Saturday, 4 December 2010

Mobile barcodes

I am one of a growing number of people who own a smartphone and it has the ability to use the camera to scan a barcode which then links to a webpage.  I thought this is worth passing on as it could be a useful addition to use in printed media.  The website is and here is a barcode I generated for free.
a barcode for
Could be useful for things link witness appeals or wanted people.  The posters could be produced with the barcode to be scanned and the webpage gives the full details, photos and a form to report intelligence.  It allows posters to do what they do best - be eycatching and impactive and it allows the website to do what it does best - provide an unlimited quantity of supporting material on demand with resources that a poster cannot provide (video, audio, interactives, forms, downloads).


  1. Noticed one of these for the first time on a TV advert last night - Waitrose I think. Trouble was that it was only on screen for about 2 seconds! Only any good if you recorded it, played it back and paused it. To make it usable, I think it would need to be displayed throughout. I still think it has more potential for use in printed media. It could be really handy if used to sell houses. It could go on the 'for sale' signs and you could 'zap' the details as you pass in the car and look at an instant online 360 degree walk-through within minutes. A Right Move app could allow you to 'collect' barcodes and place them in a user account where you can view the details at your leisure later on at home.

    Going back to police use of barcodes, we could put them onto business cards as a link to the correct neighbourhood policing team website.

  2. We've experimented with QR Codes at Surrey Police for our TalkSMART campaign on "don't talk on a mobile and drive". The results were mixed, but mobile barcodes can be so cheap to do that you might as well.

    The key thing for me is making sure you have mobile ready website at the other end of the link. Its the same for bluetooth broadcasting - if you want to reach someone on a mobile, deliver them mobile content!

    We used an agency to provide our barcode (they wanted a case study, so we got a very good deal on the design) but you can get them for free here: - part of the zxing (pron Zebra Crossing) project from Google.

    The great thing about QR Codes is they can encode microformats such as calendar events. The not so good thing is that the iPhone doesn't, as far as I can tell, recognise encoded information - i.e. a QR code of a panel meeting won't go direct into your iPhone calendar (not yet tried Android). That day will come though (hopefully).

    I view QR codes, mobile barcodes and Bluetooth broadcasts as being a big part of the geographical web - but without all the (publicly perceived as) intrusive and scary stuff surrounding mobile triangulation or lat/long. If each poster location has a different QR code, you can use that as a measurement, or to deliver subtly different messages.

  3. I love this idea - thanks for sharing it David. I'm going to look into this some more!

  4. Great concept and we are going to have a look at this also as could be a great communication tool.

    Whatever we do we will report back via NING.



  5. Saw these a couple of years ago, but I think it has taken a while for it all to come together, the amount of smart phones, the availability of free versions of barcode scanning software along with good internet connections. The time is right, it is just whether people see this as a useful tool or a gimmick. It was pointed out to me it might be useful for accessibility reasons.
    With the scanning software (RedLaser) on my mobile (iPhone4) the above barcode didn't work, so I found another site with a barcode generator ( which creates barcodes with three large squares, some sort of registration I guess, which my mobile scanned straight away. I hope this helps.
    This information has been passed to our external communication team, they will be trying it out soon.
    Good heads up and keep them coming

  6. Really interesting David - I've been meaning to look at this properly for a while.

    Ages ago I bookmarked a clever little service,, that generates a printable poster of any RSS feed, with a barcode link for each item.

    It's hard to explain, so try this link and you'll get the gist:

    I think there'll be an excellent policing use for this - I'm just not entirely sure what it is yet. Maybe to automatically generate "local news" posters that can be pinned up on noticeboards? Residents can then find out more info about each news item via the barcode.

    The main problem is - as far as I know - iPhones and most other smartphones don't automatically recognise QR codes. Not sure about Android? Anyway: if a user has to download a special bit of software first, I can't see them catching on.

  7. I've got Barcode Scanner v3.52 installed on my HTC Desire (Android). I'll check with a few iPhone users at work tomorrow to see if they have access to similar apps.

    Regarding police uses - I'm not sure either! I think it is definitely useful as an alternative in printed media to a shortcut address and it would probably raise a bit of interest if used without explanation. Could be a bit like the 'Tell Sid' British Gas shares floatation campaign!

  8. Useful for sending kids to sites, I got one for our facebook site but nobody ever did anything with it, six months after i had shown someone in marketing how they worked, they 'discovered' them and had an epiphany, and still never did anything with them

  9. Saw a TV advert for Morrisons this evening (Heston Blumenthal) and it featured a barcode at the end - for about 2 seconds! Not quite sure how they expected anyone to whip out their smartphone, fire up the barcode app and scan it in that time but 2/10 for effort. Maybe shove it in the top left hand corner throughout the advert would be a bit more sensible?

  10. For those interested in barcodes - here's one of ours in the wild (link is a PDF):