Mobile Barcode Scanning Catching On In Japan
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jun 02 21:00:00 GMT 2004

While everyone has been talking about Semacodes, over in Japan, similar QR codes are starting to catch on (especially with wireless carriers).

In the last few months, the idea of using a camera phone to scan some kind of barcode or barcode-like system has been getting a lot more attention - despite many similar attempts over the years. There are some that focus on reading standard barcodes in stores, and others, such as Semacode, that let users create their own Semacode barcodes and place them anywhere they want to display additional mobile information.

Over in Japan, where they've experimented before with similar technology as well, it looks like similar QR (quick response) codes may be catching on. Instead of just letting anyone create them (as with Semacode), the focus is more on routing everything through the carriers - who are more than happy to figure out ways to get their subscribers to spend a little more time online with their phones.

They talk about including the codes on maps, so someone could quickly use their cameraphone to snap a picture of the code for a particular location, and get immediate info about what events were happening there or where the nearest cash machine might be. They're also being used on business cards, which solves many of the problems that certain people have with transferring business cards wirelessly - it's often much more of a hassle than to just hand over a business card, and it's tougher to jot down notes or to categorize the card (though, it's worth noting that jotting down notes on a business card in Japan can be seen as an insult). However, a business card with a QR code can be a middleground - that keeps the initial process simple, but keeps the information in an easy to move digital manner.

Driving the growth this time, however, is the rapid acceptance of cameraphones, and the ongoing search for applications that can make use of a camera that's also a connected device. Of course, with so many different versions, we can expect the inevitable standards battles. While it appears that QR codes are local only to Japan, if such codes make sense and do well, it's likely they'll start to expand elsewhere - where they may start to compete with Semacode and others.