Microsoft adopts QR Code as standard for Windows Live Barcode

27 10 2006

It seems that Microsoft have discovered the 2D Barcode. Expect to see a proliferation of mobile 2D Barcode products and services in the next two years, now that Microsoft have just released Windows Live Barcode (still in Beta).

The 2D Barcode standard they have chosen is the QR Code – distinguised by the three concentric squares visible in each code. Although it’s proprietary (owned by Denso-Wave corp.), it is the most widely adopted barcode format used in Japan, where over 30 million mobile phones already feature the software required to decode the barcodes. The next most popular format is currently Semacode (aka Datamatrix), which is an open, non-proprietary standard. Most popular readers (such as the Kaywa Reader) support decoding both of these major barcode formats.

Unlike other “proximity” technologies like RFID, “Smart Chips”, GPS, or magnetic strips, the 2D Barcodes can be read by an ordinary camera phone, loaded with the correct software; and can be created without any special hardware, software, or consumables. The barcodes can be printed on paper, read from computer monitors or TV screens, or even created on and read from another mobile phone. Just to prove the capabilities of this technology, I have even created a working barcoded T-Shirt.

A QR Code can store over 4,000 alphanumeric characters within a barcode. The capacity, flexibility, and inexpensiveness of 2D barcodes makes their application to education extremely diverse.

In the future, expect to see educators accopanying printed notes with automatically generated 2D barcodes on each page, linking to electronic versions available via students’ smartphones.

Expect to see 2D barcodes attached to “real life” teaching and learning realia, such as plants in a nursery (for example). A learner could find out more information about any tagged object, just by using their mobile phone to capture the Code, and either directly accessing the data stored in the code, or being directed to a URL (which could contain multiple links to related resources, including images, articles, and video).

(Click image for larger version – excepted from Low & O’Connell 2006, “Learner-Centric Design of Digital Mobile Learning“)

Expect to see learners sharing information with each other using QR Codes to encode, exchange, and store data – saving learners the trouble of manually and laboriously inputting text using mobile phone keypads.

Expect QR Codes to provide an instant context for information, so that a learner’s interactions and learning can be guided by their current situation or context, such as in this example of a tag that might one day be attached to the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

There are already a number of online tools for creating 2D Barcode enabled mobile websites, such as WinkSite… and a lot of online generators for creating your own 2D Barcodes for other sites of your choice.

I’m aware of just a few educators who are trying out 2D barcodes, but the true potential of this technology won’t be accomplished until we can get the attention of telecommunications providers – to have decoding software installed in Australian camera phones by default, as it is in Japan. I have previously tried to telephone and email Optus, Telstra, a number of other providers and industry groups including the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and the Australian Consumers’ Telecommunication Network, but it’s been a struggle to convey to them the applications of this particular technology.

Still… Now that Microsoft are in on the game, we may see advances made in the deployment of 2D barcode technology software, even without the participation of telecommunications organisations. I’m certainly looking forward to a more connected future of learning!

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12 responses

30 10 2006
tarek speaks mobile… » Blog Archive » Carnival Of The Mobilists #51

[…] Next I’d like to highlight this weeks newcomers to the carnival. First up we have Tom Hume, a veteran mobile blogger, who gives us an insight into the problems the major Operators could face as Instant Messaging gains popularity and why they’d prefer we stick to SMS. Our second newcomer is Leonard Low of Mobile Learning who takes a look at how camera-phones could be used to access and share educational resources between students by way of 2-D barcodes. Both Tom and Leonard have set the bar high with their first entries and I’m sure we’ll se more great stuff from them, and other newcomers, in the future. […]

1 11 2006
Dennis Hettema

First of all welcome to the carnival and cool to see that your starting blog is in the proximity marketing space.
I’m sorry to see you missed our company ( as we are currently the company with the largest amount of live implementations under our belt (outside of Japan and Korea).
Not only have we done campaigns for Coca Cola, Xbox, Heineken and, we’ve also worked extensively with several eduction institutes and museum (is that the English word?) to provide extended data on objects through ShotCodes.
I do feel that many teach materials can be (and will be) made interactive through the use of 2D barcoding technologies. I also believe that this will happen completely independent of the operators. Creating ShotCodes for educational purposes is completely free and I’m sure many of our competitors will (or are following) follow the same road.

