Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Shopping Gives Us A Window On The Future

Ralph Lauren's Chicago flagship has a new high-tech function that gives new meaning to "window-shopping." Image Credit: BusinessWeek/images 06/11/1123_xmas

Christmas Shopping Gives Us A Window On The Future

This Christmas, the shopping experience has taken to the streets!

In an innovative and technologically inventive move, Ralph Lauren, Chicago, decided to do more than just decorate its flagship store window for Christmas, it decided to turn the window display into a combination website and Point-Of-Sale checkout station for the self-service minded consumer who happened to be out-on-the-town ... "Window Shopping".

Excerpts from BusinessWeek -

Shopping in a Window Wonderland
Big stores in cities such as Chicago have always hosted fab holiday windows. Now those displays are high-tech, high-end - and crucial to sales
By Reena Jana - BusinessWeek, Innovation - November 23, 2006

Holiday shoppers strolling down Chicago's stylish Michigan Avenue are accustomed to the extravagant window displays beckoning consumers to buy pricey gifts. But this year, the street's Ralph Lauren (RL) store is introducing an unusual alternative, one that gives new meaning to the phrase "window shopping."

On Nov. 20, Ralph Lauren installed a 67-in. touch-screen display that allows passersby to purchase any item from the company's RLX line of high-performance ski-wear - 24 hours a day. They can then retrieve available items from inside the store, or have the clothes shipped from a central warehouse - no long check-out lines necessary.

"Our goal was to do what we thought was the most exciting holiday window we could create," says David Lauren, senior vice-president of advertising, marketing, and communications at Polo Ralph Lauren (and the founder's son). The tech-savvy strategy is designed to appeal to sophisticated early adopters.
"We also saw the interactive window as a way to reinterpret the Ralph Lauren brand," ... one that is often associated with traditional, preppy clothing ... "in a very modern way," Lauren says. The touch-screen window also displays informational videos on ski conditions in the jet-set destination of Aspen, and ski tips from experts.
A prototype of the Polo Ralph Lauren window debuted in New York, at the Polo Ralph Lauren store at 888 Madison Avenue, during the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in August. Often, crowds lined up around the block to get a glimpse of the window or to purchase clothes using it.

Although Lauren won't divulge the cost of the windows, he jokes that it is about the price of buying an ad in two issues of a weekly print magazine, which is roughly estimated in the $140,000 range. Such a relatively modest sum could fuel a full three months of eye-catching brand promotion vs. two weeks of magazine ads. The Chicago window is scheduled to remain through February 19.
The interactive window was inspired by Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise manipulates a giant, vaporous computer screen with his hands like an orchestral conductor. Lauren called Spielberg directly to see if the technology was possible. When he learned that the display was just a digital special effect, he began developing a system internally.

After the prototype debuted in New York in August, Lauren received a phone call from Spielberg. "He called us to find out how it worked," Lauren says of the window. While he can't describe the full technical details, he says the screen's futuristic effects are achieved via rear-projection of images. The touch-sensitive window is enabled by a transparent foil embedded with electrodes.

And it's not only the luxury stores experimenting with new, spectacular ways of drawing in buyers. Macy's Herald Square department store in New York, for example, is featuring interactive window displays for the first time. The concept suggests a children's version of the Ralph Lauren touch-screen windows. Passersby touch pads shaped like red stars (the Macy's logo) to set animatronic figures in motion.

At a time when the National Retail Federation is predicting that total holiday spending will increase 5% in 2006 to $457.4 billion, retailers understand there are potentially more dollars to be made than in previous years. For luxury emporiums and mid-range stores alike, developing a stronger brand identity via show-stopping window displays - or, in the case of Ralph Lauren, interactive sales windows - appears essential to a merry holiday selling season.

Read All>>

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

3D Barcode - Auto ID "CUBED"

It's only a matter of time before the world around you is painted with ColorCodes. Wherever you go, wherever you look -- TV, magazines, store shelves, shopping bags, billboards, web banners, T-shirts and more -- you'll see ColorZip in action. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.

3D Barcode - Auto ID "CUBED"

That's digital 2D code "X" axis, "Y" axis, and Color!

To the power of three ... that's what I say! What could be more powerful than a code that incorporates color as one of it's discernments? After all, this is a color world.

QR Code (a registered trademark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED) breaks out of it's shell through the introduction of a new automatic identification symbology variant - the ColorCode (ColorCode and ColorZip are registered trademarks of ColorZip Media Inc.).

