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Cellphones Communications Handhelds Wireless Networking Technology

Alternative To QR Code Uses NFC and Cheap Rectennas 164

Posted by timothy
from the which-infrastructure-do-you-prefer? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports researchers in Korea have developed a technology that can be used as a viable alternative to QR codes. Made of plastic and electronic ink, the rectennas cost less than one penny each to produce and use the NFC standards for wireless radio communication to devices. They are seen as a cheap, easy-to-print and environmentally friendly way to overcome the limitations and inconvenience of QR codes, the usage of which has greatly increased in the last few years."
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Alternative To QR Code Uses NFC and Cheap Rectennas

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  • Rectannas (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:45AM (#40984587)

    Rectannas is just not an appealing word...

  • Missing the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:46AM (#40984603) Homepage Journal

    The entire point of a QR-Code is that it can be placed where-ever anything visual can be placed. You can put a QR code on a billboard, on a streetsign, on a television image, in a newspaper, on a bus ad...

    • by Grantbridge (1377621) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:50AM (#40984679)
      The great thing about text is you can put it anywhere anything visual can be placed! You can but a tinyurl.com/acmeadd on a billboard, on a streetsign, on a television image.... (And its still quicker to type than to get the camera all lined up to QR code something you pass on a bus.)
      • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:36AM (#40985183) Journal

        And its still quicker to type than to get the camera all lined up to QR code something you pass on a bus

        Actually no, it's not quicker.just typing "tinyurl.com" takes more time than to acquire a QR code.Unless you use a catastrophically inefficient app/UI for the QR.

        • It depends on the kind of keyboard and your experience. My teenage brother can type that before you even finished reading it, but he types dozens of SMSs per day.

          For most people, yeah, QR codes are probably faster.

          • Your teenage brother can type things faster than he can read (hint: no)? Because if not, he may get the tinyurl.com out quickly, but the rest he still has to transcribe.

            Long story short: stop being a dumbass.

        • And its still quicker to type than to get the camera all lined up to QR code something you pass on a bus

          Actually no, it's not quicker.just typing "tinyurl.com" takes more time than to acquire a QR code.Unless you use a catastrophically inefficient app/UI for the QR.

          Also I already use my cellphone camera to record things I want to remember anyway. QR codes are a pretty obvious extension of the concept.

          Probably more importantly though, they leverage something which has other benefits to the user - i.e. an NFC antenna *just* does NFC. Whereas there are all sorts of reasons to have a cellphone camera.

        • by sootman (158191)

          The problem with QR codes is you don't know what you're gonna get until you scan it. It could potentially be bad. (Not even viruses or buffer overflows -- could just be something that translates to goatse.cx.) Also, you don't know what the payoff is -- you scan, look, and go "Oh, it's just nike.com"

          The problem with text is typing it in is a pain. The good thing about text is you can tell right away if it's something you want or not.

          SO WHY DON'T WE JUST COME UP WITH A STANDARD SIZE AND SHAPE GLYPH WITH TEXT

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            The problem with QR codes is you don't know what you're gonna get until you scan it. It could potentially be bad. (Not even viruses or buffer overflows -- could just be something that translates to goatse.cx.)

            No that's the problem with TinyURLs. The QR code readers I have used provide you the output of the code and give you the option to follow it. That way before my phone does anything I know if it's just some text, a link to a website, a link to a market app, an email address.

            What you describe is not a problem with QR codes but a problem in a specific implementation of a QR Code reader.

      • QR codes are a scam by domain registrars to sell domain names with cute-looking QR codes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          QR codes are a scam by domain registrars to sell domain names with cute-looking QR codes.

          They are more a scam perpetuated by the printing and publishing industries in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in an increasingly online world. "Use QR codes to add value to your print adverts!" they whine as print spends and advertising revenue continue to spiral downwards.

          QR codes are so incredibly niche they are pretty much pointless from a marketing point of view. Unless you are marketing specifically to tech sa

          • by Richy_T (111409)

            Must be able to remember a short word or phrase consisting of a word which may or may not be some alteration on a standard english word, may or may not be the name of the product or company it refers to (steampowered, anyone?), an arbitrary extension (.com, .net, .tv?) then possibly some other weird characters and punctuation and words that may or may not be case sensitive. Then if you are mobile, you have to enter it on a crappy keyboard which will have a varying level of ease-of-use.

