In the convergent universe of digital and real worlds Microsoft has implemented a really nice technology known as Microsoft Tag.
Tag is defined in Wikipedia as,
"Microsoft Tag is an implementation of HCCB using 4 colors in a 5 x 10 grid."
Microsoft on the Tag Website dive a little deeper and describe it as,
"Microsoft Tag connects almost anything in the real world to information, entertainment, and interactive experiences on your mobile phone. Tags are a new kind of bar code that can be displayed anywhere."
Users may create their own Tags using the Tag Manager which can be accessed with the ubiquitous Microsoft Live Login. De facto this makes it an addition to the ever increasing list of Live Services.
The key here is how to access and process the data encoded in the Tag format: this is done using Tag Reader which can be found for your mobile here:
In essence this is the Redmond answer to QR Codes which were first created and used in Japan but now can be seen on product labels, utility bills etc.
Tag has also taken some of this market share what was the sole domain of the lowly bar code.
At present Microsoft Tag can encode the following data-types:-
I had a crack at creating all of these, installing the Tag Reader on my Toshiba Portege G810 that runs Windows Mobile 6.1. Whilst appearing fuzzy to the 3 Mp camera when I displayed the tag on my laptop screen, the Tag Reader read, decoded and handled the data for each type as relevant e.g. opening the URL in the browser / adding the vCard to my Contacts or Dialing the number encoded in the Dialer.
All I had to do was run the application on my Mobile and get the Tag in the crosshairs (NB this application requires a data connection to function)
The tags a user creates can be password protected and even given a shelf-life. The variety of implementations listed on the Tag site are varied, creative and numerous e.g. Tags on a Movie Poster to trailers, locations of nearest Cinemas etc, vCard data as a Tag on a Business Card.
The big question is what’s next for this very cool, eminently usable technology?
POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE:
If a user can encode a URL in a Tag then why not use it as a device for Malware or Viruses via said URL. This is a similar problem to knowing which shortened URLs to click on or not: the nature of encoded data precludes the user knowing what they are going to get.
GOOD USAGE OR EXPANDING THE PLATFORM:
What would I like to see next?
A Tag toolbar for Internet Explorer or Accelerator that allows me to Tag encode data on the fly – if I click on Contact Info in the browser and right click to get the Tag Accelerator it should automatically recognize it as such and encode a vCard Tag on the fly, likewise for URLs and so on.
Integration with Office Applications. Office regularly imports data in a variety of formats into Access, Word and Excel e.g. CSV, XML, Outlook Contacts etc. If I have data in Tag format why shouldn’t Office include the feature of importing Tags I have created or captured with my Mobile either to my Client PC Office after a Sync or online to the Office 2010 Web Apps?
Finally, to those of you saying, "I don’t have Windows Mobile. I’m an iPhone / I’m a Blackberry / I’m an Android.." have no fear, Tag technology is available to you right now, subject to device compatibility (http://tag.microsoft.com/resources/mobile-support.aspx)