Cisco Blogs

Mobile Barcodes for Virtual Connections

March 25, 2010 - 7 Comments

I meet so many people via virtual means and probably won’t meet many of them in real life. One of the consistent requests we have for each other is the exchange of contact information. This becomes a very manual process. I have been looking at ways to enable quick connections with virtual contacts and have been revisiting mobile ‘barcode’ technology to support this effort.

Mobile barcode technology is not new in any way, shape or form. When I was thinking about ways to enable quicker exchange of contact details and other information with my virtual network contacts mobile devices came to mind as a possible solution. What I found is for ‘barcode’ technology there are a several different flavors to choose from and from my testing some work better than others as relates to supporting vCard, URL, media, and other types of information exchanges. I will go into details and provide examples further in the post.

So let’s dive into those barcode technologies and see some working examples.

Disclaimer Time
The below should not be considered endorsements by Cisco. The opinions shared are mine and mine alone.

QR Code
From Wikipedia: A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional barcode) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

My test using a QR Code is below. Reading this code from a mobile device directs users to this blog!

SemaCode (Datamatrix code)
From Wikipedia: Semacode is a software company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It is also this company’s trade name for machine-readable ISO/IEC 16022 data matrix symbols, a type of barcode resembling a crossword puzzle, which encode internet URLs.

Semacodes are primarily aimed at being used with cellular phones which have built-in cameras, to quickly capture a Web site address for use in the phone’s web browser. Semacodes are in fact Datamatrix encoded URLs.

My test using a DataMatrix Code is below. Reading this code from a mobile device directs users to this video of the Cisco Live 2009 Customer Appreciation video on YouTube!

Microsoft Tag (High Capacity Color Barcode, HCCB)
From Wikipedia: High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) is the name coined by Microsoft for its proprietary technology of encoding data in a 2D “barcode” using clusters of colored triangles instead of the square pixels traditionally associated with 2D barcodes. Data density is increased by using a palette of 4 or 8 colors for the triangles, although HCCB also permits the use of black and white when necessary. It has been licensed by the ISAN International Agency for use in its International Standard Audiovisual Number standard, and serves as the basis for the Microsoft Tag mobile tagging application.

My test using a Microsoft Tag is below. Reading this code from a mobile device enables users to download my vCard!

Links to Readers for QR Code, Datamatrix Code and Microsoft Tag

These are just a few readers out there. I encourage comments for other readers you have found useful!

Links to QR Code, Datamatrix Code and Microsoft Tag Generators:

These are just a few code generators out there. I encourage comments for other code generators you have found useful!

General Findings
All of the codes were extremely easy to generate. All of the code types work well for pointing to URLs but Microsoft Tag was the only code I was able to get a vCard to work with. The beauty of the vCard via Microsoft Tag was it prompted me once scanned on whether I wanted to add the vCard to my contacts and once I clicked yes, voila the information was accessible in my mobile contacts instantly. I also liked that Microsoft tag enabled me to create an account where I could store all of the tags I created online.

I see a ton of potential for these types of codes, here are a couple of scenarios:

  • You are walking along and see a concert poster with a mobile barcode attached you could user your mobile device to read the code and buy tickets right then or bookmark the concert web site for viewing later.
  • Print ads could now include a mobile barcode inline that allows the reader to access rich media related to the subject. This has been done a few times but not does not appear to have really caught on, yet.
  • I found a cool example of a convenience store in Japan who prints a mobile barcode on all of their receipts, read the related blog post. The retail possibilities are endless I think.
  • Mobile barcodes could be used for marketing campaign contests. Read about a great example of a mobile barcode scavenger hunt.
  • You are managing a series of events and want to promote the events happening at each event. You could have all of your event staff wearing a t-shirt with a mobile barcode printed on it that when scanned drives the scanner to the list of upcoming events in the series.

If you have had success with vCards from other tag types let me know how you did it! I am also keen to hear if anyone has successfully been able to create a code that downloads a calendar reminder, I tried but had no luck. I would also love to hear about other creative ways you have used mobile barcoding 🙂

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. I am not aware of phone data being captured via these mobile bar codes. Everything I have read indicates they are a very secure method for the phone owner to retrieve information to. However your comment makes me think about measurement. It isn't clear to me how effectively one can measure the success of mobile bar code usage. I expect a URL assigned to the bar code would be a good first start for tracking traffic from the bar code to the marketing effort for example.

  2. I think this technology is great, but the only reservation is because i have very important information in my phone, what is the likelihood that if i scan something that my information is captured in my phone and now someone else as access to my information from my phone etc...What security measures are in place or might this be an additional application?

  3. actually there putting these barcodes in mini sd cards for mobile phones. check it out on

  4. I agree Dennis! Thanks for the link reference :)

  5. I think QR Codes are great especially when deployed in interesting ways. Mancini

  6. Thanks Don! I am sure there are many more that didn't make my list...

  7. The Google chart API includes another easy-to-use QR generator ( )