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.
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.
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.