1 11 2006
Leonard Low

Thank you for your comment, Dennis – I’m certainly aware of Shotcode, and in fact I think that Shotcode is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing of all of the “2D Barcode” (perhaps a new descriptor is needed – after all, they don’t really use bars anymore) formats.

I’m pushing strongly for the use of 2D digital symbologies in the Australian education sector. If you think Shotcode would like to be involved in the deployment of proximal learning approaches here – please get in touch with me (contact details here)!

At the moment, the biggest inhibitor of the take-up of the technology here is simply a lack of software. If Shotcode can develop a reliable deployment system to make Shotcode readers quickly available on Australian mobile phones (which don’t come pre-loaded with any decoding software at present), they will acquire a natural market advantage.

6 11 2006
Everything and the Mobile Software Universe… » Mobile Data Input: find, organize and share….

[…] Mobile Learning » Microsoft adopts QR Code as standard for Windows Live Barcode […]

9 11 2006

There is a whole arena of relationship building tools for educators that I need to use. I’m just discovering many of them. Thanks for some direction.

The next year will be very busy.

10 11 2006

I have started a blog devoted to the topic of mobile phone readable codes, not in the educational context but more generally. This post was one of the inspirations for getting started. Dennis from Shotcodes has already stopped by. It would be great if those with an interest in this topic could pay a visit and let me know what you think and add your wisdom.

Thanks – David

13 11 2006
swamp thing

MSFT was given a presentation by a company who owns that connection. Neomedia Technologies is coming out with free downloadable application for the mobile device. Go to

They do own a company called Mobot who was in Forbes as a top 25 up and coming technology.

Now how is MSFT going to ties Qode into their product?

21 11 2006
Paola Cabrera V.

Just to clarify that it’s a (common) mistake to say that “…format…Semacode (a.k.a. Datamatrix)…”.
Those are two different things.
Semacode is a company, like several others, which happen to use (and develop) Datamatrix codes.
Datamatrix is THE generic/common name, and is the non-proprietary standard.
The URLs of the Semacode company are:
Non-commercial site
Commercial site

29 11 2006
Mobile Learning » Japanese food data: a model for m-learning?

[…] More and more people outside of Japan are catching on to the concept of encoding information that can be read by ordinary cellphones.  Microsoft have only recently implemented a beta version of such a system with Windows Live Barcode; but in Japan, over 30 million people already use their mobile phones to digitally retrieve information from advertising, media, and food packaging, using QR Codes (as illustrated below). […]

31 01 2007

I have to echo Dennis. Educators should consider symbologies that were made for mobile phone optics. Dont assume QR is the right track just because it works in Japan. It is an industrial code. It was made for infrared scanners. More modern codes were made for the optics on mobile phones. Nextcodes mCode, OP3’s shotcode etc. Nextcode recently inked an impresive carrier deal in the Philippines with SMART (22 million subscrbers). Interesting to see an Asian carrier reject QR. This blog entry goes into the reasons why: Nextcode is working with a number of carriers and advertisers on near term impelmentations.

7 02 2007
Everything and the Mobile Software Universe… » Mobile Tagging - 2D Barcode…Tag my world!

[…] This can be strongly related to augmented reality where the “web world” is augmenting the “real world”. Even microsoft is taking the bandwagon as described in the always good Mobile Learning Really getting an address from an advertisement right into my cellphone by taking a snapshot, or storing an appointment for a movie or a special event by taking a photo of an ad seems really valuable to me: today even with my glorified Treo with its big keyboard, I’m reluctant to loose my time entering those snippet of information. […]

29 09 2007
Barcode scanning on your mobile phone « Eileen’s Technology blog

[…] done some research and even considered  adopting this as a standard .  Shame I can’t find a way to get my E650 to scan these yet.  […]

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