Wednesday, August 8, 2007

On Mobile Codes Standardization

I am being asked about how can vendors contribute to the standardization initiative, the new Mobile Code Consortium (MC2) .

For starters, I believe everyone identifies the threat, being that the market becomes fragmented by numerous code formats. Recognizing that brands and advertisers will drive this market, that fragmenting this market by code formats would prevent them from engaging this space is essential. Anything other than a ubiquitous user experience, regardless of codes and hardware will be unacceptable. I strongly recommend reading through Publicis presentation here.

Let me add a quick note here that I will avoid the discussion of whether MC2 is appropriate or not (as can be found in numerous places on the web).

In consensus that the MC2 initiative is essential and everyone in the space should support it,
the question becomes (IMHO): what are the issues that are realistic & appropriate for discussion and agreement in this context? Reading through the Mission Statement and the Standards Discussion here are the 3 issues MC2 is proposing to deal with:
  • Visual and Encoding Aspects (essentially dealing with the code format)
  • Data Aspects: Formatting the code content
  • Behavioral Aspects (The code reader UI behavior)
I would suggest that at least for now, the symbology itself should not be on this list. The reason being is that there has not been enough evidence from the market place as to code-format related factors that drive adoption. The argument that standard codes have reach challenges because of optics issues on out-of-Japan phones is a temporary one. With that in mind, trying to define the new standard symbology will be based on vendors making the case for their proprietary code format based on their vision, experience and ego. That's not very effective. The market needs a prompt definition and there are two appropriate, well defined solutions out there, we should be using them (at least as V1.0).
In the same spirit, I think that the last issue on the MC2 initiative list, dealing with the code reader UI behavior, is to be left to the vendors to design and differentiate. MC2 should be able to define the functional behavior the reader once it scans a particular code but when it comes to UI, vendor should have the freedom to differentiate through a nicer screen and more flexible options menu.

Let me propose a few ideas that I think would be useful for MC2 members to make progress on:
  • Ubiquitous standard symbologies support with optional proprietary codes: Agree that the industry needs a standard that every code reader will support. Those codes should be QR, DM or both. No point in arguing the code formats issue. All vendors that want to be considered need to support standard codes, and can add support for more codes, like their own proprietary format and maybe others. Operators and brands can then choose the solutions they prefer. Consumers will have the ability to decode the codes and use them regardless of the code reader they are using
  • Define templates for the code content: This is, IMHO, the space at which MC2 can contribute the most. Assume a vendor supports QR, there is no definition today to what might be the code content, it could be anything. By defining the templates, MC2 would enable a structure that would provide acceptable, expected user experience, flexible use cases and the grounds for operators and brands to monetize on. MC2 can make this along term initiative such that defines the formatting for new use cases
  • Data Aspects of more complex usage: This is an advanced discussion of the previous point but equally important: some use cases would require extra control and flexibility, that should be supported by the code content. For example, in the case of direct mobile payments, some fraud detection and prevention data might be embedded into the code and should stay hidden from the user. MC2 can make this happen by defining the structure of those codes generally, and then vendors or operators can go in and refine the details in their specific solution
  • Introduce "licensed" codes schemes: one of the bigger issues of using standard codes for B2B, for example, is that anyone can read and reproduce their codes. In similar to IP address allocation, MC2 can take the initiative of allocation certain 'address space' for specific usage such as privately licensed prefixes
  • Standard Symbology V2: by the time MC2 was able to facilitate all of the above, there will be as many members and activities in the marketplace to suggest what factors in the symbology drive adoption. At that time MC2 can begin defining future ("V2") symbologies and facilitate standardization process and encouraging vendors to adopt them
In viewing this list, I think that one of the strengths of it is that these all are achievable items in a measurable time frame. There is not much room for subjective arguments in any of them and so the process could be very effective.
By moderating an effective discussion MC2 could become the parallel to other centralized bodies like OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) and in that attract various players from the space to join.

I hope that was useful, thanks for reading.


Swampthing said...

Nice write up.

Anonymous said...

Good job