments »


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6 Responses to “QR codes are so 2004. Get ready for ColorCode”

  1. mehs Says:

    Actually it’s not really that different from an ordinary barcode. An ordinary barcode doesn’t contain much data itself either, but with the correct program you can fetch it from a server (example: scan a book barcode, program connect to amazon and gets title, author…).
    Just because it uses colour – well, not a really great revolution ;)

  2. Ash Says:

    One of the key advantages of QRCodes (the name is short for Quick Response code) is that they contain the content rather than just a link to content. With conventional bar codes and now ColorCodes you have to connect to a server and wait for the content.

  3. tribalogical Says:

    True that on the surface, it’s not as revolutionary as one might imagine. But behind the scenes, via the server functionality, ColorCode serves some different and unique purposes. It also enables a solid alternative to magnetic strips for IP Transaction Handling, etc. The kinds of things that generally require a live connection anyway. It won’t serve every purpose or replace all barcodes (yet) but it offers a unique way of handling certain things…

    It also operates much like DNS or name serving does, with each code being connected to a unique content chunk, whatever it is…. codes are “reusable”, and that’s not entirely new, but the approach is. Some of the magic is in the reader, which handles codes very quickly, on the move, and the color means a huge number of variants are possible. The ColorCode also has some niche potential as yet unrevealed…. you’ll be seeing lots of it before long, I’m sure…..

    IMO, all codes have upsides/downsides, best place to apply them, etc. This one has some massive potential, for broadcast, and with the back-end services, much more…..


  4. Zippy Says:

    While unique, this is really quite limited technology. First it does not contain enough data as it is considerably less than a EAN code. thus solutions can not scale and you are forced to always go to a sever to get more information. Second, it requires that it be printed in color. Further, given that the code is in color, one integrate ColorCodes with any other barcode format because typical barcode decoding requires that the images be converted to grayscale before decoding.

    Also, while folks might think this is new technology, it has actually been kicking around for several years and no firms are using it. There is a reason.

  5. Yves Says:

    Zippy: I think you didn’t read this post nor their website properly.

    First, it can use 3 “colors” as in black, white and grey, when printed in newspapers etc.

    Second, it can contain a QR code embedded in the ColorCode, which means standard compliance and up to 7,000 characters data size.

    Third, the technology has been developped in South Korea where it is used successfully on TV, in magazines, and by the SOuth Korean Telecom.

    Not that I want to defend ColorCode no matter what, but I suggest you read before you criticize blindly…

  6. Stuart Says:

    I’m sure i remember seeing an article that showed how QR / DM codes could be integrated into physical ad messages / graffiti due to the phone camera being able to regognise a larger slice of the light spectrum than the human eye. Has this tech gone anywhere?

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