Monthly Archives: December 2011

What can Barcodes do for me?

This blog has spent quite a long time exploring the weird and wonderful new uses of Barcodes in business, but what about the more normal functions barcodes offer. Although QR Codes are fantastic for holding large amounts of information a 1D barcode can also provide  effective service when linked to a database.

It is therefore worth considering whether the adoption of barcodes across your business could help efficiency and performance. Just some of the most obvious situations where barcodes excel are:

  • Tracking mobile workers
  • Organising Paperwork by Page*
  • Tracking and Organising Parts through a Factory/Warehouse
  • Control the use of hardware by workers

*Organising paperwork by barcodes is something which has enabled an effective link between physical and digital information for a long time before QR Codes. Although it is possible to integrate it into existing software systems through our Barcode Reader SDK it can also be easy to implement using our ready to use application; Bardecodefiler.

Any other obvious applications?

Jack

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Merry Christmas and Cars Reading Barcodes

As this is probably to be the last blog post before Christmas it seemed only correct to wish our readers a Merry Christmas. If you are having any issues whiling away those last few hours then here is our festive QR Code… sorry no exciting colours sadly.

Scan Me!

Scan Me!

In other news it appears Google, who had stopped work with QR Codes to concentrate on NFC technology, have developed one of the most expensive barcode readers around; a self driving car! This news story which appeared last week describes how barcodes could be used to inform the car of precisely where it is, obviously quite important for a car let loose to drive itself. The issue arises due to the fact that GPS can sometimes only have an accuracy of around 9 metres which is probably about the width of many roads. Probably a little too margin for error!

The obvious benefit of the QR Code in this situation is its ability to encode a large amount of data, wouldn’t require a database to be linked to it and the reliability of the read you will get from it. Although I personally feel that new technology for cars without making them radically more fuel efficient is likely to end in ruin this is a fascinating project and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

So Merry Christmas all and stay tuned for exciting news and announcements!

Jack

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Banksy Barcode

Following on from yesterday’s post about barcode art it suddenly occurred to me I had not even mentioned this piece by Banksy.

Banksy's Barcode Art

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Barcode Art

A large amount of my day is taken looking at barcodes. Whether it be to try and work out why someone can’t get it to be read (“have you checked it actually is a barcode sir?”) or simply geeking up on something I have to say they do lose some excitement; if they ever had any.  Therefore I found it fascinating when I came across this website with 12 examples of Barcode art. To see the mundane bars of data which I encounter every day used so differently was refreshing. Although some of them used the similarity to a cage there were several of them simply showcasing the strange, and very subtle,  interest in the shape of a barcode. I don’t think I’d actually like the barcode Chandelier or Sofa (ouch) in my home or office but their existence somewhere is nice to know.

This is not my first encounter with barcodes as art however; QR codes are used widely within the world of marketing and therefore interact with consumers in a way most barcodes do not. This inevitably leads to people trying to make them more appealing and more attention grabbing. It is not uncommon to see a barcode out of the usual black/white mould these days. Some take this one step further and turn the QR Codes into functional artwork as shown by this website which describes how. As a company who provide barcode reading software  software this is essentially a nightmare as they are deliberately taking away the large redundancy provided by QR Codes which make them so effective. I have personally found several examples where so much data has been removed the barcode is no longer readable.It has also occurred to me that by turning the QR Code into art it becomes far less obvious to the consumer what they should do with it.

Our website is covered with pictures of barcode type images appearing in nature, mainly of course in the form of tree lines. Check them out for yourself here.

Jack

 

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2012 London Olympics

As a business based just outside of London we currently can’t move for information about the London Olympics next year. Although many of those who don’t understand sport particularly have spent the last year or so grumbling about costs and travel disruption they are luckily in the minority. Aside from the obvious draw of the best athletes competing for the biggest prize in their sport is it not exciting to have the city filled, more than ever, with people from all around the globe?

What is more to be the nation which has bucked the trend of ever more extravagant venues and ceremonies for a more long term vision is something to be proud of. This proviso has been damaged a bit by the government’s decision to double the budget for the award ceremony but generally a legacy is an idea the nation should be excited about.