            Or alternatively, touc

          • by jbengt (874751) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @01:43PM (#40987533)
            How does my self-printed airline ticket/boarding pass match up to your "Points of failure for a QR code"

            Must know what a QR code is.

            I had no need to know, just printed from the airlines web page, had no idea it was called a QR code.

            Must have a smartphone

            Nope

            Must have a QR reader app

            No, though the airlines and the TSA needed to be able to read the QR code, it was probably not an 'app'.

            Must be close enough to scan code

            True, I guess, but the TSA agent and the flight attendants were close enough when I handed them the boarding pass.

            Must be quick enough to leap of the sofa and scan TV (for QR codes in ads

            No, just had to find the 'Print' button in the confirmation page.

            • From the GP:

              QR codes are so incredibly niche they are pretty much pointless from a marketing point of view.

              Really. Gotta read the fine print.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        And its still quicker to type than to get the camera all lined up to QR code something you pass on a bus

        Wait, QR recognition software doesn't rotate the image automatically? Isn't that what the three squares at the corner are for?

      • by brillow (917507)

        It is dumb to put a QR code on a billboard.

        What gets me is people don't use URL shorteners, and you end up with QR codes which no one can scan in. I have a new phone with a great camera and I can't scan half the codes I see in print magazines because the dots are too tiny to even resolve in print.

        QR codes would be better if the people who put them on things actually used them.

        And yeah, they are better than NFC in some cases. Few technologies are wholly superior to the ones they are purported to replace.

    • by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:02AM (#40984807)
      When I hear "antenna" and "NFC" I can't help but think that QR has one important "shortcomming" -- it can only get into my phone if I want it to. Now, imagine the marketing potential for something that can be read without user interaction by a helpful app and you'll see the appeal ...
    • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:16AM (#40984971) Journal

      The entire point of a QR-Code is that it can be placed where-ever anything visual can be placed. You can put a QR code on a billboard, on a streetsign, on a television image, in a newspaper, on a bus ad...

      The entire problem of a QR-Code is that it must placed where anything else visual could be placed. You can put a QR code on a billboard, on a streetsign, on a television image, in a newspaper, on a bus ad... and there's that much less space for the ad art itself.

      These rectennas can be covered by advertisement without impairing their function.

      • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @11:01AM (#40985437)

        These rectennas can be covered by advertisement without impairing their function.

        NFC == Near Field Communications.

        You're going to look pretty silly climbing up onto that billboard with your cellphone.

        • by Svartalf (2997)

          As several have pointed out...stupid notion this... This is the NFC version of a Que:Cat...

          • by afidel (530433)

            Yes, and like Que:Cat it will have WAY more use for tech hobbyists then it ever does for advertisers. Imagine being able to pass your phone over a box and get an inventory of the contents without ever opening it. I can imagine it being especially useful for someone who is blind or nearly blind, just swipe your phone near a container and it reads you the contents aloud.

        • by Zebedeu (739988)

          You're going to look pretty silly climbing up onto that billboard with your cellphone.

          I don't know if a QR code would be much better.

          Recently I was at a music festival where they had some type of QR code hunt going on.
          The codes were all behind the fences where drunk people couldn't reach and destroy them, and just that bit of distance made it quite difficult to read the codes, even outside on a cloudy day (the abundant difuse light should be perfect for this).

          Granted the codes they were using were a lot denser than needed (they were embedding the clue to the next code in English and German i

      • by srmalloy (263556)

        These rectennas can be covered by advertisement without impairing their function.

        No, you just impair the company using them. If you're an executive with a large corporation, and you want to put an ad in a magazine that includes a link to an online presentation of your new product line, which type of link are you going to choose -- A QR code in the ad art, which reduces the usable space on the ad somewhat, but can be worked into the design, and for which all the cost is a few cents of the graphics departments time modifying the artwork delivered to the magazine's publisher, or an NFC rec

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I fail to understand why the article thinks that QR codes are inconvenient? They're printed with actual ink, not "electronic ink", and thus are clearly more environmentally superior. Barcodes are superior to RFIDs as well for the same reason.

    • The entire point of a QR-Code is that it can be placed where-ever anything visual can be placed.

      Which is exactly why they invented the rectenna, because it can be "placed" where you wouldn't be able to see anything visual. QR codes for where the sun does shine and rectennas for where the sun does not shine. It makes perfect sense.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:50AM (#40984671)

    They are seen as a ... environmentally friendly way to overcome the limitations and inconvenience of QR codes...

