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Barcode 101 – What & Why?

The first real topic we thought we would cover is the what and why of 2D barcodes.  Like any new technology, adoption is driven by the user – what will this do for me to make my life easier or better?  So, we’re going to start with a focus on the user and get to the “code publisher” or the business later.

We first need to generally define a 2D barcode since we often forget many people are starting from square one.


A 2D, or two-dimensional, barcode is simply a visual way of representing information, just like the typical UPC code you have seen on product for 50 years.  But, most importantly, they can be de-coded using an optical scanner, or a camera phone.  5 years ago, this didn’t really matter, but now around 80% of new phones come with a camera and that is pretty obvious when you go to any tourist spot in NYC.  A common camera phone, with a 2D barcode application can “scan” a 2D code, decipher the information connected to that code, and launch that specific information automatically.  That could be anything from a website with a very long URL, a phone number, a friend’s contact information, and much much more.  (We will cover possible uses on another post since that is an endless topic).

This code links to the ScanLife blog:

ScanLife Blog

Take a look at this video for a demo on the iPhone.


OK, so we have covered the very basics of what a 2D code is, but why would anyone care?  This is where it gets really interesting!  When it comes down to it, people have a basic need to know more.  While it’s in our DNA to be curious, we have now been conditioned to expect all answers on-demand through the digital world.  That digital world is now moving over to a mobile device that we use constantly for much more than phoning a friend.

The problem is that there is no seamless way to pull information from physical objects using the mobile device, and that is where much of our interest comes from initially – a newspaper article, a DVD, or a sign at the bus stop.  Today, you see something of interest, and either hope to remember it later so you can search on the PC, or try find it right away on your mobile browser.  But, navigation and discovery on the mobile phone is very tedious and finding the content you are looking is most times impossible.

This is where 2D codes make the difference.  See something, scan the code, go to the intended location for more.  No typing, no searching, no hoping.  OK, so what other technologies have been based convenience (besides velcro and Google)?  The fact is that this method of getting information is relevant to pretty much anyone that has every wanted to know more  when they’re away from a PC – and research has proven it.  In fact, over 80% of people agree that they are more likely to use the mobile web if they had access to 2D barcode technology.  It’s just that simple.

Again, this is just an introductory post on a topic that we will continue to cover in much more detail over time.  Hope it helps!

  • Filed under: Examples, General, Trends

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    Mobile barcodes have changed the way we discover & share information from the world around us. We welcome your thoughts & ideas on how to make this technology matter - today and in the future.

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