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QR Code-the business card of tomorrow

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Abstract

We are getting familiar with mobile devices; they begin to pervade our daily life in a way that we won't notice them anymore as something remarkable. The amazing fact that there are more registered mobile phones than inhabitants in Germany and Austria makes it easy to claim that mobile phones have already reached the state of a ubiquitous device. One often unsatisfying user experience in deal-ing with the mobile device addresses the entry of data. Instead of typing data key-by-key one of the most promising technologies towards mobile technologies are Barcodes. 2D Barcodes or "mobile tags" can be used to exchange information very easily and quickly. By scanning a data matrix access to addi-tional materials can be simply provided. Such codes are able to combine and connect two different media: Print and Internet. Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) has been started about half a year ago a master thesis and research work with the aim to gather experiences about the practicability of two-dimensional barcodes in general as well as for teaching purposes. By using QR-Codes (Quick Response-Codes) it should be pointed out how and why mobile tagging becomes valuable for the society. This paper gives an over-view about the use QR Codes and discusses methods and possibilities. It can be summarized that by using two-dimensional barcodes the print and online media will get closer and enhance our mobile lives.
Originally published in: Proceedings FH Science Day, 6th November 2008, Linz,
Shaker Verlag, Aachen, p. 431-435, ISBN 978-3-8322-7643-0
QR Code - the Business Card of Tomorrow?
Martin Ebner a
martin.ebner@tugraz.at
aGraz University of Technology, Steyrergasse 30, A-8010 Graz, AUSTRIA
ABSTRACT
We are getting familiar with mobile devices; they begin to pervade our daily life in a way that we
won’t notice them anymore as something remarkable. The amazing fact that there are more registered
mobile phones than inhabitants in Germany and Austria makes it easy to claim that mobile phones
have already reached the state of a ubiquitous device. One often unsatisfying user experience in deal-
ing with the mobile device addresses the entry of data. Instead of typing data key-by-key one of the
most promising technologies towards mobile technologies are Barcodes. 2D Barcodes or “mobile tags
can be used to exchange information very easily and quickly. By scanning a data matrix access to addi-
tional materials can be simply provided. Such codes are able to combine and connect two different
media: Print and Internet.
Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) has been started about half a year ago a master thesis and
research work with the aim to gather experiences about the practicability of two-dimensional barcodes
in general as well as for teaching purposes. By using QR-Codes (Quick Response-Codes) it should be
pointed out how and why mobile tagging becomes valuable for the society. This paper gives an over-
view about the use QR Codes and discusses methods and possibilities.
It can be summarized that by using two-dimensional barcodes the print and online media will get
closer and enhance our mobile lives.
Contact: Martin Ebner
Social Learning
Computer and Information Services
Graz University of Technology
Steyrergasse 30
8010 Graz, Austria
martin.ebner@tugraz.at
1 INTRODUCTION
Mark Weiser announced in 1991 “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They
weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” [9]. With
other words, if we are getting familiar with devices, they begin to pervade our daily life in a way we do
not notice them anymore as remarkable – they simple disappear [1]. Ubiquitous and pervasive comput-
ing is a dramatically growing emerging research field [5] especially if a look at mobile devices is
taken.
According to different statistical data1 in Germany and Austria there are more mobile phones than
inhabitants. The Austrian Central Bureau of Statistics2 reported in more than 90% of all private house-
1 http://www.axelspringer.de/inhalte/pressese/inhalte/presse/unternehmen/677.html (last visited: July
2008)
holds mobile phones are available. Evaluations amongst students at Graz University of Technology
pointed out that each student owns at least one mobile phone [2]. From this point of view it can be
simply noticed that cell phones are already pervading our daily life, of course basically used in the
intended way – for making phone calls. On the other side the rapid advancement of the mobile market
turns cell phones into sophisticated personal digital assistants. Besides doing phone calls, taking pic-
tures and videos, navigating, even surfing the WorldWideWeb becomes more and more a daily proc-
ess. Smartphones like Nokias’ N95 or Apples’ iPhone are revolutionizing not only the whole mobile
market even more mobility it selves must be rethought. It is imaginable that in the near future reading
articles online via mobile Internet access is as usual as reading a newspaper today. First surveys are
reporting that iPhone users’ access to online news and information is increasing dramatically – 80% of
all iPhone owners stated to read news via browsing3. Further studies pointed out that PDA and mobile
phone sales would outstrip PC sales, with the majority switching to wireless networks by 2008 [3].
