Webb on the Web: 2D Barcodes for Health...

by Amy Webb
Dec 8, 2008 in Digital Journalism

First, a quick review: Two-dimensional barcodes can be encoded with various data (phone numbers, text, photos, URLs, etc.) and "scanned" using the camera on a mobile phone. Think of them as print hyperlinks. If a consumer has a camera-equipped phone and has the right software, which is readily available and typically free, s/he could scan a 2D code using that mobile phone to get all kinds of information: coupons, parts of viral marketing campaigns, serialized chapters...the list goes on. Once scanned, the phone's browser automatically redirects to a URL because the web address can be part of what gets written into the 2D code. And if you're redirecting to a mobile page within your domain, you're increasing your traffic from your print product!

Uses for health, environment and science reporting/activism: Some organizations and governments are starting to use 2D barcodes for health and wellness public information campaigns. In Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture, a government agricultural cooperative is working with various groups to add 2D codes on labels of food products.

Labels are affixed at the point of origin and explain where the product was grown/ assembled and lists other key information on ingredients. The consumer can scan the 2D code at the supermarket using their mobile phones, and be redirected to a mobile database, listing details about soil composition, organic fertilizer, use of pesticides and herbicides, etc.

Also in Japan, Daabon Organic, which produces bananas, is using 2D codes to list the date of harvest and country of origin. 2D codes are affixed to shipping containers and are checked upon arrival at supermarkets.

Other possible uses for 2D barcodes:

  • listing ingredients in food, drink and medicine
  • individual health records that can be carried by the patient
  • maintenance and other critical information for medical devices
  • compliance agreements, approvals
  • public health awareness campaigns

What do you think? Are you seeing any creative uses for 2D barcodes in your region? How might they be used to disseminate information? Please use the comments section below to share your experiences!

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Follow me on Twitter! Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and head of Webbmedia Group, LLC. Find more multimedia tips and ideas at her blog, http://www.mydigimedia.com. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.