Thursday, April 26, 2007

DiMO (Freedom Trail) project site launched

You can view it here: Click on the tags link to view the content of the projects.

DiMO Boston Freedom Trail Project works using ConnexTo CodesWe had another very interesting review today. Some of the projects are extremely innovative and interesting. The view of adding dimensions into the freedom trail experience for tourists, to me, is the optimal application for code scanning technology: You're there and you can learn more. As Scott Shaffer wisely calls it "Physical World Connection".

ConnexTo Codes morphed in motion in the DiMO projectAnother interesting dimension of this project is the interaction with community, and with local authorities that manage the monuments along the trail. For example, Ashley had developed a very interesting and useful relations with the King's Chapel management, as did Michael in his 'Pub Crawl" project. Aaron links between the tourist experience and nearby community in the Bunker Hill area, Evan is building a community/WIKI set of pages to allow people to share their impression of the site. Matthew is sharing the true spirit of the North End, Paul will get you there with his "Charlie MBTA" project and Josh will allow you to "choose your own adventure".
Chris took an interesting task: make the trail friendly to those parents who are looking for adventure in the morning, but need to feed the kids, change diapers,...,...,,...Chris' Freedom trail is children friendly.
Theresa helps tourists navigate their way around Park St. Church. The cool idea I found in her project is the practical small card she created that people can theoretically pick up from the church or from their hotel.
Todd is linking mobile articles with community posts. Matt was looking at embedding codes and logos.
Jason's project is interest also because its a great starting point: he provides a video of the inside of King's chapel church if you get there 5 minutes after it closes. Pretty neat, I think, but what's even better is to show a bunch of alternating pieces of content: if you visit the chapel during the day, you can see how it looks at night, he can show ceremonies and other events.

Dominik's DiMO project created a Boston Common pamphlet with ConnexTo codes linking to digital contentAnd last, Dominik has a very cool pamphlet for Boston common with little two sided pieces that stick out: on one side you could identify the statue of the ducks, for example, on the other side you could scan the code to get to more content about it. This way a tourist can pick up a number of those as they begin their day in the hotel, and move about the city in a much more interesting way.

I invite everyone to review the projects and initiatives, and add your comments. To me, these projects are the starting point of something very interesting and valuable...I'm looking forward to see where it goes!

We are hoping to be able to show the project soon in one of the mobile Monday Boston events, with the presence of the students, hopefully Yasmine might be able to join. Stay tuned.

Even though we're hoping the project will continue, let me add a note of thanks: Many thanks to the talented students who created the content and worked hard; it really shows. Many thanks to Matt Gross from uLocate who helped (Have a good trip Matt! Arigato Gozaimase) and Devin from Sprint.
Last, a million thanks to Yasmine Abbas, whose talent and creativity inspired this project. It's time to use mCodes on your blog :-)
Good luck Yasmine in all your endeavors!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Smart Network, Dumb Codes

Dumb codes + Smart network? Smart codes that allow robust immediate actions and user feedback on the phone? ConnexTo allows you the flexibility to chooseIn a recent discussion an interesting comment was made on the vision of mobile codes in the Content/Services-Operators-Consumers triangle:
"My network is SMART: I can find who are my subscribers (in the case of a brand, who are my customers), and I can make very intelligent decisions in the network. Moreover, the network has more resources and is more flexible to allow changes and new functionality into the ecosystem, which would improve dramatically the value to consumers. Why invest so much in smart codes that do a lot on the phone and rely less on the network?".
Excellent point, I'll say. Network means flexibility and robustness, more value, updates etc. Perhaps even remove the need for a client on the phone (getting consumers to download an application to the phone is about as easy as pulling teeth) or maybe a thin client; if the network takes the action associated with the code then the dependency on the phone's support for various APIs, like multimedia for example, or PIM, is largely removed.
I'll make two points to offer another perspective on this:
  • Physical World Context: OK, so you want to do everything on the network, fine. But think of the consumer: they are in the context of some experience, related to location, time, identity and other parameters that change the way they perceive the value that would be offered to them by scanning the code. If I'm scanning the menu of a restaurant, I might be interested in their dinner or lunch menu, depending on the local time on my phone. Connecting to the network, Smart codes can take samples of local data that indicates the context of the user's world.
  • Offering local, immediate value: I'll take a wild guess here, but I would say that most consumers want immediate value for their interest. By limiting the ecosystem such that valuable feedback or recognition is only given at the network level, the process of getting there becomes longer, it adds user prompts and question marks. With every click, the number of consumers drops. The benefit of smart codes is that even if the value (ringtone, coupon,...) is on the network, you can offer the consumer immediate compelling evidence to give them some assurance that they're on the right track. their willingness to step the extra mile will be different.
  • Evolving ecosystem: As a last comment, I personally think we are all (in this space) "dumb" prophets trying to see how this story will pan out. Will codes get consumers to the mobile web/content/services? Will phones have more services on-board (FM Radio, PIM,...?) or will it all move to the network. One thing is for sure: it will all take time to find out. In the mean time, if you are betting your cards on "dumb codes" that connect to the web to take the associated action, you are limiting yourself from taking local actions today (add a meeting to your calendar), from users who today do not have data plans, and future flexibility options. Is this a bet worth taking?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mobile Code Scanning in China [BusinessWeek]