    I'm mystified how that works. Its not like QR codes are inherently toxic by shape, like prions, nanoparticles, or asbestos fibers.

    The only QR code I've ever used for a "real" purpose is holding my phone up to the screen to scan a google authenticator QR code. I'm not sure how that would translate to a NFC solution like this... have to print out on a 3-d printer or something?

    • My phone uses QR codes to exchange contact information between phones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm assuming environmentally friendly vs metal/semiconductor antennas on existing NFC devices, not as compared to QR codes which are clearly very env. friendly.

    • I find it handy to move links from my PC to my phone, just need an addon that generates the codes and it's taken care of. I have also occasionally used them to share contacts, but that's rarer.

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      It's a problem looking for a solution (or how can we make a quick buck doing this...).

      Kind of like QueCats, really. NFC isn't a good answer for everything- and a QR Code can be printed on a billboard, etc. Stupid notion- and not at all environmentally friendly like they're making it out to be. But then...they were stupid enough to think QueCats would take off.

      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        NFC isn't a good answer for everything

        s/ever/an/

        Really, for consumer devices it's the next better idea after printing both sides of your credit card on a T-shirt.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:54AM (#40984727) Homepage

    limitations and inconvenience of QR codes

    Which are what exactly?
    The only limit I can imagine is the amount of data. Since they typically only store a URL, this is hardly an issue.
    And how does this "Rectenna" relate to RFID?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. Consumer must actively perform a task (waking up phone and pointing the camera at QR code) to attain product advertisement.
      2. Space limits; QR code can only go to URL, which may not be accessible depending on network congestion, losing delicious, delicious advertising opportunities.
      3. Consumer can actually, heaven forbid, refuse to scan QR code (NOTE: legal team is working on making this degenerate activity unconstitutional, progress is slow).
      4. QR codes make it difficult to take control of our advertisi

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Rectifying Antenna. It allows the device that's providing the RFID info (which isn't environmentally friendly like the idiot article makes it out to be) pull power from the comms link. Basically speaking if you've got a non-battery "toll-tag" transponder, the device has a Rectenna in it either emitting RF on a different frequency or doing RF-backscatter comms- but the antenna powers the chip doing the RFID exchange on the tag.

    • And how does this "Rectenna" relate to RFID?

      A rectenna (or rectifying antenna) is a device for converting radio waves into electrical power. RFIDs use rectennas to power themselves. The device in the story *IS* an RFID, except that instead of transmitting an ID number, it is transmitting a URL.

      The problem with QR codes is that they are square and ugly and take up a huge chunk of space in an advertisement. Then, to top it off, you have to print instructions beside, or beneath it, because few people know what they're for. With the rectenna, you c

  • Whatcha talkin bout Willis?

    • Disclaimer: We have used QR codes somewhat at work.

      QR codes serve a purpose but do it poorly. Phones aren't particularly good scanning devices, plus you're holding the phone at arm's length; so reading a QR code often takes several seconds. Then, afterward, you've got a URL in your phone - if you want it on your computer, that's another step.

      That said, I have a bigger aversion to NFC. It has a different limitation, that being the requirement of proximity - not practical for use on a billboard, as people hav

      • You're using a poor scanner then, or a crap phone (that wouldn't have NFC anyways).

        My phone takes maybe half a second to scan a QR code, to the point that I don't even have to actually hold it still... I can *nearly* just wave it in front of the code and have it work, I do have to pause for the half second. By far the limiting time factor is finding the icon and launching the scanner, which would not change with NFC.

        • by rwise2112 (648849)
          Yeah, I'm amazed how quickly Google Googles picks them up, and even if skewed gets them nearly instantly.
  • I just want to know how much malware I can pack into one. Runs any javascript? Pretty please?

  • http://xkcd.com/927/ [xkcd.com]

    Of course, these "rectennas" aren't really a proper replacement for QR codes, since QR codes work at a distance (depending on size).

  • I know im in the company of friends when the first posts on this topic are about the goofy name thus rendering the immature joke i was about to make concerning rectums and where to shove antennas obsolete!

  • Never thought I'd see that happen.

  • rename before marketing
  • For most uses, just a printed URL would surely be better? Data compression is higher using QR codes, but transparency is lower - with all the associated security/privacy/openness issues.
    • Good readers show you the URL before you click through.

      And TinyURL is just as bad, FYI... If anything QRCodes allow for *more* transparency.

