Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mobile Codes Consortium..A Consortium Or a Conundrum?

A group of Physical World Connection (PWC) companies are getting together to create a "standard" 2d code physical world hyperlink. A standard 2d code would allow quicker adoption of this industry.

By having a "standard" mobile code, it would make it easier for mobile phone manufacturers, wireless carriers and mobile marketing companies to implement this technology.
Scott Shaffer
I agree 100% with this idea, but I question the motives, the companies, and the timing of this effort.

From the document:

To enable the simple experience for marketers and consumers, the industry needs standards.

This document is a mission statement for the mobile industry, to create a consortium for a new mobile marketing ecosystem based around camera phones and 2D barcodes. A market-driven, open-standards approach will allow 2D barcodes to act as a catalyst in mobile internet adoption, mirroring the growth of web adoption over the last ten years

Let me make a few suggestions.

1. Analyze all the mobile codes available from all of the physical world connection (PWC) companies.

You can find a list of the PWC players here . Determine what code is best suited for the MOBILE today and going forward. While the QR code may be considered the most common 2d code, it was initially designed for industrial use and will have limitations going forward for other upcoming Web 2.0 applications.

Look forward to see what codes are being designed for camera phones. There are better options than the QR code or Data Matrix code.

2. Analyze any patent issues that are present, or could develop. One of the companies within this consortium has a pattern of suing (and is still in the middle of a suit) other PWC players and has done a fantastic job of slowing PWC adoption in the U.S. . Now they want quicker adoption?

Is there a questionable motive here?

If this company is eager to see PWC get adopted, do their lawsuits impede this progress?

A PWC company not part of this consortium, has been licensing one of these proposed codes. If they are not included, could this present a problem with this "standard".

I would ask all participants to leave their intellectual property (IP) at the front door when they enter. I suspect this would change how "willing" some of these participants really are for a standard.

3. Outside of this consortium, things are happening rapdidly. Because of this, one could question the timing for this consortium and a "standard". Once again, I agree there should be a standard, but why are these companies proposing it now?

In the last couple months there have been 2 major PWC events (1. 2 ) from 2 different companies with proprietary mobile codes. They were no obstacles landing a major brand or getting a wireless carrier adopt their platform.

Has a major Asian carrier just shown us there is a better mobile code option than the QR code by adopting Nextcode's proprietary mobile code platform .

OP3 , Nextcode , BeeTagg and SemaCode haven't had any problems getting their proprietary mobile codes adopted, why not ask them how they did it. Or at least include them in this consortium for their input.

You can read the MC2's entire statement and the companies associated with it here (pdf)
The html version

If you're on the Physical World Connection list, or if you're a stealth PWC player, I suggest you email these guys and voice your opinion.

Comments and suggestions encouraged.


Tommi Vilkamo said...

Good post.

I really don't know the motives of this consortium. If it's for open standards, I'm all for it. Interesting to see...

ps. I'm not an official Nokia spokesperson, so I can't say anything officially on behalf of Nokia

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more on the motivation question. There are just about enough examples of emerging technologies where players were "motivated" to create standards. See the case of PoC: if anything, the standards initiative was holding back adoption.

Is getting the players to agree on "what code is best suited for the MOBILE today" a realistic expectation?
The way to move forward is to finally get input back from the market as to what consumers actually want, that should determine the best code out there, not what vendors decide independently.

Larry said...

I wonder if "Vissionary Innovations" had been the one to patent the use of camera phones and barcodes if you would still feel so strongly about giving up the rights to the vision.

Scott Shaffer said...

Visionary Innovations feels there are several ways to approach this.

Many have been posted on The Pondering Primate.

This is not about giving up rights.

Anonymous said...

There is no 'best' code IMO just as there is no one best means of PWC--it really depends, doesn't it? There will likely be multiple codes in wide use for very specific, beneficial reasons that will need to be read by a universal reader of some sort. BTW, do HP and Publicus (consortium founders) have ulterior motives too? You bet they do...just like your own blog, which I read every day. :-)

Anonymous said...

