I've talked about my Nokia N-93 being a superbly complete phone. The one part I didn't speak much about, as I didn't really have good opportunity to test it, was the 2D barcode reader. Its the first Nokia phone I've had which has this feature. And it may be the best part of a fantastic superphone.
A bit of background. One of the topmost experts of the mobile telecoms industry and long term personal friend to me is Voytek Siewierski, who until recently was an Executive Director at NTT DoCoMo the Japanese mobile phone operator giant and global innovator in mobile (launched world's first commercial mobile phone service even though the technology was invented in America, launched world's first mobile internet service, launched world's first 3G next generation mobile service, etc). Voytek and I lived in London for a few years by coincidence and we would then regularly meet to catch up and talk about the industry. Now I've moved to Hong Kong and Voytek to America, we see each other much less frequently.
But yes, a most brilliant mind, long term executive with the world's most advanced mobile operator. He had forgotten more about our industry than most top consultants know. And he was always in touch with the future.
So about two and a half years ago when I visited him at the NTT DoCoMo offices in London, Voytek pulled me aside to the demo room, and showed me a particular phone. It looked normal to me, a typical Japanese (ie at that time, very tiny) clamshell cameraphone/smartphone, with the typical NTT DoCoMo branding. Voytek said he had to show me something, and he thought it would revolutionize the mobile industry. He took a brochure in Japanese from the table, held the cameraphone to the brochure, aimed at what looked like a fingerprint on the page, and a second later the camera beeped, and suddenly the phone displayed a website address. I had seen an early demonstration of the 2D barcode and a reader on the phone. These were the first phones and around that time were hitting the market in Japan.
I had read about 2D barcodes (also known as QR codes as in Quick Response). I had understood how they worked. Some other colleagues had written to me about them, enthusiastically even, and I even had already made my first Pearl (powerpoint slide) about 2D Barcodes. But until Voytek showed to me how it really worked, I didn't grasp the impact. This was as different from the bar codes I understood from the retail industry, as private cars are from busses in the automobile industry. Yes, busses are valuable, but for society, the revolution came from private cars. We are now seeing a similar change in how data will be accessed.
I understood why Voytek was more enthusiastic about this than anything before. And I was immediately immensely impressed. I wanted that technology right away. Of course the DoCoMo demo phones were not GSM, etc etc etc. But from that point on I believed strongly in the future of 2D barcodes and I have wanted that technology to arrive here in Europe onto our phones. I've talked about this topic many times in various conference speakerships since then.
In 2005 when I visited South Korea, another very dear friend and expert on our industry, Jim O'Reilly of the Korean IT Promotion Agency - took me to a demonstration of various applications of 2D Barcodes. While I'd seen many "laboratory" demonstrations at conferences and with miscellaneous companies, I had not seen them "in the open" used by society, at bus stops, on airline tickets, on business cards, printed on ads in magazines, etc. Jim helped me see how vast was the scope of using this technology. And by then in South Korea there were numerous phones already with this technology built in.
I've really wanted 2D Barcodes. I even gone and converted many items of data to 2D barcodes. This here is our blogsite web address. If you have a 2D barcode reader, you can point it at your computer screen, aim it at this scribbly square "thumb print" here, and your phone will display www.communities-dominate.blogs.com - and you can then just click on the link and arrive here.
So, I got my N-93 in late December. It took me a while to get my stuff organized, moving the pictures and contact lists and music and videos, and then do all the customizing I want on my phone etc. And I played with the 3x optical zoom camera and the TV quality video recording etc. But as I wasn't in Japan or South Korea, I wasn't actively bombarded with the 2D barcodes, and it took me a while to get to this feature. And then I had some heavy travel to Europe, and honestly, I forgot about 2D Barcodes.
Now I've had a chance to play with it, and I LOVE it. I now want EVERYTHING to be in 2D barcodes. I want every business card to have them. Every poster, every brochure, every white paper - rather than printing out www.myhomepageisthishorriblylongname.com - just offer the 2D barcode, and let the phone do all the "virtual typing".
I love love love this feature. Its not a particularly demanding application, so I'm sure it will very soon be in most phones. But now we need to learn to use this to our benefit. "Want more information, point your cameraphone at this." And yes, I am confident Nokia will roll it out across the range soon. I hope all other Western manufacturers follow, and that the Asian manufacturers release the 2D barcode reader versions of their phones to the rest of the world.
This is a HUGE change in customer convenience and the phone. Now we really do "trump" the clumsy 101 key keyboard of the personal computer. Why type? Typing is so last year. Now use cameraphones and simply point at the 2D barcodes. Its almost like the phone reads my mind. The immense satisfaction of seeing those words appear on my screen, automatically. This is SOOO cool. (oh, and in Japan, at the 2 year mark from launch last year, DoCoMo reports 56% of its customers already use the 2D barcode reader function.)
So be prepared. Be very prepared. This will revolutionize our industry. Its YET another weapon in the mobile phone's arsenal making it the supreme data instrument and why the mobile as the 7th Mass Media is superior to all the previous six mass media.
I love this industry...