Semacode, "URL Barcode" Software, Debuts as an Access Tool for the Mobile Web


MobileWhack pointed out Semacode, a system for encoding URLs into two-dimensional bar codes. The idea behind it is that camera phone users who are looking for detailed information about an item at hand can take a picture of a semacode bar code and automatically have their mobile phone's browser bring up a corresponding web page.

In the MobileWhack article on Semacode, Rael Dornefest said:

Semacode is about as cool an app as I've come across and a confirmation of my ongoing belief that the handset is so much more than a telephone... and is better thought of as an interface between the online and offline worlds right in your back pocket.

Create semacodes (not entirely unlike homebrew UPC symbols) for your gallery exhibits, campus bus stops, laptop, home-brewed beer labels, etc. Print them out and slap them on.

So what makes Semacode different from Cue Cat, the last mass market bar code scanning implementation that was attempted?

  1. Semacode uses a built-in camera on a camera phone, not a stand-alone scanner.
  2. Semacode travels with you because it can be run on your mobile phone, it's not married to a PC.
  3. Semacode takes advantage of the mobile web which didn't really exist back in 2000 when CueCat became available.
  4. Semacode is an open system because you can create your own codes for any purpose, not a system that is dependent upon strategic relationships with a technology provider.

Currently, the Semacode reader application works on Nokia Series 60 phones, including the
Nokia 6600
, the Nokia 3650, and the Nokia 7650. Ports for other Symbian-based handsets with cameras are said to be under development. I imagine that other platforms will be supported relatively soon.

I've looked at the applications that the Semacode developers suggested. All of them are useful, but none of them strike me as significant enough to get millions of Americans to start using them. If they find an application that is really hot, Semacode technology would drive a mobile phone upgrade cycle so that camera-less mobile phone users would move up to camera phones.