ColorCode is the name of the first ever "3D Barcode" utilized by a server-based content delivery system known as ColorZip.

At the moment, ColorCode is a closed and managed source code symbology designed for use by Brand Managers and Marketing Communication professionals through ColorZip Media - a flexible, real-time, interactive content management system that provides up-to-the-minute CRM data to the consumer.

So, with the ColorZip system, all a consumer needs to do is point a CCD or CMOS camera (with a minimum 100,000-pixel resolution) at TV screens, print ads, magazines, POP displays, outdoor boards, electronic screens, product packages, web banners, T-shirts, and etc. containing a ColorCode, and decoded information sends the consumer's computer or phone to a web server that, in turn, delivers digital information to the consumer that he can use to be informed or make a decision.

ColorZip Japan now announces [ColorZip Certified Program] to give certificate to our trusted partners and their products. The program is set to find creative design or hardware companies who can cooperate with us to make the ColorCode designs or improve hardware. After thoroughly evaluating creativity, robustness of their product and technology, ColorZip's Partnership is certified and official logo is provided. With the ColorCode, you can appeal your reliability and expand business chances. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.

Imagine the possibilities of reaching out to consumers on-the-fly when ColorCodes can be read quickly and easily from a 15 foot distance by mobile phones, Cell PDAs, PCs, and other devices equipped with cameras. Say good-bye to exclusively communicating through one-dimensional print display methodologies.

Excerpts from ColorZip Japan, inc. website -

There's a colorful new world to be explored.

Point your mobile phone at a model in a magazine ad and zip you're visiting her website.

Point your Cell PDA at a music video on TV and zip you've got a sample of the hit single.

Point your cell phone at your favorite team's logo and zip you know the score.
That's the power of ColorZip.

ColorZip works with mobile phones, PC cameras, and other imaging devices that read ColorCodes. Let's say you see a poster for a movie you're interested in. Point your mobile phone at it. The camera in your phone reads a ColorCode printed on the poster. The ColorCode contains information provided by a server. The server then sends data to your phone in the form of content, perhaps a movie trailer. Best of all, it happens instantly, in a zip.

The ColorCode was exhibited at the AUTO-ID EXPO by SATO (printers) held at TOKYO BIG SIGHT. The flower motif ColorCode is for use on flower tags at a florist or nursery. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.

Every picture tells a story.

ColorZip also makes watching TV an interactive experience. Suppose you see a product you like on a TV show or commercial. Point your mobile phone at the screen and zip, you can order the product. Perhaps you're watching a TV quiz show. With ColorZip you could play along from home, "answering questions" with your phone and instantly winning prizes.

There are more than 17 billion color patterns available in a 3 mm square code, and in larger codes the possibilities are infinite. Codes can be created in wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors and printed on paper, fabric, glass and other materials. They can appear as corporate and brand logos, designer labels, photos, and virtually anything you can imagine.

It's only a matter of time before the world around you is painted with ColorCodes. Wherever you go, wherever you look -- TV, magazines, store shelves, shopping bags, billboards, web banners, T-shirts and more -- you'll see ColorZip in action.
All you need to do is zip.
Reference Here>>

ColorCodes from Origin through Mobile Site have been designed by the Sankei Co Ltd.'s desingners. The design represents their corporate profile and philosophy. Image(s) Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.

Excerpts from Newsweek International via MSNBC early this year-

Using Color Codes To Browse the Web
By Christian Caryl (with B. J. Lee in Seoul) - Newsweek International - Jan. 16, 2006 issue

It's an advertiser's dream. Imagine you're sitting in your favorite cafe when something in the business pages catches your eye. That company you're reading about sounds intriguing. So you take out your mobile phone and focus the camera lens on a small splotch of color embedded in the corner of the article. Suddenly the phone's screen is displaying real-time stock prices and up-to-the-minute company headlines.

It's become a truism that the Internet is transforming the way businesses reach their customers. But among advertisers there's a nagging sense that the online world is still too disconnected from more traditional media, like print. For most users, gaining access to the Internet still means sitting in front of a computer and hammering away at a keyboard - a setup far removed from the experience of reading the morning paper or thumbing through a magazine. Advertisers would instead like to give print readers immediate access to the full range of Web-based information. Colorzip Media, a South Korea-based company, is one of the numerous small firms hoping to bridge this divide.

Colorzip's idea is to build on the pros of bar codes while shedding the cons. The intricate structure of bar codes makes them hard to read; scanners have to be close and precise. And if anything else gets in the way - an ad, for example - the scanner can't cope.

