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Why MVS is the new QR

According to the Mayan calendar, the world is slated to end in 2012. While the timing of our demise may be up for debate, one trend that will see its decline in 2012 is mobile tagging as we know it. More specifically, it will be the year that marketers finally concede that QR codes just do not work, and alternatives, like mobile visual search (MVS), will begin to flourish.

QR codes, despite being in many storefronts, magazines, and subway stations, are a dying medium. Marketers' best efforts to force this technology on consumers have met with marginal success and have not gained much traction with the general public. According to a study by comScore last year, 14 million American mobile device users have scanned a QR code [editor's note: 14 million in one month]. When you consider that the U.S. has a population of more than 308 million, this means that less than five percent of the American public scanned a QR code.

Inadequate technology, lack of education, and a perceived dearth of value from QR codes are just three of the reasons mobile barcodes are not clicking with Americans. The great news for marketers is alternatives like MVS are available to deploy today.

MVS is far more compelling and interactive as a means to enable mobile marketing and commerce. In an increasingly mobile world where instant gratification is the norm, taking the extra step of finding a QR code scanner on your mobile device in order to engage with a brand does not make sense anymore. With MVS, instead of having to scan those square blobs of code, you can simply point at a product or logo and shoot a picture with your smartphone's built-in camera. Within seconds, the MVS application will provide product or company information, or even the option to make a purchase right then and there on your mobile device.

The opportunities are boundless with MVS. Unlike two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes, MVS will have wrap-around and three-dimensional recognition capabilities. Even traditional advertising will be revitalized with MVS. For example, picture an interactive print campaign that incorporates MVS as part of a competition or game. Marketers can offer instant gratification in the form of videos, mobile links, coupons, or discounts as incentives for taking the best pictures of a particular product or logo.

The world has already started to migrate to MVS. For example, Tesco in South Korea and Staples in Argentina currently enable commuters waiting for subways or buses to view images of groceries or office supplies. Embedded within these images are recognitions triggers allowing smartphone users to place an order for delivery, typically that same day.

Also, word-of-mouth marketing and the notion that a picture says a thousand words come together with social MVS marketing. Marketers will seamlessly link their campaigns to social networks so consumers can share their photos and rewards, such as vouchers, coupons, or music downloads, with their friends and followers.

In addition to being a more versatile medium, MVS is also more secure than QR code technology. Cybercriminals are able to cloak their smartphone QR code attacks due to the nature of the technology -- the entire purpose of QR codes is to store data within the code. There is no way to know where that code is going to take you: a legitimate website, an infected site, a malicious app, or a phishing site. MVS's encryption modality will eliminate the opportunity for malicious codes to be downloaded to your smartphone.

There have been recent documented cases of QR code misuse and abuse around the globe. One such malicious use is with infected QR codes that download an app that embeds a hidden SMS texting charge in your monthly cell phone bill. QR codes can also be used to gain full access to a smartphone -- including internet access, camera, GPS, local storage, and contact data. All of the data from a smartphone can be downloaded and stolen, putting the user at risk for identity theft, all without the user noticing.

MVS is a safer and more secure technology that can provide more information and content than a QR code, without as many security risks. Attackers can put a Trojan or virus in a QR code, and marketers are also at risk of having their legitimate ads covered with a sticker with an infected QR code. In contrast, by focusing on real world objects and images rather than code, MVS eliminates the ability to subject users to a virus or Trojan attack.

So, even though the Mayan prophesy is up for debate, one prediction is certain: QR codes will be on their way out, thanks to the rise of MVS.

Jon Barocas is the founder and CEO of bieMEDIA.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Taking picture with mobile" image via Shutterstock.

Jon Barocas is the founder and CEO of bieMEDIA. Mr. Barocas has a long history and substantial experience in the technology, broadcast and film industry.  In 1986, he established Bark at the Moon Productions as an independent film and video...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Andrew Warren

2012, March 09

I am shocked the 2nd paragraph of this article was published. You say "14 million American mobile device users have scanned a QR code" and then go on to say that's extremely low. You even link to the source! But you fail to mention the source clearly states "14 Million Americans in ONE MONTH - JUNE". Look at that data across multiple months or even a year and the % of the smartphone population will be MUCH higher. The entire 2nd paragraph is completely off base.

Commenter: Allan Tone

2012, March 08

Hi Jon,
Interesting technology, good luck with it.

Commenter: Jon Barocas

2012, March 08

Allan - Thanks for your questions.

1. MVS technology ties the searchable physical element (ad copy, etc) with the digital experience via a mobile application. This can be done either via a company's core app that bieMEDIA integrates the MVS tech into or can be a standalone developed either by the company or bieMEDIA .

2. The User experience is dependent upon what the advertising/publishing company wants to have returned to the end user. The response to MVS can be anything from a simple coupon to a website to contest entry/result; the experience is totally flexible based on what the sponsor wants to give to the end user.

3. The search engine is maintained by bieMEDIA. bieMEDIA ingests the images and links them to whatever the sponsor wants the return experience to be for the end user.

4. In general bieMEDIA expects the number of unique products with exactly the same wrapper to be limited enough to allow the end user to select which detailed product they are seeking to get. For instance, a car is an example where there are maybe a handful of models that would be presented to select from then obviously from there would be additional features/options.

5. bieMEDIA's MVS process includes verifying the results of each image search to ensure no impropriety is happening. Unlike a QR code that can be put up with little oversight.

Commenter: Allan Tone

2012, March 08

As for the malicious use case are you telling me that MVS will not ever send me to a phishing web site, or a website with malicious content?

Commenter: Allan Tone

2012, March 08

I have a few questions about MVS
1. How will businesses tie the technology to their mobile website for a product?

2. Do the users do a MVS then pick from a list of results and then get to the product mobile site? Seems like a lot of steps compared to a QR scan. What if a competitors info shows up, and I loose the lead?

3. Who maintains the search data? Where do I register my site and image of product so that it shows up in a MVS search.

4. What if I have hundreds of products that all look alike on the outside, but have different options installed that are not visible? How will MVS tell the difference?