The south east has now got a top class under cover velodrome, meaning young track cyclists won’t have to go to cardiff for every training session. Furthermore they have refurbished the Herne Hill Velodrome, the only lasting venue from when London previously held the Olympics. Although we sadly missed out on tickets here at Softek, as did many, I see this as a positive thing; so many people wanted them! Far better than the empty seats which plagued previous Olympics. Luckily the first gold up for grabs, the Cycling Road Race, is free to watch along the route and the Manx Missle Mark Cavendish is a big favourite if it comes down to a bunch sprint.

Therefore although as a software business we don’t stand to gain from the Olympics through trade we here at Softek cannot wait for it. So wherever in the world you watch the Olympics remember the legacy!

What are your expectations of the London Olympics?

Jack

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Unlimited Mobile Data a thing of the Past?

Over in the USA Verizon has recently become the latest major carrier to stop offering unlimited mobile data to customers, instead customers must now choose the amount that they pay for through the cost of package they choose. With Christmas now almost upon us, a time of year when many people will be entering the smart phone market for the first time, does this show that the growth in mobile data use has really exploded in recent times? With increasingly more powerful phones is it feasible with the existing infrastructure to have everyone connecting to online videos and cloud services?

The point that struck me most about this story is that the entry level data allocation from Verizon is 2gb. Now in Britain phone companies offer ‘unlimited’ mobile data use which in reality is capped at simply 500mb! Myself, as an avid mobile internet user, barely get past 100mb a month since most places now have wifi you can easily hop onto. Therefore I would argue that unless you have decided to ditch the home internet in favour of simply using mobile internet, such as using your phone as a router, then this is unlikely to really cause any grief. However it is likely to be a first step and either prices will go up for data or allowances will come down… or more likely both.

The hardest part though is that new phones and new services such as cloud computing are going to put increasing demands on data use with mobiles. While I am confident that such issues will be overcome it is worth analysing the trends in mobile data offers to see how future mobile phone use may be effected; could QR Codes really take off if data become so expensive? Would it be worth a consumer using up a few megabytes to view a promotional video?

Jack

 

 

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Christmas Business and the Google Zeitgeist

As December continues on it appears everyone gradually loses focus on their projects and their heads are instead filled with shopping lists and awful Christmas songs. This of course leads to quiet times at many companies as interest wanes until everyone returns revived and re-motivated in January. While I am sure this sounds like nonsense to anyone in the retail sector over the last few years it has seemed no one puts software development toolkits on their Christmas list!

Yesterday’s release of the annual Google Zeitgeist leaves me thinking this is the same situation at the offices of the search engine giant. Tired from a year of releasing fascinating innovations and mediocre social networking sites they delve into our collective search history to find what the nation has been up to. This year of course the royal wedding is one of the highest increases in searches but more strikingly appears alongside traditional pub grub scampi.

From a technical point of view it appears that the public are most interest in an innovation by apple with searches for the yet to be released iPhone 5 and ‘what is iCloud’ among the list. This I always find surprising since every year another similar phone is trotted out by Apple and as for the iCloud service it is simply one among many. It does show the power of advertising and brand loyalty however.

My final observation from the list is ‘Rebecca Black’ who has found herself in the most searched terms on Google this year simply for releasing one of the worst songs (ever). Is such a phenomena only possible in the age of the internet? (I mean for someone to become famous for a lack of talent not for someone to appear in the Google Zeitgeist) Since before the internet there were many more levels of selection and gradual removal of the less talented on the way to the top, now with people going straight to the ‘market’ via the internet this rather useful gatekeeping method is removed. All I can say that if without the internet we would never have had to hear that song ‘Friday’ then maybe we all need to  reassess our relationship with the world wide web.

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Code 128 Barcode Specification

Following a few days of generally musing on the Bardecode blog it is probably time for a more technical post again. This time we are back to barcode specification, as was done a week or so ago with Code 39 barcodes. This time though we are moving boldy into the world of Code 128 barcode specifications.

Code 128 Barcodes are among the most complicated linear barcodes which is great for stuffing them with information but less great for their production. Firstly it is worth remembering that they require a better quality to get a successful read than either Code 25 or 39. However this concern is pointless unless the barcode itself is correct. Below is a list of some of the basic principles which make a Code what it is.

