Digimarc's New Barcode Lets Mobile Users Scan Objects

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DigimarcWould you rather scan a QR code or scan the whole item to receive additional information? Digital watermarking company Digimarc is betting that consumers are more likely to choose the latter.

Using a technology released Monday that embeds codes in images, Digimarc enables retailers to provide product information, coupons and other content without the use of a QR code.

“The problem with QR codes is that they’re not visually appealing and they take up space,” said Matthew Szerencse, market development manager at Digimarc. “You’re not going to see a watermark; it’s embedded in an image and you just need to let people know it’s there.”

To access the information, consumers must first download the Digimarc Discover app. Szerencse pointed to the magazine Cooking Light as an example of how publishers can use the technology.

Scanning a photo of a dish in the print edition connects readers to its sister site, MyRecipes.com, where they could save the recipe to a file, share it with friends and do other activities. Other clients such as Costco, Ford and Sharper Image have used Digimarc’s technology on brochures and catalogs.

Given that the watermark is invisible, Szerencse conceded that consumers still need to be prompted to scan the image. Cooking Light, for example, included instructions on how the feature worked under a red icon it printed throughout the magazine. “The difference is that you’re not forced to use a black and white QR code — you can customize the symbol or instructions however you want,” Szerencse said.

In terms of consumer data, Digimarc shows clients the number of times a watermark was scanned, device type and location data based on ZIP codes. It also collects personal information like email addresses, Szerencse said. For ad-targeting purposes, the information that an image or item contains can be tailored to specific locations and changed on a daily basis, he added.

In addition to allowing consumers to scan printed materials like magazines, the Oregon-based company rolled out its Digimarc Barcode on Monday, aimed at consumer packaged goods companies.

The Digimarc Barcode contains the same data that is carried in a product’s UPC code and invisibly printed multiple times over the entire package. Consumers could potentially scan items on the grocery shelf for coupons and product information and once they’re at the checkout line, an employee can quickly scan the items without having to position a barcode underneath a camera.

Digital watermarking “is an efficient way of providing information and the Digimarc Barcode makes that process even faster,” Szerencse said. Several clients, Szerencse added, are testing the Barcode but he declined to name them.

Digimarc is not the only company developing QR code alternatives. Google Goggles enables smartphones to translate images into promotional materials, and augmented reality technology (such as Google Glass) has been described as the evolution of QR codes.

Other companies have boosted the QR code technology. Ricoh Innovations introduced Clickable Paper — technology that lets users click on an image without zooming in on a code or logo. ScanBuy offers enhanced features for QR codes, such as a “dial code” that would allow consumers to automatically dial a phone number after scanning a banner ad.

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One Response to “Digimarc's New Barcode Lets Mobile Users Scan Objects”


  1. Ben Kneen says:

    Amazon has had an app like this for a year or two called Flow, and it really works quite well - http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/02/amazons-flow-app-brings-barcode-scanning-augmented-reality-to-android-users/ Definitely a 'Wow!' augmented reality experience.

    I'm actually surprised it never took off more, but exciting to see a new entrant to the space open up the possibilities to marketers with the same kind of user experience. Just remains to be seen if customers want to scan codes as a habit, or just as a novelty.

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