NTT DoCoMo has published a report looking at the use of a two-dimensional (2D) bar code system providing growing and distribution information on foodstuffs to its subscribers owning camera-enabled mobile phones.
The report cites a Japanese study conducted last year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) that found 89.5% of the respondents wanted to know the growing area and 67% wanted to know the status of agricultural chemical use when purchasing fresh vegetables. Due to this growing consumer interest in food production and food safety, NTT DoCoMo is making this information available to its subscribers owning a camera-enabled mobile phone capable of reading a bar code in the grocery store.
Two-dimensional bar codes hold information both horizontally and vertically as opposed to conventional bar codes only capable of holding information horizontally. The QR type of 2D bar code developed in Japan is able to store a large volume of data. One symbol can store up to 7,089 numeric characters, 4,286 alphaumeric characters, 1,817 Kanji Chinese characters and full-width Japanese Kana characters. Additionally, the printout size required is one-tenth of a conventional bar code. Two-dimensional bar codes are now being used in magazines and newspapers and on business cards for quick and convenient access to information.
Consumers using this technology can trace food production history with their mobile phone
by scanning the bar code in the store. Information retrieved includes the producer, harvest date, and shipping date. In addition, agricultural chemicals used in a specific food's production are also made available.
How the 2-D bar code works:
When the 2-D bar code is read, a catalog URL is displayed. The user clicks the URL to get the production history information of a particular item. NTT DoCoMo does not charge a fee for reading the bar code; however, a fee is charged when accessing the desired URL.
The advent of 2D bar code technology has made all types of information in bar code form available to mobile handset consumers. Additionally, NTT DoCoMo reports there are over 20 million bar code reading-enabled handsets in use in Japan making this a mobile application worth watching.