JagTags are similar to QR codes in function, but their appearances are a bit different. These barcodes have a large “L” shaped black bar around the outside and is detailed with black and white circles. Looks aside, JagTags encodes similar data as the quick response code. The main difference lies in decoding it; JagTags are decoded via e-mail, text message or Twitter. When an image of a JagTag is received in one of these ways it gets the data and sends it back the same way it was received. Initially this may seem inconvenient. QR codes are instant and don't require an internet connection for the actual scan. What's the main appeal of these barcodes then? Any phone with a camera can use them. Unlike QR codes, users without smart phones are not alienated.
- JagTag: The official JagTag site, sporting the tagline “Anytime. Any place. Any phone.”.
- JagTag vs Other 2D Barcode Companies: A chart depicting JagTag's features versus some other 2D barcode companies.
- @JagTag: The official JagTag twitter where these barcodes can be sent to be decoded.
Microsoft Tags are computer giant Microsoft Corporations answer to traditional Quick Response barcodes. These 2D barcodes perform the same function as QR codes – they decode the same amount of data which is decoded and presented to the user upon being scanned. The difference comes in the form accessibility and appearance. Microsoft Tags are significantly more colorful. Whereas quick response codes have only a 30% error correction allowing for minor alterations to the code in the form of text, images and colors, Microsoft Tags can be made almost completely unrecognizable. This may seem great for companies looking for fully brand their barcodes, but it also makes Microsoft Tags have no consistent way to identify them. Often when a user sees one of these tags, they won't know what they are or how to use them since there is no common, recognizable features. The big kicker to these tags though is that they can only be read by Microsoft's own scanner. Luckily this scanner is currently offered at no cost, but it still requires accessing Microsoft's website and requesting a download link, rather than navigation to the local app store and downloading any of a number of QR code applications.
- What is Tag?: An overview of the Microsoft Tag and how it works.
- Get the Tag App: Microsoft's page for requesting a download link to their Microsoft Tag Reader.
- Getting Started: Create your own Microsoft Tag for free.
Google Goggles is an alternative approach to interactive, instant barcode data. Instead of being an actual barcode like the previously mentioned cases, Google Goggles is a application which uses a smart phone's camera to scan and identify an item. This remarkable program doesn't even need to be pointed at a barcode. Instead it can be pointed at any product and will deliver the name of the product, information on it, maybe even price! This image recognition is similar to 2D barcodes in the fact that it snatches data via a smart phone application and presents it instantly to the user. The similarities end there, though. Google Goggles isn't a tool that business can use for marketing unlike barcodes that can be physically printed, and the control they have over results is limited. Regardless, Google Goggles definitely is an interesting twist on the instant information trend.
- Google Mobile Google Goggles: The official website, sporting the tagline “Use pictures to search the web.”.
- Google Goggles for Android: The application page in the Android market for Google Goggles.
- Google Goggles Overview: A page which gives an overview of Google Goggles and instructions for use.
Near Field Communication
Near Field Communication, or NFC, takes mobile scanning to a new level with mobile ticketing. NFC allows for a user to use their phone to interact with a computer chip to perform a transaction. Users can “tap” their phone to make a credit card purchase, unlock a door, and more. This technology is significantly less “digital” than other alternatives. Computer chips are required to be embedded for a NFC equipped phone to function. These computer chips are cheap, but not nearly as much as printed media, or as accessible. Differences aside, Near Field Communication is less an alternative to other 2D barcodes and more of a possibility to compliment them in the future as the technology behind it is further developed.
- NFC Forum: A non-profit industry that supports the use of Near Field Communication.
- NFC World: A leading news site for Near Field Communication technologies.
- Asia Pacific Smart Card Association: One of many developers of NFC computer chips.
All of these technologies are fascinating in their own way. One question remains, though: Are they true alternatives to quick response codes? That answer is up to interpretation, but most will argue that in their current forms nothing can beat QR codes in accessibility, visual appeal and print potential. Quick Response codes can not only be printed onto nearly anything a marketer desires, but they can be obtained easily and at low to no cost. Plus, these barcodes are easily recognizable, but not so much that they're flexible. Error correction allows companies to add in some branded flair but not so much that people won't recognize it as a QR code. These up and coming alternatives definitely have potential, but will they ever compare? In a time when barcode technology is booming, it's hard to say.