February 25, 2004
Annotating physical environments with 2D "Barcodes"

Chris Heathcote proposes a standard for "warchalking" physical locations in a machine-readable format: anti-mega: rdf as barcodes, and geowarchalking:

Many modern Japanese mobiles read 2d barcodes, in a standard format, using the on-phone camera. These barcodes include a phone number, a URL, or an email address. This has been expanded to include a whole business card. People print them on their paper business cards, adverts often have a barcode link.

But - we want to store other data. We want latitude and longditude. We want places. We want lots of things - we want to barcode tables, chairs, everything! How can we create all these specs?

He offers some interesting proposals, creating squared and dotted "2D" bar codes containing RDF data, annotating a geographical location. He goes on to suggest:
So, let's annotate the planet!

What we need next:

  • a standard proposal (this post may even be it)
  • free, open reader and writer software - both for PCS and phones
  • crazy geo pirate graffiti gangs
I think this is a fun idea, but idealistic at best.
  • The generation of geo-accurate tags for all feasible locations is going to mean a lot of mobile GPS'ing and tag-generation on the spot.
  • It will probably be cheaper and more reliable to just build GPS receivers into the phone hand sets and other gadgets one wants geo-aware in the first place (mobile phone networks, incidentally, are already reasonably geo-aware as they know with which fixed antennas they're talking to, and mobile phones have a mandated requirement to provide positioning information for emergency services within few years)
  • I think the 2D barcodes have a huge potential for snapping info (where to book the concert tickets of the concert you saw advertised on poster and snapped the code of, remembering URLs, offering digital coupons etc) but I just don't see why people would extensively geo-tag their environments just like that...
  • ... just my 2 cents...
(via ben hammersley)

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We already implement 2D barcoding for inventory tracking in my business. We area able to track everything about a product from cradle to grave; this is essential to the business since we do multiple repairs on the product, and need to be able to track the history using database applications. This could easily be extended to other areas.

Posted by: Dave on February 26, 2004 04:22 PM

Just to clarify my statements above: I'm not saying I don't believe in 2D "barcoding" for information storage/automation; the only bit I don;t think is going to work is the hordes of geo-taggers hitting the streets labelling positions high and low. There are too many geographical positions and hence too high cost (and too few idealists) to do it. GPS or GSM triangulation will take care of the geo-info.

I DO believe 2D barcoding has great potential for tagging items in supply chain management (as a lo-tech alternative to RFID, by the way) and in allowing sharing of marketing info e.g. on posters / coupons in magazines/newspapers etc etc.

Posted by: Anders on February 26, 2004 04:34 PM
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