Imagine a movie poster outside a cinema that can play the trailer on your mobile phone. Or a tag on a new TV in the store, allowing you to read consumer reviews on the spot. Or a book cover that allows you to hear an interview with the author.
All that is possible, thanks to 2D mobile barcodes. Widespread adoption of the technology is accelerating as barcode companies and handset makers preload the necessary code readers on to mobile phones.
Last week NeoMedia Technologies, a mobile barcode company based in the US, said that it would have its reader software pre-installed in all Sony Ericsson mobiles. Sony Ericsson shipped more than 14 million phones globally in the third quarter of this year, according to research group IDC.
The technology is relatively simple. Consumers use their smartphones to scan a 2D barcode with the handsets camera. The browser is automatically directed to a website where users can obtain product information, receive online coupons, e-tickets or view film clips.
In Japan, mobile barcodes are a part of everyday life, but adoption in the rest of the world has been slow because of a lack of co-ordination between competing technologies and consumer ignorance. A variety of 2D barcode types or symbologies were introduced by companies in Japan, the US and Europe with little standardisation or interoperability. Now 2D barcode companies, wireless network providers and handset makers are getting their acts together to provide open standards.
2D barcode markets have been established in Spain and France and recent agreements between barcode makers and network operators in the US are predicted to accelerate adoption in the next year or so.
The technology can be applied in most retail or advertising situations. For instance, customers walking into a bank might scan a barcode on a display to find out that days mortgage or savings rates. The key to widespread adoption is raising public awareness by giving consumers phones with 2D barcode readers preloaded, say analysts.
NeoMedias code reader is compatible with all leading mobile phone operating systems — it launched its Neoreader application for the iPhone last year.
Iain McCready, chief executive of NeoMedia Technologies, said, The market is ready for 2D barcodes — retailers and brands are already experimenting with them and the technology has long been validated. The challenge is in creating a scaleable pool of mobile users capable of scanning barcodes. This partnership with Sony Ericsson will make mobile barcode scanning a simple, out-of-the-box experience for consumers.
Consumer use of mobile coupons is expected to generate close to $6 billion globally in retail redemption by 2014, according to a new report from Juniper Research in the UK.
More than one mobile subscriber in ten in developed regions will use them, the report forecast. But it cautions that a lack of consumer awareness is a stumbling block in some markets.
In the UK, 2D barcodes have been slow to catch on. Marks & Spencer recently tested a 2D barcode campaign on its food-to-go range, allowing customers to direct click through to a dedicated mobile site. It printed mobile barcodes on juices directing customers to more information and money-off vouchers. Shoppers could redeem the offer by going to the till and showing the message on their phone.
John Mew, head of mobile at the Internet Advertising Bureau in London, said, It is still early days in the UK, both in terms of consumers and brands.
For most companies it only has a novelty noughties factor and it is taking a while to catch on.