Posts Tagged ‘standards’

Cue Moo QR

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I’m down to my last 4 moo cards, shock, horror. and as i’m about to head out to the states in a months time, so I should restock. flickr account is being scanned and QR ideas are churning around my oval brainbox.

My last set of moo cards (full size) featured what was known as a MECARD, very popular in Japan. Which could be deemed as a verbose, VCARD. The storage of contact details that would scan directly into your device without the need of manual input has its advantages. Not to say the least human error, time saving benefits and an instant cool factor.

The code is much denser than QR’s that simply point the user to a URL and take them to a mobile site or special content. There is nothing wrong with that. But the idea that the data required is literally embedded within the pixels on the card, to me, expresses the benefits of this kind of technology. Odds are you have a smart or feature phone with an application that can read QRs to begin with, this most likely means that most if not all of the protocols that can be embedded into a QR can work directly on the device. Why go out to the net create a connection, the download data – this eats up data plans, if you’re roaming, this could be expensive.

So I wanted to see if there were improvements to scanners and what I could do to push the envelop with QR’s and cook up some ideas for the future.

The start if this research lead me to NTTDomoco’s page pioneering the MECARD format. I have options to create the barcode using a few API’s on the web, most popular of which is Google Charts – but further exploration unearthed this great resource:

SPARQCode is a system that utilises the QR Code binary format for encoding by Denso-Wave in ISO/IEC 18004 – they are more interested in what happens after the scanning.

The SPARQCode encoding standard is intended for setting a compliance standard such that QR Code scanning software can agree on a common format for the interpretation of different data types at the application layer.


The SPARQCode website contains a bunch of resources that any QR wanting party can make great use of:

Although SPARQCode’s offerings tend to take a URL and then minify it with their own URL shortener, then serve that up to the end user, they have some interesting offerings:

QR Generator
Offering the following formats:

  • Phone Number
  • SMS
  • Map
  • URL
  • Contact
  • App Store
  • vCal
  • Raw encoding

Part of their business model seems to be providing a full marketing solution for those wanting to utilise a QR campaign, imagine analytics tracking, with barcode creation and high resolution SVG code output for print campaigns. Their free offerings however include the generator above and an API endpoint to generate QR Codes

This may be an untapped area, but imagine using dynamic driven QR’s on sites or electronic displays, these could be changed updated with offers, new locations, the benefits that digital has over print comes into play here.

However what impresses me is that the output of the QRs from their site provides a legend that accompanies the QR, this icon represents the encoded content and gives the mobile user a clue as to what they are going to get from scanning the code. This I like very much, but the presence of SPARQCode Trademark bothers me somewhat. As I am intending on printing the code onto a moo card, physical print space is precious. The upside is you don’t have to use it, SPARQCode do not require you use their logo on any code you create on their site, this is a good move on their part. And although using their generator doesn’t offer the ability to disable that, if you are accustom to any coding or image editing at all, you can easily find ways around that.

What I love are the icons and the transparency offered to the end user, that and the ability to launch applications from a QR, these I think should be used and I’d love to see campaigns in the wild begin to adopt this technique, I for one will on my next batch of moo’s and the mobile apps i’ve been developing lately.

But these concepts are no good, unless the scanner applications support this initiative. Luckily enough another #win from Sparq is its scanner download page. Its mobile friendly. it will detect your handset and prompt you to download a compatible scanner/reader, which so happens to be the best I’ve used to date! And there are compatible readers for the following platforms:

  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Windows Mobile/Symbian (Nokia)
  • J2ME
  • Blackberry
  • webOS

That’s good support and a great place to point users new to QR.

It would be nice to see some sort of open-source community approach to adopting these standards and the iconography as microformats have attempted to do. I think any QR app developer should take a good look at the existing standards and start adopting the full range of encoding possibilities today, it will lead to greater and more imaginative QR use across the board.

I am going to be dreaming up some new uses and intend to see what I can get out of this new revelation: I’m going to leave you with this practical use. I co-organise the London Titanium Meetup group, and we have an event on in 2 weeks time, so if you find you don’t have the directions or want to quickly get them, the geocoding QR option with all the trimmings from SPARQCode is here: