Thursday, January 15, 2009

Microsoft Tags – Next generation barcodes

With the release of phones that are constantly connected to the Internet (iPhone, G1), applications that can decode bar-codes and then retrieve information connected to that bar-code have become common. But most phones have a fixed focus camera, which makes it very hard to take a clear picture of the bar-code on most phones (for those that have the iPhone – you know how bad the camera is at taking close by pictures). The only phone that I have seen that is able to take pictures that allow it to reliably decipher the bar-code is the G1.

IMG_0095 Picture of a bar-code taken using the iPhone.

But what about all the other phones with those cameras that just wont take a picture that is good enough to decipher the code behind the bar-code?

Microsoft has an answer and it is called “Tag”.


The technology is called “High Capacity Color Barcodes” (HCCB). The technology is optimized so that it will work with even blurred pictures taken by most mobile phones. The bar-code uses colored triangles (as opposed to black and white bar-codes) and can be printed in a space that is much less than traditional bar-codes.


There a ton of cool uses for this technology. The one I like – it will make my life a ton easier to exchange my contact details with other people. Just take a picture of my tag (I will need to either keep the tag on my phone or it could be a part of my business card) and you will have all my information.

Here is a live image of the tag reader for iPhone after it has recognized a tag. The thing to notice is how much out of focus the image is and yet the tag reader was able to successfully find and decode the tag.


To create your own tags, go to the tag creation page. And to be able to decode tags, you need to install the tag reader made for your device.

At this point a Tag reader is available for these phones that come with a built in camera:

  • Windows Mobile
  • J2ME
  • iPhone
  • Blackberry
  • Symbian S60 phones

Here are tags that link to my website and my blog





No comments: