Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Tokyo Journal: Digital Encoding on Paper Media Becoming a Standard

I've just returned from a trip to Japan where I was delivering a presentation at a conference on U.S. best practices for integrating internal and external content into enterprises. More on that later in our News Analysis and further research papers, but for now an observation about the progression of digital encoding in Japan. One gets off the plane in Tokyo and receives a visa stamp on their passport with a small square patch of black and white checkerboard-like digital data encoding. Kind of neat, in and of itself. Then on the express bus into Tokyo you see the same patch appearing on ads plastered in front of the seats. You see it on business cards, and on ads in the subway cars. This little scannable patch of data is making strong inroads, delivering what many have tried to deliver in U.S. media unsuccessfully - an easy-to-use link between paper and electronic media. Part of this little patch's success is that it doesn't hold a terrible lot of data - just enough to give address, telephone numbers and web links, with a little to spare. Earlier schemes tried to do too much, rather than linking to media that are better equipped to provide the details. With smart phones and PDAs the patches are enough to allow one to scan an item on a shelf and have your handheld device link to a Web page for details on a product or a demonstration or online ad. With an electronic culture that is using highly sophisticated cell phones as a base for media and entertainment it's no surprise that Japan is leading the way with this capability, but it's somewhat of a surprise that U.S. companies have not grabbed on to these increasingly standardized methods for linking on-the-go content consumers with paper-based experiences. There's enorrmous potential for these little patches - if the platforms and tools that use them are in place to exploit them.
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