  • by CKW (409971) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:35AM (#40985171) Journal

    So... reading up on this stuff... it's *very* clear that what they are talking about is an RFID tag.

    Yay, put rfid tags everywhere and have everyone tap their phones against them to "receive information". ...and who determines what information is transferred back and forth and what types of exploitable holes are there in their protocol?

    WAIT wait wait. What the researcheres in Korea "discovered" is how to PRINT rfid tags with magnetic inks.

    Jeezus, this is what you get when you cross marketing droids with non-technical reporters in news organizations.

    This whole slashdot article should be deleted. And the BBC should be ashamed, aren't there some PhDs driving cabs that they could hire to cover their technology news stories?

  • QR codes have an edge because they are a free to use standard. and unlike the RF spectrum of the rectennas use, the optical spectrum allows as many QR codes and sensing devices as you can cram together because the optics are simple. The RF equivalent "optics" are a bit more. I also see a problem climbing the side of a building to get to the rectenna's near field range.
    • Plus, QR codes are inherently cheaper since they can be printed using normal ink while the rectennas need magnetic ink. Now I might not know the market rate for each kind of ink, but it's fair to guess that normal ink would be far cheaper. Plus, since you are using that ink to print the rest of your flyer, sign, billboard, etc, you won't need to have a second pass with magnetic ink. It's built into generating the rest of your item.

    • It works on every device with a webbrowser, no code needed, with the additional bonus of having the user type in your URL by hand. Thas marketing!

      QRs are just links that you can't click without launching a specific 'click a QR link' reader. Less of all this please.

  • Places where "nanoparticles", "rectennas", and "electronic ink" just won't work but QR codes are fine:
    1) My business card - Scan the code and it can take you to my website or automatically add my information to your contact list. Is Kinko's going to start printing cards with electronic ink?

    2) Flyers - I can print out a flyer with a QR code. Hell, gimme some graph paper and a Sharpie and I can build a QR code. I don't think any store-bought inkjet or laser printer will be printing these any time soon.

    3) T-sh

  • by fa2k (881632)

    QR codes are "enticing" to some people. I recently heard a kid say "Mom! It's a QR code! can I borrow the phone?". Their distinctive appearance is often more important than their ability to carry data, and they are mostly used for marketing. The most interesting applications which are not for marketing are when QR-codes are displayed on a screen, and this NFC tech can't replace that. (There are some valid applications for printed codes, like in museums, but usually it's better to print a URL). If the resea

    • by afidel (530433)

      We used QR codes to check in users at an industry conference. The users just presented a printed invitation or placed their phone or tablet under the scanner and it brought up the checkin URL on the receptionists machine which automatically informed the person they were having the meeting with that their guest had arrived. Very clever and MUCH faster than the process used at previous conferences.

  • The number of mobile phones with low-resolution image sensors is going to approach zero over time. There's enough data in a typical smartphone image sensor to pick up subband-coded watermarks in a printed image and very transform-resistant image watermarks have been known science for at least a decade. QR codes, radios, etc. are all unnecessary. Point your phone at the poster and let the image app work out whether there's information embedded in it.

    Since this isn't already the norm, there must be a paten

  • Those Rectennas better not have rounded corners, or I smell a lawsuit comming.
  • Why would I bother enabling this hardware and wasting battery. I used my $10 free from Google Wallet to buy a 6-pack and then disabled NFC. I'll re-enable it when/if Google restocks my account with free money.
    • by ThePeices (635180)

      Why would I bother enabling this hardware and wasting battery. I used my $10 free from Google Wallet to buy a 6-pack and then disabled NFC. I'll re-enable it when/if Google restocks my account with free money.

      Well, 'you' wouldnt bother, so end of story.

      On the other hand, the rest of us aren't cynical freeloaders, and will continue to use it where possible.

  • Take a picture of it and you're instantly taken to the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cue_cat [wikipedia.org].
  • I thought the QR code thing in advertising was over. I saw more QR codes two years ago than now.

    • by ThePeices (635180)

      QR codes over? First ive heard of it.

      Has Netcraft confirmed it yet? Id like to know if it is official.

  • Rectennas? really?

    What is the first thought that goes into ones head at first seeing the word 'rectennas'?

    Exactly.....this is a poor choice of word that will only cause derision and child-level jokes at every mention of the word.

    And on another note, can any Americans here please explain what a 'penny' is? 1c? 5c? 10c? 20c? 50c? a dollar?

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