  • 4 different width of bar/space.
  • 3 symbol sets (A, B and C).
  • Symbol set C encodes pairs of digits and is one of the best ways to store large numbers in a linear barcode.
  • Ability to switch between symbol sets.
  • Barcodes include start and stop character plus a built in checksum.
  • Each character is made up of 3 bars and 3 spaces – except for the stop character which has 4 bars and 3 spaces.
  • The number of black bars should leave remainder 1 when divided by 3.

For more information please view our knowledge base which covers the issue of checksums (vital to code 128 barcodes) and many other common issues.

Jack

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Diversification: Pro Cyclist sets up a Blueberry Farm?

No one should need reminding in this day and age that continual expansion is not also the best thing, just look at RBS’ huge losses after continually trying to expand rather than consolidate a solid business. However one headline which caught my attention this week was that two time winner of the Giro d’Italia  Ivan Basso had started his own blueberry farm in his home town. Although still only 34 years of age and with no plans of retirement it is clear he has his eye on the long term.

Even more surprisingly I learnt that this was not uncommon among European cyclists who will often invest in the likes of olive groves to secure there long term future. The only business lesson I will even attempt to squash out of this is the genius is going for something tried, tested and with solid returns. These wealthy people are not attempting a ‘dragon’s den‘ style investment with ridiculous returns but something which will always be needed, recession or not; food. Therefore when looking to expand a stable business is it not best to look for how to create the strongest base rather than the gambling on short term growth.

However Basso’s judgement has not always been so hot in the world of cycling; banned for two years for involvement in doping. Although he has seen a resurgence in his career following the work of the late anti-doping coach Aldo Sassi (same trainer as Tour de France 2011 winner Cadel Evans) last year he missed the Giro to concentrate on the Tour de France and finished a disappointing 8th. Next year it appears with Contador either unwilling or unable to ride the Giro Ivan Basso will be back and fighting for the pink jersey.

Since the blueberry harvest will apparently take 8,000 man hours I can only say I hope it doesn’t clash with a grand tour… that would be one busy month!

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QR Codes… What are they?!

As with many other people I have been guilty of continually espousing the greatness of the QR Codes… soon they will replace meal times! err.. maybe not. However it is generally expected that their growth will continue and eventually it will be an expected part of any advert. In some magazines I now look through it has become the norm; there are far more adverts with QR Codes than without.

Therefore I was very surprised today to find an article on CNN entitled “Why QR Codes Aren’t Catching On.” My first reaction to this was that they were clearly mad, had they not seen the QR Code expanding onto everything from beer mats to volleyball kits? However after reading the article it was obvious that wasn’t the point. While the little box of pixels may now be everywhere its functionality is generally passing people by and I don’t just mean elderly people without smart phones. The research looked at college students, of whom 80% had smart phones and had previously seen a QR Code, and found that only 20% were able to successfully scan a QR Code.

Now this made me feel a little silly with my previous blogs claiming everyone now knew instinctively what they were expected to do with a QR Code allowing for a company to gain more tangible results from physical advertising. If those most surrounded and immersed in new technology, students, are failing to engage with QR Codes and generally letting it pass them by then what is the hope for reaching the rest of society. Many of the students were not even aware that a third party application was required on there phone to read the QR Codes.

Furthermore aside from ignorance of what QR Codes do many of those who were comfortable using them found the process for readinhg them unreliable and time consuming. In the age of instant gratification it is a big ask to try and get a consumer to spend even 20 seconds getting there phone out, selecting the application and then ensuring a correct read. It should be remembered that QR Codes require some level of correct positioning on a screen to gain a correct read; it is not simply a case of waving a camera at a billboard! This is made even worse by creative advertising agencies created coloured QR Codes or using the redundancy for corporate logos.

Although I do not believe that this is the death of QR Codes it is worth remembering that while the growth in use is rapid within advertising and media the growth of consumer use is somewhat lagging behind. Until barcode scanners software reaches a point where the reading of  a QR Code is instant and possibly until the software is integrated with a mobile’s camera software completely there will always be limitations.

Do you think this is a real problem or simply growing pains of a new technology?

For more information on our mobile barcode scanner SDKs please visit our website.

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