Excellent piece today in BusinessWeek on code scanning campaigns in China: "The lucrative potential of the mainland's tech-starved mobile advertising market could be unlocked by two-dimensional barcodes". Speaks to the potential value of code scanning, and the issues innovators see in this emerging space. Here's some of my favorite quotes:

Value for the user:
"(barcodes turn)...your mobile phone into a giant mouse pointer"
Value to the operator/ad agency/brand:
"it can help advertisers build detailed databases and customer profiles. Location, content viewed, mobile phone used - it can all be traced"

Evolving China market:
"China's mobile advertising market is starved of such innovative delivery methods. The market is currently dominated by SMS advertising, which relies on the cheapness of untargetted text messages. SMS advertising is a "push" technology, leaving consumers at the mercy of advertisers. But with barcodes, the consumer chooses whether or not to click"

On the maturity of the evolving space:
"It's a chicken and egg situation, you have to get enough content to attract consumers, and enough consumers to attract advertisers. Right now we just want to get the motion going"

On who will decide on preferred code format selection:
"Which barcode standard ultimately wins China Mobile's favor and dominates the advertising space is still up in the air. The consumer, however, won't want an advertising system that doesn't work.

"The end-user doesn't care what technology they use. As long as one service is more convenient, [he] will choose it"

I think that mobile code scanning should be absolutely free for consumers. there's enough cake for the advertisers to feed on to sponsor these things. critical for uptake. Also critical, is preloading the client on the phone; a critical challenge for mass consumer adoption.

The comment on the availability of IP access and network resources is a good one. The code scanning experience should be rewarding to the consumer, and thus the code itself should contain sufficient information without requiring the consumer to log onto a WAP server just to know what this code does. This approach relies on the availability of a data plan and that the user is willing to pay the charges. This approach also removes the options to take local actions such as playing a file or adding an event to your calendar.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

ConnexTo welcomes Mac/FF users

As of yesterday, ConnexTo code creation site supports also users who do not use Internet Explorer for web browsing, mainly Mac and FireFox users. You can just log in (or register if you've not done so yet) and start making your own codes (for non-commercial use). As every other technology company, we try focusing on the specific technology, but a recent encounter with 16 glowing apples in the dark made me move faster on this one :-)
Go for it, enjoy and let me know if you find anything broken.

Another little upgrade, we removed a couple of the redundant fields in the Join page to make it more friendly. hope peeps will find it more appealing to join and experience ConnexTo.
We also enabled you to send pictures of codes (if you don't have ConnexTo on your phone) to decode into

Another drop in the bucket :-)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Boston Freedom Trail Reloaded

For those of you who are planning to visit the Boston Freedom Trail in the next few months, you're in for a special treat: A group of young talented people will help you learn more about the points along the trail by watching a video, listening to audio or other pieces of content that will be available on the web, to your own mobile phone. You will be able to learn more and thus enjoy your visit much more.

They will also attempt to add useful information like what's the nearest restaurant/coffee shop/T station/...

The project is called "Freedom Trail Reloaded" or otherwise has also earned the name DiMO (website, Blog).

You ask yourself, how will I get to those videos/audio clips? the answer is, you will (hopefully) see codes on, around, or in the site. If you have a camera phone, you can download ConnexTo code reader here, and then all you need to do is point at the code to scan it, and it will take you to the video/audio. If you're not sure if your phone is supported, look here.
Here's a video that shows how to use ConnexTo.

It's important to add that as a guideline, the team will be very considerate of the surroundings when placing codes near touristic sites. This is part of the project: make the codes useful, but not intrusive. One wonderful example is an interesting relationship that evolved between the directors at the King's Chapel and Ashley, such that the codes will actually help the chapel in distributing information to the visitors.

Also, the guys who are creating this will be around, I think, during the weekends with their phones to help you try this out and also get your feedback.

So go for it and enjoy!

For those who have read so far, here's some background on this project: Leading the project is Yasmine Abbas, a lecturer at the Architecture department of the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Here's a quote from m-trends blog that I identify with, regarding Yasmine's work: "Sometimes one discovers blogs like rare pearls, usually not very known, a bit tucked away between the feeds of our information forest, yet often refreshing, thought-provoking, and stimulating our mobility senses. I stumbled a couple of times upon Yasmine’s blog while “re-searching” on augmented reality and mobility subjects." Yasmine herself is a rare pearl and its an honor to work with her.

Yasmine is leading a team of young, high energy, extremely bright students who are (for this project) looking at enriching a typical touristic experience with multimedia content, and connecting the tourists to it.

The students also have to think of their course theme, which gives the content and the way they think of it all an interesting twist.
Also involved in this initiative are Nextcode (providing the code scanning side of things) and uLocate. The team will be using Sprint phones to create the content and try the code scanning on site with tourists. These phones provide great video and audio user experience that every tourist will definitely appreciate.

Code scanning as means to enrich the tourism experience is not a new thing; one other initiative is using another code format and the project is called "Semapedia". The reason I'm writing this is because the more people gain benefit from using the codes to access content, and find it useful, it s in everyone's benefit.

The exciting difference in this project is that the students seem to have picked up on the codes to make them interesting and non-obtrusive to the friendly touristy experience. And so they are thinking what can be done with codes. There's a couple of very interesting examples. The team is extremely talented and I'm eager to see what new ideas they will bring on.

To me this is a very exciting initiative: its good for everyone in the game, including the tourist. All that's left to say is good luck to everyone!

Please check out the DiMO (website, Blog) occasionally for updates.