Without trying out to be very visionary, the mankind is going mobile a mobile society will lead to
complete new challenges looking at our daily life.
Although mobile devices become more and more sophisticated there is still one real big problem: the
small interface. Of course it is very attractive to take small devices with me, but with respect to the
limits the research field of Human-Computer Interaction and Usability Engineering is confronted with
complete new tasks. However maybe the greatest barrier to deal with Internet is the exhausting input of
URLs to mobile browser, especially the URLs are not shorted with third party applications (as for ex-
ample TinyUrl4). With other words a fast possibility to combine the traditional print medium and the
WorldWideWeb is needed to transfer phone numbers, meeting appointments but also small interactive
objects or business cards to mobile devices “by one click”. There are a lot of examples; they can be
expanded nearly endless.
To overcome this problem in a very elegant way two-dimensional barcodes can be used, as it is very
common in Japan for years. In this publication a short introduction into two-dimensional barcodes is
given and further some possibilities are discussed.
2 TWO-DIMENSIONAL BARCODES
One-dimensional barcodes are widely used and can be seen on the packing of virtually any product. So
this technology has been standardized since years in the field of logistic by following any package
from manufacturer to the consumer. The data storage capacity of one-dimensional barcodes is very
limited and so two-dimensional barcodes or so called matrix codes have been invented. Nowadays also
three- and four-dimensional barcodes (matrix is changing over time and by using different colors) are
already possible5 6. Meanwhile there do exist more than 1000 different barcodes and about 100 of them
are two-dimensional barcodes.
The idea is to install a so-called barcode reader on the mobile phone, which is able to scan two-
dimensional barcodes. In this context two-dimensional barcodes are named “mobile tags which are
2 http://www.statistik.at/web_de/statistiken/informationsgesellschaft/ikt-
einsatz_in_haushalten/020541.html (last visited: July 2008)
3 http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2321 (last visited July 2008)
4 http://tinyurl.com/ (last visited July 2008)
5 http://ubiks.net/local/blog/jmt/archives3/004277.html (last visited July 2008)
6 http://www.heise.de/newsticker/Barcodes-in-vier-Dimensionen--/meldung/95923/from/rss09 (last
visited July 2008)
capable and powerful possibilities to transfer data from a physical object to the mobile phone. Follow-
ing steps summarize the process of mobile tagging (Fig. 1):
Capturing the image of the printed barcode with the help of a camera-equipped mobile
phone using the appropriate software
Decoding the image using the appropriate scansoftware (bar code reader)
Reading the decoded message on the mobile device or linking a decoded URL, whatever
the content looks like
Fig. 1 Graphical illustration of “mobile tagging”7
The number of two-dimensional barcodes that can be used for mobile tagging is about twelve8. Ac-
cording to Kato & Tan [6] nine criteria are outlined that should be fulfilled by a standardized two-
dimensional barcode. Nowadays several two-dimensional barcodes are in use. The most famous are
QR-Code, DataMatrix, Shotcode and Beetag. There are different reasons for using different codes,
from readability to proprietary.
At Graz University of Technology a master thesis [8] about the usage potential of QR-Codes (Quick
Response Code) has been started. The decision to investigate QR-Codes [7] bases on several aspects:
QR-Code, which is developed by the Japanese cooperation Denso Wave,9 is a de facto stan-
dard for Japanese telecommunication providers.
Google is dealing with QR-Codes since 200710
Microsoft launches Windows Live Barcode Beta11
Popular Web 2.0 Applications are using QR-Code, like YouTube12, Flickr13 and Google-
Maps14
Nokia15 as well as Apple is supporting QR-Codes and DataMatrix by preinstalled software on
mobile phones
3 HOW QR-CODES CAN BE USED FOR BUSINESS
They’re various possibilities to use QR-Codes for different approaches [4]. Most used business areas
of QR-Codes in German-speaking countries are marketing and advertisement16 as well as the primary
7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_tagging (last visited July 2008)
8 http://mobile-tagging.blogspot.com/2007/06/windows-surface-und-die-zukunft-der-2d_05.html (last
visited July 2008)
9 http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/index-e.html (last visited July 2008)
10 http://www.google.com/adwords/printads/barcodes.html (last visited July 2008)
11 http://www.barcodemobile.com/microsoft-launches-windows-live-barcode-beta/ (last visited July
2008)
12 http://videomeetsfunction.com/ (last visited July 2008)
13 http://www.joshrussell.com/2008/06/23/flickr-qr-codes/ (last visited July 2008)
14 http://2d-code.co.uk/google-maps-qr-code/ (last visited July 2008)
15 http://mobilecodes.nokia.com/learn.htm (last visited July 2008)
16 http://www.kaywa.com/ (last visited July 2008)
area logistics. For example the Swiss Federal Railways provides its train timetable17 with the help of
QR-Codes; a first multilingual QR-Code books series is available since some months18.
