Microsoft Breaks the Color Barrier for Barcode
Published: April 18, 2007
by Alex Woodie
In the last 25 years, the IT industry has seen various improvements in labeling technology, starting with simple two-dimensional barcodes, more advanced three-dimensional barcodes, and, finally, radio frequency identification (RFID), the "barcode killer." Now, Microsoft is trying to infuse new life into the tired black-and-white barcoding scheme with a new colorized barcode format.
The first question you may be asking is, Why color barcodes? According to Gavin Jancke, director of engineering for Microsoft Research and the inventor of the new high capacity color barcode (HCCB) format, color barcodes hold more information and look better than traditional black-and-white barcodes.
"The capability of these new bar codes to store more data in a smaller space should provide a rich resource for the industry and consumers alike," Jancke says. "The new code offers several advantages over existing black and white bar codes most people are accustomed to seeing on product packages, enabling new consumer experiences, more visual appeal where aesthetics are important, and the ability to incorporate advanced security features."
On Monday, Microsoft announced that the International Standard Audiovisual Number International Agency ((ISAN-IA), the Swiss agency charged with administering the ISAN numbering system, has licensed HCCB technology and plans to incorporate it into an authentication system for weeding out legitimate motion pictures, video games, broadcasts, and digital video recordings from forgeries.
In addition to authentication, HCCB has other uses. As the technology improves, Microsoft envisions barcodes being displayed on TV or computer screens, on movie posters or DVD or CD cases, or on magazine ads or billboards. To get more info, consumers would scan these color barcodes with their camera-equipped cell phones or Web cams.
Currently, kids in Japan are using cell phones to read black and white barcodes. But because of the limits of optical technology, those barcodes must be at least 1.5 inches square to read. Color barcodes would greatly reduce the size of the barcode, making it more practical to include on all sorts of consumer items.
New security features can also be incorporated into the color barcode. Microsoft cites a company called DatatraceDNA that plans to use HCCB to build anti-counterfeiting security protection features that could be added during the manufacturing process of most products. The company refers to this process as Digital Nanoparticle Authentication, or DNA.
Patrick Attallah, CEO of ISAN-IA, says HCCP will allow media publishers to provide counterfeit protection and a means for providing additional interactive services to consumers. "The capabilities enabled by this combination of bar code technology and supporting software are important for everyone," he says.
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