A few years ago Korean computer scientists came up with a new kind of code based on color patterns, which can be easily incorporated into company logos or other graphic designs. Colors are much easier for scanners to read, and they help users home in on the content. Colorzip codes have the added advantage of simplicity.

The design highlights the Skype logo and uses plenty of Skype light blue within the ColorCode. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.

Unlike a data-heavy bar code, all a Colorzip code communicates when it's scanned is an index, a pathway to content stored on a server. That links the reading device to the desired content which then pops up on the screen.

Even better, the colors can be read at relatively long distances - say, half a meter away and at poor resolutions. Colorzip codes have already been used on TVs, for example, with viewers voting to express their preferences for the outcome of a show. You focus your phone's camera on a splotch of color in the corner of the screen and press the button; you then find yourself at a Web site.

"We're able to put content onto the code to make it attractive," says Christopher Craney, CEO of Colorzip's Japan subsidiary.
But who goes to the trouble of carrying around a scanner? The answer: 60 percent of mobile-phone users in South Korea and Japan. Their phones come with Quick Response readers, based on a code
[a 2D code - QR Code invented by DENSO WAVE CORPORATION] that's somewhere between bar codes and the version proposed by Colorzip. With some software from Colorzip, users can zap everything from specially made Colorzip postage stamps issued by the postal service to T shirts or caps marked with jazzy graphics, and be directed to a Web site.

The technology has a drawback. Because the codes can be photographed or copied, they might be susceptible to hacking.
But the color codes may presage a day when the combination of user-friendly codes and the Google-sifted Net universe opens up myriad possibilities.
Read All>>

Check out the most powerful 3D/Auto ID "Cubed" code designed to date>>

Friday, November 17, 2006

QR - A Mouse With A "Tale"

QR Code reading mouse pictured with QR Code from DENSO Wave and Colorzip Certified 2D Code - Image Credit: ELECOM

QR - A Mouse With A "Tale"

Imagine, if you will, that you are flipping through one of your favorite magazines and there is a story about an exciting travel destination, you know, one that describes where to go, what to see, how to get around ... and you would like to look all of this information up on the computer when you get home.

Well, in Japan you can.

In Japan, the article would be accompanied with a printed image known as the QR Code. This code image, because it is a QR Code, can contain as much alphanumeric information that over 4,000 characters would allow. One image can contain a small story ... a tale!

In this case, the information contained in the QR Code (created by DENSO Wave) is website location information ... but how does one get this information into the computer, to either go to the website, or read the "tale" data?

This from Ubergizmo -

Elecom Bar-Code reading mouse

How many people actually need to use a mouse that comes with a bar code reader? Apparently enough to create the demand for such a product that drove Elecom to develop the new Bar-Code Reading Mouse. This neat little peripheral is capable of reading both monochrone and 2D color barcodes (also known as QR barcodes) The ergonomics on this peripheral looks suspect, although it does resemble a bar-code reader's design more than that of a mouse. In case you don't know that the mouse is from Elecom, they have kindly emblazoned a large reminder on the entire left side of the mouse's surface. No word on when it will be released and how much it costs.

Reference Here>>

... And this from OhGizmo! -

Elecom Releases Bar-Code Reading Mouse
By Andrew Liszewski - OhGizmo!

Even though they don't seem to be as popular in North America as they are elsewhere odds are you've seen those 2D QR barcodes at some point. You know, they're those weird little square graphics that are made up of what appears to be random patterns of smaller squares. Well in reality those patterns aren'
t random and those small squares can actually hold a surprising amount of encoded text.

Elecom now has a USB mouse with a built-in optical QR reader that can handle both the traditional black and white versions of those barcodes as well as the newer color versions which actually hold less data and are typically only used as pointers to websites.

Reference Here>>

Here are some image examples from the manufacturer's website as to how the mouse is used.

Magazine article with QR Code image locator. Image Credit: ELECOM

Callout of QR Code image as it appears in the magazine. Image Credit: ELECOM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

QR Code - The Best Auto ID Code Ever, Really!

"Transitions" - From bar code symbology to 2D digital matrix QR Code symbology. Image Credit: DENSO WAVE

QR Code - The Best Auto ID Code Ever, Really!

In the worlds of automatic identification and information technology, the question of what is the best machine-readable information-packed symbology ever ... has been answered.