Of course Publicis has motivation for a standard that leads to faster ubiquitous adoption of code scanning. But I wonder if this is a corporate intiative at Publicis or just some buddy of Chas Fritz's who works in the London office... I would think any advertising agency who was really interested in a standards drive would want to start with a clean sheet of paper rather then the presumption of QR or Datamatrix. This smells like a segement of the market trying to wrap a competitive intitative in the noble robes of a "common objective." If this was driven by 4 major advertisers, carriers, MySpace, Google, Microsoft, publishers and comsumer goods companies, it would be a viable, forward looking standards effort... As usual, Schafer calls a spade a spade, to the chagrin of NEOM shareholders.

Anonymous said...

"If this was driven by 4 major advertisers, carriers, MySpace, Google, Microsoft, publishers and comsumer goods companies, it would be a viable, forward looking standards effort..."
....well let's just wait and see who joins, shall we?

Tim Kindberg, HP Labs said...

Thanks to Scott and everyone else who has posted about our proposal to form the Mobile Codes Consortium. We encourage debate. We also invite everyone with an interest to go to and to read our mission statement, for our own account of what we're about.

As I have written elsewhere, we are proposing the MC2 as an open body, comparable to the Near Field Communication Forum, for example. The mobile industries need to set standards quickly if there is to be a critical mass deployment deserving of serious attention by marketers. The evidence is there for all of us to see: critical mass means much more that the odd trial between a technology company here and an operator there.

Of course we have our opinions (as individual companies), but we are not initiating the MC2 in order to swing the adoption of any particular standards per se. BTW, symbologies (Datamatrix vs QR vs ...) are only one consideration: it's also important to standardise the data in codes, and certain aspects of the behaviour of mobile clients when they read that data.

Business models are the other area on which the mobile and marketing industries need critical-mass agreement. IP is part of that. We can't speak for anyone else, but none of the initiators of the MC2 has an interest in making IP a 'roadblock' issue. All of us welcome debate and agreement about business models within the MC2.

Finally, as to progress so far, I'll repeat what I wrote on

Currently, our focus is on engaging the operators and handset manufacturers as key players to join us in the initiative. Their involvement is vital for creating the mobile codes ecosystem. In addition, the MC2 needs to be constituted, either as a standalone body or as a working group of an existing standards body. We are contacting standards bodies to investigate the options. Once those tasks have been completed, by about the end of March 2007, we will issue an open call for participation from across the mobile industry. We appreciate that many other companies are keen to be involved as soon as possible. We ask for your patience while we establish the core of this organisation. In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions, comments and expressions of interest.

Anonymous said...

The above post sure sounds very much like what DoCoMo had to do to ensure iModes ultimate success...

Anonymous said...

What is the rational for excluding other symbology firms from the discussion if not to simply stack the deck in favor of your IP? A robust discussion among all potential stakeholders makes a lot of sense, but not if it is simply a competitive initiative masquerading as open standards discussion.

Anonymous said...

By using the existing barcode standard (EAN, UPC) there is no need for a new standard. The discussion about using 2D codes to make "PWC happen" is a dead end.

You can´t change the product companys all over the world to go over to 2D code because todays PWC actors haven´t got the competence to make cameraphone work with EAN/UPC.

When the CamClic Reader will be launched, the need of a hybrid type of code (such as ShotCode, SemaCode etc..) will soon be gone. The CamClic guys have worked in the closet for a time now but they have a very good product portfolio coming up for the EAN/UPC standard. This is what the PWC need and what the product companys been waiting for.

Scott Shaffer said...

CamClic sounds idea,but until they demonstrate the application in public, or to an unbiased party, it's just "see-say"

For the record, I emailed CamClic about their app and they never responded.

Anonymous said...

Your totally right there Scott :-)

I will talk to them and see to that you get an app before they launch it.

Roger said...

What should be the limitations of the QR Code? I do see none with regard to the uses in Japan.

Let me see the codes that can encode Vcards, SMS, Telephone Numbers, Text as long as any SMS and URL's.

The benchmark that the QR Code sets is quite high IMHO. So I am curious to know your response. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

...while these guys get their acts together hop over to and have a looksee at what this technology can be used for.

This site and presentation where created back in 2003...

Scott Shaffer said...

You should check my list of Physical World Connection companies. PixeCode has been on it for a while.