The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 28, 2009 • Issue 09:09:02
Multipurpose bar codes
The creation of what are known as "two-dimensional" bar codes has given rise to broad new applications for these long-time product identifiers, including their placement on buildings, billboards and hamburger wrappers.
Computer Output Print & Internet, a Texas-based technology solutions provider, is also using two-dimensional (2-D) Quick Response (QR) bar codes to simplify online mobile payments.
According to COPI Chief QR Officer Joe Barber, 2-D bar codes are already ubiquitous in Japan, where they were introduced almost 15 years ago.
There they are used primarily for marketing purposes by functioning as portals between various print mediums and the Internet - portals which are activated by the combined use of a camera, digital reader and Internet browser on a cell phone, Barber said.
From print to the Web
Typically, the bar code is found somewhere on a print ad - say, on a billboard or inside a magazine catalog - and is encoded with the address of a related Web page.
A customer interested in the advertised product can take a picture of the bar code with a phone; the phone's reader will then decode the image, yielding the URL and automatically directing the phone's user to that Web site. In many cases, the web address may simply be a payment portal where the product can be bought.
"Everybody has a cell phone in their hand, it's the always-on connected device," Barber said. "If I'm [advertising], I can make my print clickable, and by putting the QR code on that, somebody can hyperlink from that printed document to the Web. ... I now have access to the rich resources of the Web, as well as the means of measuring the effectiveness of the print piece."
Online payments streamlined
COPI's service, called CodeZ QR, uses 2-D bar codes in many of the same ways; the company is also employing the technology to streamline the process of entering purchasing data into online payment platforms, made more difficult by the tiny buttons on many mobile phones. CodeZ QR bar codes store purchasing information so consumers don't have to continually punch it in.
For example, a mailed billing statement will contain a unique bar code that holds a particular customer's payment information, which is transferred to that customer's phone when he or she snaps a picture of the bar code.
At that point, the customer needs only to visit the company's payment portal and type in a password or access code to draw up his or her purchasing data, all of which (name, address, card info, account number, et cetera) is automatically entered into the payment platform.
"I'm sending out a credit card statement each month and I've got an existing relationship with that client - I could put a QR code on there where we encrypt their account number into the code," Barber said. "When they want to pay that bill they can simply scan the code, enter their PIN code and, based on that established payment relationship, it could automatically charge through to their bank account."
What distinguishes these advanced bar codes is an extra "dimension" that traditional Universal Product Code bar codes used in retail settings don't have. Those bar codes can only hold information vertically, whereas 2-D barcodes hold it vertically and horizontally - allowing them to store significantly more information. One-dimensional bar codes can store up to 12 figures while 2-D barcodes can store about 3,000, Barber said.
Computer Output Print & Internet
Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.