Well, until someone comes up with a device-readable code that can hold nearly twice as much information as the next available code option, have the code achieve a move tolerance of about two meters a second (approximately six feet a second), and have the code repair itself with as much as 30% of the code image missing ... then one cannot dispute this claim!

The best auto ID code ever?

The best automatic identification code (symbology) ever is the QR Code, developed by Denso Wave (a Toyota Group Company). The QR Code was originally intended for use in tracking the complex task of automobile parts manufacturing and sourcing throughout the automobile assembly process.

This code, which was proprietary, has been an open source solution for years (first standard approval by AIM in 1997) and has found great favor in many application quarters, but the early adapters have mostly been found in the confirmation of cellphone-purchase transaction-verification and entry security.

The QR Code uses a true two-dimension (2D) digital matrix pattern symbology as opposed to a high-density or stacked barcode image approach. This code is read by image reading digital cameras as opposed to a single beam of light reading back upon itself in order to sense the reflectivity of an image through a "wave pattern" (laser). The strength of an image reading digital camera device is that they are solid state (no moving parts, which relates to increased reliability) and the imager can read ALL symbologies regardless of image/symbology approach.

As for use in the information technology marketspace (legal, insurance, medical, shipping and etc.), we at Symblogogy ask; what could be a better tool than a full mini traveling database for document identification information and dynamic file indexing?

Excerpts from Denso Wave (Japan) -

Bar code to 2D Code

Bar codes have become widely popular because of their reading speed, accuracy, and superior functionality characteristics.

As bar codes became popular and their convenience universally recognized, the market began to call for codes capable of storing more information, more character types, and that could be printed in a smaller space.

As a result, various efforts were made to increase the amount of information stored by bar codes, such as increasing the number of bar code digits or laying out multiple bar codes.

However, these improvements also caused problems such as enlarging the bar code area, complicating reading operations, and increasing printing cost.

2D Code emerged in response to these needs and problems

2D Code is also progressing from the stacked bar code method (that stacks bar codes), to the increased information density matrix method.

About QR Code

QR Code is a kind of 2-D (two-dimensional) symbology developed by Denso Wave (a division of Denso Corporation at the time) and released in 1994 with the primary aim of being "a symbol that is easily interpreted by scanner equipment".

QR Code (2D Code) contains information in both the vertical and horizontal directions, whereas a bar code contains data in one direction only. QR Code holds a considerably greater volume of information than a bar code.

In addition to QR Code, some other kinds of 2D Code have been developed. Below is a table of typical 2D Code and their features.
Reference Table Here>>

[Example shows that the QR Code data capacity for numeric data only is 7,089 characters and the alphanumeric data capacity is 4,296 characters. In comparison, the next closest code option is the DataMatrix Code by RVSI Acuity CiMatrix. The data only capacity is rated at 3,116 characters while the alphanumeric data capacity is set at 2,355 characters.]

QR Code provides the following features compared with conventional bar codes.

High Capacity Encoding of Data
While conventional bar codes are capable of storing a maximum of approximately 20 digits, QR Code is capable of handling several dozen to several hundred times more information.

QR Code is capable of handling all types of data, such as numeric and alphabetic characters, Kanji, Kana, Hiragana, symbols, binary, and control codes. Up to 7,089 characters can be encoded in one symbol.

Small Printout Size
Since QR Code carries information both horizontally and vertically, QR Code is capable of encoding the same amount of data in approximately one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. (For a smaller printout size, Micro QR Code is available.
Kanji and Kana Capability (RoW communication capability)
As a symbology developed in Japan, QR Code is capable of encoding JIS Level 1 and Level 2 kanji character set.

In case of Japanese, one full-width Kana or Kanji character is efficiently encoded in 13 bits, allowing QR Code to hold more than 20% data than other 2D symbologies.

Dirt and Damage Resistant
QR Code has error correction capability. Data can be restored even if the symbol is partially dirty or damaged. A maximum 30% of codewords can be restored.
Readable from any direction in 360 degrees
QR Code is capable of 360 degree (omni-directional), high speed reading. QR Code accomplishes this task through position detection patterns located at the three corners of the symbol. These position detection patterns guarantee stable high-speed reading, circumventing the negative effects of background interference.

Structured Append Feature
QR Code can be divided into multiple data areas. Conversely, information stored in multiple QR Code symbols can be reconstructed as single data symbols.

One data symbol can be divided into up to 16 symbols, allowing printing in a narrow area.

