Sears First US Retailer to Use 2D Bar Codes

Efforts to implement retail 2D bar codes in stores are accelerating: Sears, in conjuction with vendor ScanBuy, became the first U.S. retailer to begin a public trial that started in mid-December at a store in Marietta, Georgia. As opposed the the traditional row of black lines (a 1D barcode), 2D barcodes look like a grid and make use of a second, vertical dimension, allowing them to store more data. What Sears hopes to do is to allow a cell phone's digital camera "look" at a small 2D bar code on an advertisement, which launches an applet. A server interprets the bar code and the phone then launches a Web browser and deep-links to a page on that site, typically the Web site of the advertiser.

Currently, the biggest concern, which is also likely to be the most short-lived, is that the service is available on a relatively few phones in the United States. The concern about a shortage of supported phones was mentioned by a Sears manager involved in the trial.

Note: I've edited this to clarify that Sears is the first to use these in retail stores, since many users seem to think that this article implied that Sears was the first to use them ever, which is, of course, not true.

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I saw this kind of barcode on a bottle of drink in the UK. It said about scanning it to go to their website.

I'm not sure what software I need on my phone to be able to interpret the image taken with the camera, hmm.

This has already been in use all across Japan for a long time. Time for the rest of the world to catch up I guess.

So you want me to point a mobile-phone camera at a box, take a picture of the code, and it will magically send the phone browser to product info.

You're assuming I have a camera phone (nope, a non-camera Blackberry) and want to view your site NOW (as opposed to at home where I can use a 24" screen and broadband connection to see a potentially more informative site). This is better than a "Visit us at xxxxx.com" label how?

This is better than a "Visit us at xxxxx.com" label how?

Because it's the future! :P

Actually this technology can and is used for more than just sending you to a web site to see ads. If you look at a modern movie reel you'll see these along the edge of the film strip, they actually store the digital audio track. Pretty cool. Of course that's a really long code. On retail products they can store more information about said product than the older type though, so that's less info that has to be stored in an external database. Also as mentioned the USPS and other carriers use them for their tracking software.

To all people saying that this is not new tech and is rampant in Japan, I wholeheartedly agree. However, the article never mentioned Sears being the first to use 2D barcodes ever; nevertheless, I've clarified since I suppose it did seem a little ambiguous initially.

With that quantity of data, they can easily store error correction data, and I'm sure they do. Even 1D barcodes have a fairly safe checksum to avoid accidental misreadings.

They're not really talking about using these in shops as a replacement for standard barcodes, they're using them where they've been used for years - in advertisements in the shops. I'd guess, in theory, these require a full URL stored in the barcode which isn't really feasible with a longer barcode as the reader wouldn't be able to see it in it's Field of View.

In practice though, they're sending the barcode to a server to be read and that's sending back a URL, so they could just store an ID number and stick to a 2D barcode. I'd guess this is because phone's aren't generally powerful enough to do the image reading required for 2D barcodes (though I'd guess they could manage 1D barcodes easily!)...

Seems to me they're doing this because they can rather than working out the best way to do so...

So after reading all of the comments, and knowing personally that these are widely used..

Can someone change the post title to "Sears finally figures out 2d bar-codes"

Why should the title be changed? Its accurate, as none of the companies using them that are mentioned in the comments here are retailers. Sears is in fact the first US retailer to begin making use of them. Nowhere in the article does it say that they are claiming that they are the first company to ever use the technology.

Seconding all the comments about tracking numbers on postal carriers... This is not new technology.

Also wondering what would happen when the code becomes unreadable...

The older type are already decoded for you. If you look at a bar code on a product you'll see numbers and letters printed directly above and/or below it. This is what the barcode is in human readable form. We use barcodes because it's faster and less error prone to scan it into the computer then it is to type it in manually. Trouble is these numbers are useless to you without the database that actually stores the information on the product.

There are a few online databases that have data for many products. Barcodepedia and UPC database for example. You can use a web cam to read the bar code, a USB bar code scanner or type the number in manually. For example, 020626722124. :)

Of course 2D bar codes store far more data so I guess typing it in manually would be out of the question. I don't know of any PC program that decodes them at the moment but no doubt there are some out there or will be eventually.

(IamZed said @ #6)
If this pans out I'm making a t-shirt that will Rick Roll any camera that takes my picture.

I had to look "Rick Roll" up. Now that's funny!

Actually, now that I see that image... I've seen that quite a few times here in Spain already... seems they use it mainly for publicity or linking in magazines, products and/or tv spots.

Same idea but not the same thing. those are more advanced than that's described here, though they're used for the same phone recognition thing.

but these haven't ben used on products in the ame way that 1D barcodes have, they also said the sears one is a grid with only two rows, so a low lett complex.

With a 1-D bar code, there is a row of numbers at the bottom that a cashier can use to enter a product's code manually on those frequent occasions when the scanner can't read it:

I wonder what a cashier would do in the same situation with a 2-D bar code?

(Octol said @ #2.5)
With a 1-D bar code, there is a row of numbers at the bottom that a cashier can use to enter a product's code manually on those frequent occasions when the scanner can't read it:

I wonder what a cashier would do in the same situation with a 2-D bar code? :ermm:

2d barcodes are 10,000 superior to 1d. If the barcord is damaged and cannot be read, it will read itsself to you.

Used on test strip (diabetes) vial packaging here in the UK, and must be the same as in the US as they are the same product... Odd that they have been on them since released in about 2003, so its not really new lol

(Octol said @ #2.5)
I wonder what a cashier would do in the same situation with a 2-D bar code? :ermm:
About the same. They would just enter something like this.
:)

(phiberoptik said @ #2.6)

2d barcodes are 10,000 superior to 1d. If the barcord is damaged and cannot be read, it will read itsself to you.

What? is that some sort of "in soviet russia..." joke?

"In Soviet Russia Barcodes read YOU!"

(Octol said @ #2.5)
With a 1-D bar code, there is a row of numbers at the bottom that a cashier can use to enter a product's code manually on those frequent occasions when the scanner can't read it:

I wonder what a cashier would do in the same situation with a 2-D bar code? :ermm:

There are always sku's to rescue you.

(lylesback2 said @ #1)
incase your wondering, this is what it looks like:


I'm certain this is widely used in Japan...

So who is this N. Kelly, Design Ethnographer and do they really want me to have their Bizcard?

(lylesback2 said @ #2.11)
I heard they are making colour ones too, which will be even more superior to these 2D bar codes.. But how many products do you have?

Barcodes contain the UPC number, which applies across companies, it's not limited to one store.

Will it cost money every time the internet is accessed against my will? Seems like an emerging pattern for some reason...

(HawkMan said @ #1.1)
o you're phoen will magically force you to take a photo of the barcode and connect to the server against yoru will ?

Google toolbar with spellcheck... look into it.