1.16.2011

AT&T Mobile Barcode Services

Last week, I wrote an article about an advertisement which featured an AT&T generated barcode, and mentioned that I would follow-up with additional information about AT&T's barcode platform. After speaking with one of the heads of the company's Mobile Barcode Services group, here's a bit more information.

Last year, AT&T launched Mobile Barcode Services as a means to offer companies the ability to work and compete more effectively in the mobile space. AT&T began the service offering with about 12 charter clients, now, there are about two dozen. Most, if not all, of these charter clients are enterprise-sized and it is believed that enterprise businesses will be the program's target audience going forward.

At the core of the services offering is a barcode generation and management platform known as Create-a-Code. Currently, Create-a-Code is available to any company or individual to use at no cost but, I was told, fees (most likely pay per scan and others) will be introduced in the near future. When a user sets up a Create-a-Code account, they are able to generate codes and have them stored in their account to use, edit and manage as they see fit. At this time, the platform can only generate Data Matrix codes but, I was told, QR Codes might be offered in the future. The thought to use Data Matrix was based on the fact that 1) it's an open source code, 2) it is widely used and accepted, 3) it can be printed smaller than QR Codes, which lends itself to more uses and 4) it's believed to be more easily scanned than a QR Code. For these reasons, and perhaps others, AT&T did not feel the need to develop their own proprietary code. AT&T also did not feel the need to develop a brand name for the codes generated via their platform, and simply refer to them in the generic sense as mobile barcodes. At present, there is no ability to generate a designer code (i.e., a code with an embedded logo or image), and the codes can only be linked to a URL or contact information.

In addition to code generation and management services, AT&T also offers a code reader app. When I first tried to scan the code that appeared in the advertisement reviewed last week (see below), the scan did not work. Then I read the ad more closely and realized that I had to make use of AT&T's code reader app. Once I downloaded AT&T's app, the scan worked fine. In speaking with AT&T's representative, it seems as though the reader app can scan both Data Matrix and QR Codes, as well as UPC, but the Data Matrix codes that AT&T generates can only be read by AT&T's reader app. Let me repeat that, the Data Matrix codes that AT&T generates can only be read by AT&T's reader app. 

If the above is true then wouldn't AT&T's platform qualify as a proprietary barcode platform? In my mind it would. In speaking with AT&T's representative, it seems as though the company wants to play in the open source space, but doesn't want to refer to themselves or have themselves seen by the market as being proprietary. It's a mixed signal, isn't it?
 
At present, AT&T is working on a number of interoperability agreements with a variety of companies and looks to officially launch the program in the next few months. Technically, they have been in beta with the charter clients, learning what they can and tinkering with the service offering, prior to the official launch. When asked how the charter program is going, AT&T's representative said that most are pleased with the results, but no specifics (i.e., scan rates, code usage, charter client names, client campaign examples, etc.) were given.

Can the market absorb another "proprietary" code platform? Will AT&T start to offer something that the existing platforms don't? Will the pricing structure be any different or better? It will be interesting to see where this initiative goes and who, by way of companies and agencies, climb aboard.

5 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that Mobiletag is the "back office" for AT&T's code creation and reader. The scan that you featured also resolves using the Mobiletag scanner, and a while ago, I read an article that ATT and Mobiletag were testing codes for enterprise applications. I can't understand why anyone would create a open source code that could only be read by their scanner.I would very much like to see AT&T adopt this technology and preload it on all of their smartphones. That would do a lot for acceptance, but not doing it correctly would do more harm than good.To me, the service providers have a termendous opportunity if they could partner with a credit card company to facilitate transactions. I'm suprised they aren't more aggressive in promoting this.

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  2. Tom: See this news release by MobileTag back in March 2010: http://www.corporate.mobiletag.com/en/actualites.php. You are right, seems like you are correct, MobileTag is behind AT&T's platform. I read this or a very similar news release on AT&T's website, but must not have read close enough to have picked up on the use of MobileTag's technology.

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  3. "Can the market absorb another "proprietary" code platform?" I hate to belabor the obvious, but this very statement is WHY IBM, ATT, Google, Etc, are spending BILLIONs, to standardize most, if not all of the "QR" "platform" channels, (i.e. own/control?) via licenses, SDKs, and portals. The most adopted channel wins. This is why they are all "free". Has anybody looked very close at Stickybits model?

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  4. SafeCycle: Thank you for the comment. I have never studied the Stickybits model, nor have I ever read or heard about IBM's, AT&T's, Google's, etc., plans to enter and control the 2D/QR market from the companies themselves. All I ever read or hear about is what people (third parties) suspect that these companies are up to. If there is information you can point me to I would appreciate it.

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  5. AnonymousJune 11, 2011

    well talking about MobileTag/at&t but interesting to know MobileTag licensed NeoMedia patents in july 09 for 3 years duration.since NeoMedia publicly traded company then there are no mention of at&t NeoMedia relation via MobileTag.

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