Features Reference Here>>

For 2D Code to become widely used, it is first necessary for QR Code specification to be clearly defined and made public. In addition, QR Code must be freely usable by users.

The background
[story] behind the popularity of bar codes, is specification disclosure [open source]. Today, there are very few bar codes with closed specifications or strict patent protection.

QR Code is open in the sense that the specification of QR Code is disclosed and that the patent right owned by Denso Wave is not exercised.
Standards References Here>>

Additional QR Code Symbology Size & Type Decision Factors Here>>

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's Time For "Push-To-Pay" In Proximity Purchasing

Austrian-made LAKS watches: An idea whose time has come? Image Credit: Lucas Alexander Karl Scheybal

It's Time For "Push-To-Pay" In Proximity Purchasing

Proximity pay and access technology strategies largely did not take into account the fact that even with the encryption of information, the information could be picked up with RF antenna sensors at anytime one came within the sensors operating range.

Austrian watch maker Lucas Alexander Karl Scheybal felt there had to be a better way. A way to allow the owner of the information be released when the information was intended to be released - not a minute before and not a minute after - it was time to implement "Push-To-Pay" controls for the purchaser.

Excerpts from ContactlessNews eDigest - Avisian publications -

New watches add smart card technology to enable contactless payment, access, and logical security
By Chris Corum, Executive Editor - Tuesday, October 31 2006

An Austrian watchmaker may not be the guy one would expect to find impacting the identity and payment card markets, but Lucas Alexander Karl Scheybal is not your typical watchmaker. At his company, LAKS, he designs precision timepieces that do more than just keep time. Recently added to his line of mp3 and flash drive watches are models that enable contactless payments, employee access and ID, and even a version that accepts a SIM card and connects via USB to a computer.

Embedding an identification device or chip into a watch is not new. Contactless-enabled watches have been used as lift tickets at ski resorts for years. But LAKS is taking the functionality -- and the style -- to new heights.

Pay for transit fares and access your office with a wave of your wrist

The company's Event Watches contain a contactless chip that can be used for transit, access control, or employee ID applications. The watch has become a popular form factor among frequent commuters in Shanghai. The Chinese city's mass transit ticketing system accepts the traditional contactless fare card but also the trendy LAKS watch.

According to Mr. Scheybal, 'Our Event watches have (also) been used for company entrance systems with either Philips MIFARE or LEGIC transponders ... (and) some hotels and SPA Hotels are using the watches for their entrance systems.'

Add multi-application capability by inserting your SIM card

Yet making this Events model seem almost traditional is the company's exciting new Smart Transaction Watch. This watch enables the user to pop open the face and insert a knock-out SIM card. The Smart Transaction Watch was used during this summer's FIFA World Cup as a MasterCard-PayPass (TM) payment token. The watch was a companion to credit cards issued by Chinatrust Commercial Bank, one of the largest credit card issuers in Taiwan. The project was so successful that Chinatrust has continued its issuance beyond the World Cup promotion.

"The watch will always work as a companion card with your 'normal' creditcard," says Mr. Scheybal. A card issuer could provide the watch with the chip in place or could leave the insertion to the cardholder. "The bank can send your personalised card and you simply knock out the chip and insert it into the watch. This is a decision of the bank."

"To comply with the PayPass specifications, we added high security into an analog watch," said Mr. Scheybal. "We are now set to enter these exciting new secure identity and transaction markets."

The latest addition to the SmartTransaction Watch is a "Push to Pay" feature. With the integrated "Secure" button, the antenna is blocked -- thus disabling transactions -- until the wearer presses the button.

The SmartTransaction Watch accepts SIM format smart cards with USB, contactless, or both interfaces. To gain the advantage of the USB interface, the PHILIPS SmartMX chip must be used. Says Mr. Scheybal, "The best feature is the USB cable. Using the USB interface the watch can be used as a token. This feature opens a wide range of applications."

When might you find a smart watch on your wrist?

Clearly he is on to something. In this full configuration, this highly fashionable wristwatch could be used for contactless payment, access, and other functions as well as a full complement of USB-enabled logical security applications.

When pushed about the schedule and potential for the multiple application availability, Mr. Scheybal conveniently becomes a watchmaker again. "You know we are only the watch manufacturer. We are the analog part ... the digital part comes from the card manufacturers side and there are so many options."

In the identity industry where 'so many options' are sometime slow to materialize, the LAKS watches have one major advantage over traditional form factors ... Regardless of how you use it, you still have a great looking, high-quality timepiece.

Reference Here>>