Sunday, March 27, 2005

pwc SemaCode Interview

Semacode .

Can you briefly describe what SemaCode offers to consumers and

Sure, two words. Ubiquitous computing.

Seriously, this is an under-appreciated field. It's a lot like
hypertext back in the 80s. There were some serious visionaries who
messed around with hypertext. It was invented by Vannevar Bush, and
then Doug Englebart gave a great demo. But it was basically an academic
pursuit until the world wide web came along.

Ubicomp was invented by Mark Weiser in 1988. He envisioned computing
seamlessly blending into the environment until it faded into the
background. He called it calm computing. The idea is somewhat to say,
that software can incorporate the real world into its programming. So
the software is no longer trapped inside the PC or mainframe, but lives
out in the world. Once you get that you can build interaction modes
that frees people from the need to focus on a computer. Instead they
can focus on what they are doing, and the software fades into the

In practice, ubiquitous computing is an umbrella term that includes
location-based services, pervasive computing, mixed-reality gaming,
augmented reality, etc. Semacode is a platform, a sort of toolkit that
allows people to build all those things and more. We can build on these
sorts of existing applications, like knowing when the next bus is going
to arrive (LBS) or playing a treasure hunt game (mixed-reality gaming).
We can also do things on commodity cell phone hardware that previously
you needed expensive vertical barcoding systems to do.

Since we encode a standard URL into the barcode, our circle of
applications is far broader and reaches well beyond the shopping arena.
The URL barcode allows us to make general-purpose applications.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is

For ourselves, I think like any company we need to grow at the right
speed. Our technology relies on cell phone technology which is
improving rapidly. So we need to make sure that what we're working on
now, is going to satisfy our current customers who might be using a
client/server model, and will run on next years phones where a fat
client will be possible on mainstream phones.

With ubiquitous computing there are privacy issues. RFID tags can be
read remotely, so theoretically someone could scan you from a distance
and find out about an iPod in your bag, a nice watch... There's also
the issue about centralized control of the flow of information.

Semacode neatly avoids any of those issues with its decentralized

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

Our customers are the people who will take our platform and build a
solution with it. At first, due to the costs of deploying the hardware
that is mostly companies and academics. In the long run, we aim to have
Semacode become so common that anyone can make something with it, much
the way people make weblogs and home pages today.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

I don't see a big delay.

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product , and
this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie.
Have any search engines contacted you about any business


When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and
purchase/retrieve info happening?

Well, it's already happening in Japan, where Amazon has got a system in

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

Well I wouldn't want to reveal our competitive secrets! Basically what
we worry most about is execution - how to operationally get from where
we are today, to a world where Semacode is common and we are
commercially successful.

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

Nokia would be nice.
Does SemaCode have an application that can read RFID tags?

RFID tag readers are hardware only. We do software.

If you had to sum up SemaCode in one sentence, it would be.

URL barcodes for ubiquitous computing.

I think this company and the app has some great potential. I see many opportunities to use this for. Bus stations, museums, small merchants, sales flyers are just some.

Put a Semacode on a bus station to get latest schedule. You could have them on all subways and bus stops. An artist could put one on painting description for more info.

A semacode provides the link to a web address on any physical object. Store owners can put one in their window or on their advertising flyers. Click on the code and be directed to the store’s site instead of typing in lengthy web address.

It looks like Semacode is more concerned with making this user friendly than an advertising vehicle (although it will be). Let the owner of the code determine what uses they can create for it. I like that and I think you will get some great creative ideas because of it.

I see this being a very user friendly application. It is for information that you will use daily. It is the concept of daily use and location specific that will be its greatest sales tool.

A semacode is the answer to “for more info”. As long as there’s a semacode attached, the user can look for more info on a specific item. The owner of the code can be in control of where user will go when the code gets clicked. They can change the targeted website whenever they want. Reuse the code for new promotion.

The problems I see are lack of brand/app awareness. "What is this funny thing and what do I do with it?"
A brand or phone manuf can come along and implement this. Maybe a city will start the ball rolling and make it a part of their entire transportation system.

The adoption will be driven by word of mouth and creative thinking. As with every new technology, if there's value for the user it will get adopted.

If I had to summarize, I would call SemaCode ‘The “for more info” mobile application company'.

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