This month’s Mobile Monday in Paris was quite a fruitful evening again. Ignacio Mondine of Daem Interactive gave an impressive presentation of a new technology they have developed which uses image recognition for mobile advertising and mobile commerce.
Instead of scanning a 2D bar code with a specialized application which leads to a web page via the phone’s browser, their technology is based on image recognition. Getting to the content behind an image is simple: The user takes a picture and sends it via MMS to the an image recognition server. The server then returns an SMS with a URL which can be accessed from the phone’s browser.
The main advantage of this approach compared to 2D bar codes is that no special software has to be installed on the phone. In addition, it looks like there are a number of different companies out there working on 2D bar code solutions and their bar codes are not compatible with each other. If several of them get themselves established, several bar code readers on the phone might be required. I can hardly imagine that this will be accepted by users. So from this point of view, image recognition might even be the natural next step after 2D bar code solutions and the market (except for Japan I guess) might even jump completely over 2D bar codes right into image recognition solutions which do not require extra software on the handset.
A disadvantage of the image recognition approach might be that images can not be recognized because of the image quality. Especially in low light situations, pictures tend to be grainy and blurry. When taking pictures from magazine ads, users also tend to position the phone too close to the image and the picture will not be sharp. A possible solution to this is also already in sight. Instead of taking a picture which is then sent via MMS, Deam Interactive is already taking the next step and are developing a system which uses 3G video calls connected to an image recognition server in the network. Lots of possibilities here, including augmented reality applications about which I have written before.
While still being a small startup company, they’ve already managed to get a couple of operators behind them for some trials. This is crucial for any kind of mobile marketing as the user can only receive content free of charge if the operator bills the advertiser and also for mobile commerce as micro payment is also very difficult to do without the mobile operator in the middle.