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September 24, 2007

Smart codes

Efoundationssmartcode I've never been totally convinced by those that tell us that mobile phones and PDAs are going to have a massive impact on the way we deliver teaching and learning.  It seems to me that we're still waiting for that to happen to any great extent.  Maybe it will, maybe it won't.

In part, my problem is caused because I tend to have a model of mobile phone that is one generation behind the leading edge and it is therefore difficult to appreciate the possibilities properly.  Oh well :-(

Via Alan Levine I discovered Semapedia and smart codes - a kind of two-dimensional barcode, encoding of a URL or message that can be printed out and stuck on physical objects.  Install a decoder on your mobile phone or PDA, point the camera at the smart code and it will display the text or take you directly to the URL.  A neat way to link the physical world to the Web.

One can imagine adding smart codes to event posters, outside shops or other businesses, or at crucial places on university campuses.  What about a smart code outside every lecture theatre taking you direct to a simple Web page telling you what is on now and next for example.

The image above is the smart code for this blog.


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I was an intern/research assistant as an undergraduate at a project (at an un-named university) based on these kinds of 2d barcodes and a hand-held device to read them back in 1995 or so. One interesting use of the barcodes in that era was _location_ information, before GPS was so cheap that you could get it that way.

The professor clearly had fantasies of commercializing this and making a ton of money (this was dot-com boom times), but it was pretty clear to all of us working on the project except the lead investigator that it was in fact going nowhere. How were you going to get people to stick these bar-codes everywhere? What do they get out of it? Maybe it turns out that he was just a visionary ahead of his time, and we lacked imagination.

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