Today colegue of mine showed me crazy feature on his new Sony Ericsson P1I. By a press of a button, he took photo of a business card, OCR-ed it and added contact from business card to his phonebook. Pretty nifty! Well, not really because we all know how OCR needs to be trained, and OCR on mobile phones is noways still light at it can get.
However, I digged around and found another interesting thing. Have you ever heard about mobile codes? This is old stuff really. Originally, bar codes represented data in the widths (lines) and the spacings of parallel lines and may be referred to as linear or 1d bar codes. But they also come in patterns of squares, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns within images termed 2d matrix codes. As cameras and mobile phones progressed some phone manufacturers started shipping their phones with build in bar code reader applications - thus words "mobile" and "code" in the name. :)
Two currently most popular open-standard formats for 2D codes in mobile phone applications are Datamatrix (DM - now owned by Siemens and covered by an ISO standard, public domain) and Quick Response (QR - developed, patented and owned by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave initially for car parts management, public domain).
Graphical output of Datamatrix (DM) looks like this:
and Quick Response (QR) open-standard like this:
I can't say I understand the whole point behind it. Idea was to use matrix codes to encode URL's, emails and small messages and do what exactly with this? Why would I print unrecognizable encoded picture somewhere and force people to scan it? What's wrong with good old numbers and letters? Barcods are made to automate recognition on a large scale recognition operation (eg. manufacturing, warehousing etc), but I just somehow don't see 1000 people waiting in line with their mobiles to scan our website url encoded on a sticker. Email protection? Scan this to see my email? Are you kidding me? :)
Experts predicted bright future for matrix codes and spread in various applications. Couple of years later, I really can't say I saw much of it. However, couple of days ago this press release made me rethink the whole concept again. NTT DoCoMo announced that they developed the acoustic OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) technology, which can be used to embed URLs and text data in broadcast music/audio. Consumers' mobile phones "listen" to the music/audio and extract the embedded URLs/data. About 100 characters can be transmitted in a second.
This sounds really cool compared to scanning codes on a sticker mentioned before. But where are they going with this? If you owned ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 you definetly had tapes. Ever listened to any of these tapes? :) Like 20 years ago I remember a show on local radio station where guys even tried to "send" programs over the air to listeners. They would play C64 tape in the air and tell people to record it. OMG :)
Anyways it's getting pretty late and I have to catch some sleep. If you wanna give mobile codes another go, get readers for your mobile here or here and start playing around. :)
update: I just got contacted by Roger from 2d-code.co.uk. If you are interested in mobile coding, I highly recommend that you check out his web site. It's full of news and interesting mobile coding application. Gooo Roger! :)