There's a new color bar code in town and it offers new exciting potential uses that conventional bar codes can't match. Some major companies have already licensed the code. The technology is known as Colorbit(R), and it is comprised of a string of colored little blobs that can be translated into a binary code/numerical code.
The code was developed in Japan and is relatively new to the United States. It is being represented by Chris Anderson and Jim Kast - more at Colorbit-USA.com
What is unique and different about this code? Well, first of all, a picture can be taken of a group (!!) of Colorbit bar codes and the reader will decipher all of them. Instead of a bar code reader that scans one code at a time, a bicycle rental company in Japan uses the technology to take a picture of an entire racks of bicycles with Colorbit codes on the back of each bike, and the software takes inventory instantly! Many codes - but just one picture. This happens to be an actual use of the technology in Japan. The technology can resolve hundreds of codes from a single picture.
Another actual use is at a large solar array site in Japan. The individual panels are all marked with Colorbit codes and are inventoried with an aerial photograph. The technology is not limited to large codes - according to the vendor - "Colorbit® can be read even if it is microscopic. There are many possibilities for its use: not only for papers (e.g. on the spine of a slim book or file, and on the edge of an envelope), but also for edges of metal plates, glasses and P.C.Boards."
A sample of this technology is displayed in this YouTube video - its just 20 seconds long - so click on it and
take a peek.
The code is comprised of colored cells continuously arranged without being branched or crossed. The decoding method is by camera image processing technology tracing color differences between cells, i.e., tracing only the transition of color of each of neighboring cells, so the shape and the size of the code is flexible. Colorbit® is a unique technology which is useful even for the field where barcode, two dimensional code and RFID tags cannot be used.
Any PC camera supported - according to the company "Any PC connectable camera such as a web camera, a digital camera, a digital video camera, and a machine vision camera (an industrial camera) can be used. The camera should be selected according to conditions of use and required accuracy levels. For the usual usage an off-the-shelf web camera is more than enough. Printing of Colorbit® can also be done by general-purpose color printers."
It may even displace some RFID uses.
According to Anderson, B.Core, Inc - developed the algorithms , coding scheme and decoder. The need was an unconstrained ability to read codes. "Existing bar code schemes are very fussy about line space, orientation , quiet zone, etc and are also only able to read one bar code at a time. This code does not constrain itself to straight lines or smooth surfaces . It can read a couple hundred of these codes at a time and even tell you where a particular item is. The code can be created in spiral or geometric shapes."
The company reports that 3M has licensed the exclusive right for development of it on retro-reflective material, and Sato, the well known manufacturer of bar code printers, has also licensed it.
Colorbit-USA is looking primarily for systems integrators and VARs and will be attending the RFID Live show in Orlando in two weeks.