Thursday, September 14, 2006


FP codes - better than QR codes?

QR codes are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in Japan, with consumers using them to access more information on everything from trees in parks to nutritional information for their MacDonalds hamburgers. However, there are already companies working on developing the next contender to the QR code crown.

DoCoMo have been working on an ‘audio QR code’ which enables mobiles to capture data embedded in music and jingles. I have already posted about the ‘blacklight QR code’ developed by IBM. Today, Fujitsu announced the FP code or Fine Picture code, a technology which embeds codes into pictures in a way that’s difficult for the human eye to spot.

Fujitsu are naturally tight-lipped about how they do this – all they reveal is that the system was inspired by the fact that the sensitivity of human vision alters according to size and colour. Sounds complicated. The big draw of the system is, like blacklight QR codes, the codes don’t compromise the design of printed material. In the future will all printed pictures contain embedded codes?

While an interesting technology in theory,this is quite doubtful to really work well in practice. How are customers supposed to know when a code exists to use there phone? QR codes are of course ugly and intrusive in advertising but at least people know that they exist and what the do. This would induce a lot of customer confusion.

Second, if this is constructed of thin yellow lines few phones will be able to read the code. Thin lines are very hard to resolve with the optics on a camera phone and color is very subjective in the way that is printed and read by sensors.

I cannot see this ever working in parctice. Other companies are doing things that make codes work well with standard camera phones and that enable codes to fit well in to print. For one that is leading this check out Nextcode
I think the main use for FP codes would be for magazines and clothing catalogues. FP codes could add a link to buy straight from the phone without compromising design. However, it only works if the consumer knows that every picture in the catalogue or magazine contains an FP code.

Having said that FP codes are just one contender for the crown of ubiquity currently worn by QR. I wonder what they'll come up with next...?
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