At Graz University of Technology a master thesis [8] has been started to research about further pos-
sibilities to use QR-Codes19. Following interesting outcomes can be listed:
Business card: QR Codes can be easily used for business cards. By simply storing all con-
tact data in a .vcf file and putting it online, a hyperlink is created and coded via QR-Code.
Afterwards with any mobile device the image can be decoded. By selecting the hyperlink
all data is saved to the local address book. If the mobile device is synchronized with a Per-
sonal Computer or Laptop the contact is automatically stored in the usual address book.
Only one scan and one click is necessary instead of collecting printed business cards.
Fig. 2 QR-Code used as Business Card
Fig. 2 shows a first prototype of a branded QR-Code carrying a URL. This URL will lead
you to my business card with all contact data you need.
Appointment: A further interesting task is to use QR-Codes to transmit appointments from a
printed medium (for example posters, placards or similar) directly to the calendar applica-
tion of the mobile device. In the same way as described above the meeting can be filled in
via a web-form and a QR-Code is created. The image can be placed on any document (Fig.
3).
Fig. 3 QR-Code used for appointments
Up-to-date with your lectures: In the area of m-Learning there are also some emerging
fields. For example it is easy possible to transfer an RSS-Feed of the appropriate lecture via
QR-code to the mobile device to receive updates with new entries. Furthermore YouTube
videos can be easily watched via mobile devices. Provide the link to a YouTube video as a
17 http://mobile.kaywa.com/p841.html (last visited July 2008)
18 http://mobile.kaywa.com/qr-code-data-matrix/bidibooks-the-first-multilingual-qr-code-books-series-
in-europe.html (last visited July 2008)
19 http://qr.tugraz.at (last visited July 2008)
QR-Code for watching it on the go (Fig. 4). It is imaginable that in future lecture notes are
combined with QR-Codes to link to extended online material, like videos and interactive
objects.
Fig. 4 QR-Code linked to YouTube Video
4 CONCLUSION
The combination between the traditional print media and the online world can be processed much
quicker by the use of two-dimensional barcodes. This publication introduced the field of barcodes and
pointed out some practical examples. Which kind of code will be established finally is not crucial at
all. Furthermore mobile phones are turning more and more into personal digital assistants with much
more functionalities than phoning quick transfer of data will be necessity of future. Due to the fact that
Internet access via mobile devices will increasing considerably in future, the link between print media
and WorldWideWeb will be the next big step towards the digitalization of human society.
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QR-Codes-business models and first practical experiences
  • P Schmidmayr
Schmidmayr, P. (2008) QR-Codes-business models and first practical experiences, Master Thesis, Graz University of Technology, in progress, http://qr.tugraz.at (last visited July 2008)
) m-Learning or m-Information, Proceeding of e- Learn Conference
  • M Ebner
  • N Scerbakov
  • C Stickel
  • H Maurer
Ebner, M., Scerbakov, N., Stickel, C., Maurer, H., (2008) m-Learning or m-Information, Proceeding of e- Learn Conference, AACE, accepted, in print [2]
Has the Net-Generation Arrived at the University?-oder der/Die Studierende von Heute, ein Digital Native?
  • M Ebner
  • W Nagler
  • M Schiefner
Ebner, M., Nagler, W., Schiefner, M. (2008) Has the Net-Generation Arrived at the University?-oder der/Die Studierende von Heute, ein Digital Native?, Proceeding 13th Annual Conference of the Society for Media in Science 2008 (GMW08), accepted, in print
Moving into m-Learning
  • K Ellis
Ellis, K (2003) Moving into m-Learning, Training, 40(10), p. 12-15