High Capacity Color Barcode

High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) is a technology developed by Microsoft for encoding data in a 2D "barcode" using clusters of colored triangles instead of the square pixels conventionally associated with 2D barcodes or QR codes.[1] Data density is increased by using a palette of 4 or 8 colors for the triangles, although HCCB also permits the use of black and white when necessary. It has been licensed by the ISAN International Agency for use in its International Standard Audiovisual Number standard,[2] and serves as the basis for the Microsoft Tag mobile tagging application.

The technology was created by Gavin Jancke, an engineering director at Microsoft Research. Quoted by BBC News in 2007, he said that HCCB was not intended to replace conventional barcodes. "'It's more of a 'partner' barcode', he said. 'The UPC barcodes will always be there. Ours is more of a niche barcode where you want to put a lot of information in a small space.'"[3]

High Capacity Color Barcode Tag
An example of a High Capacity Color Barcode: a Microsoft Tag referring to the HCCB article on the English Wikipedia


HCCB uses a grid of colored triangles to encode data. Depending on the target use, the grid size (total number of symbols), symbol density (the printed size of the triangles), and symbol count (number of colors used) can be varied. HCCB can use an eight-, four-, or two-color (black-and-white) palette. Microsoft claims that laboratory tests using standard off-the-shelf printers and scanners have yielded readable eight-color HCCBs equivalent to approximately 3,500 characters per square inch.[1][3]

Microsoft Tag

Microsoft tag logo
Microsoft Tag logo indicating compatibility

Microsoft Tag is a discontinued but still available implementation of High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) using 4 colors in a 5 x 10 grid. Additionally, the code works in monochrome.[4] The print size can be varied to allow reasonable reading by a mobile camera phone; for example, a Tag on a real estate sign might be printed large enough to be read from a car driving by, whereas a Tag in a magazine could be smaller because the reader would likely be nearer.

A Microsoft Tag is essentially a machine readable web link, analogous to a URL shortening link: when read, the Tag application sends the HCCB data to a Microsoft server, which then returns the publisher's intended URL. The Tag reader then directs the user's mobile browser to the appropriate website. Because of this redirection, Microsoft is also able to track users and provide Tag analytics to publishers.

When the platform was released creation of tags for both commercial and noncommercial use was free, as were the associated analytics.[5] In 2013, the process for creating new accounts was transferred to Scanbuy, which said that "A free plan will also be offered from ScanLife with the same basic features", although additional features may be available at extra cost.[6]


Users can download the free Microsoft Tag reader application to their Internet-capable mobile device with camera, launch the reader and read a tag using their phone’s camera. Depending on the scenario, this triggers the intended content to be displayed. Some GPS-equipped phones can, at the user's option, send coordinate data along with the HCCB data, allowing location-specific information to be returned (e.g. for a restaurant advertisement, a navigational map to the nearest location could be shown).[7]


The Microsoft Tag application gives people the ability to use a mobile phone's on-board camera to take a picture of a tag, and be directed to information in any form, such as text, vCard, URL, Online Photos, Online Video or contact details for the publisher.

Two-dimensional tags can be used to transform traditional marketing media (for example, print advertising, billboards, packaging and merchandising in stores or on LCDs) into gateways for accessing information online. Tags can be applied as gateways from any type of media to an internet site or online media.

The Microsoft Tag reader application is a free download for an Internet-capable mobile device with a camera. The Microsoft Tag reader is compatible with Internet-capable mobile devices, including many based on the Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Java, Android, Symbian S60, iPhone and Java ME platforms.[8]


On August 19, 2013 Microsoft sent out an email notice that the Microsoft Tag service will be terminated in two years on August 19, 2015. Scanbuy, company founded in 2000 by Olivier Attia, has been selected to support Microsoft Tag technology on the ScanLife platform beginning September 18, 2013.

Related technologies

  • Xerox Parc DataGlyphs are a related technology as they use a barcode like technology to encode data—however it is possible to use color images as the source material.
  • Color Construct Code is one of the few other barcode symbologies designed to take advantage of multiple colors. But, instead of encoding a single tag, it is designed to store files including multimedia, possibly along with a URI

See also


  1. ^ a b Microsoft Research. "High Capacity Color Barcode Technology". Retrieved 2009-12-12.
  2. ^ "International Organization Licenses Microsoft's New Multicolor Bar Code Technology for Identifying Audiovisual Works". 2007-04-16. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
  3. ^ a b "Colour barcode system to hit DVDs". BBC News. 2007-04-19. Retrieved 2009-12-12.
  4. ^ Hacking Microsoft Tag’s HCCB: works in monochrome too! Long Zheng. istartedsomething blog. 9 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-28-10
  5. ^ Nicole Hall (2011-08-10). "Microsoft Tag vs. QR Codes: The Debate Continues". The 60 Second Marketer. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". ScanLife. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  7. ^ "Microsoft Tag FAQ". Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  8. ^ A detailed list of all supported phones is available at http://www.microsoft.com/tag or the mobile phone site http://gettag.mobi Archived 2010-01-14 at the Wayback Machine .

External links

Barcode printer

A barcode printer is a computer peripheral for printing barcode labels or tags that can be attached to, or printed directly on, physical objects. Barcode printers are commonly used to label cartons before shipment, or to label retail items with UPCs or EANs.The most common barcode printers employ one of two different printing technologies. Direct thermal printers use a printhead to generate heat that causes a chemical reaction in specially designed paper that turns the paper black. Thermal transfer printers also use heat, but instead of reacting the paper, the heat melts a waxy or resin substance on a ribbon that runs over the label or tag material. The heat transfers ink from the ribbon to the paper. Direct thermal printers are generally less expensive, but they produce labels that can become illegible if exposed to heat, direct sunlight, or chemical vapors.

Barcode printers are designed for different markets. Industrial barcode printers are used in large warehouses and manufacturing facilities. They have large paper capacities, operate faster and have a longer service life. For retail and office environments, desktop barcode printers are most common.


A bokode is a type of data tag which holds much more information than a barcode over the same area. They were developed by a team led by Ramesh Raskar at the MIT Media Lab. The bokode pattern is a tiled series of Data Matrix codes. The name is a portmanteau of the words bokeh—a photographic term—and barcode. Rewritable bokodes are called bocodes. They are circular with a diameter of 3 millimetres (0.12 in). A bokode consists of an LED covered with a photomask and a lens. They are readable from different angles and from 4 metres (13 ft) away by any standard digital camera. Powered bokodes are relatively expensive because of the LED and the power it requires. However, prototypes have been developed which function passively with reflected light like a typical barcode.Bokodes convey a privacy advantage compared to radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags: bokodes can be covered up with anything opaque, whereas RFID tags must be masked by material opaque to radio frequencies, such as the sleeve provided by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles when issuing their enhanced state IDs.

CPC Binary Barcode

CPC Binary Barcode is Canada Post's proprietary symbology used in its automated mail sortation operations. This barcode is used on regular-size pieces of mail, especially mail sent using Canada Post's Lettermail service. This barcode is printed on the lower-right-hand corner of each faced envelope, using a unique ultraviolet-fluorescent ink.


Codabar is a linear barcode symbology developed in 1972 by Pitney Bowes Corp. It and its variants are also known as Codeabar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995 or USD-4.

Although Codabar has not been registered for US federal trademark status, its hyphenated variant Code-a-bar is a registered trademark.It was designed to be accurately read even when printed on dot-matrix printers for multi-part forms such as FedEx airbills and blood bank forms, where variants are still in use as of 2007. Although newer symbologies hold more information in a smaller space, Codabar has a large installed base in libraries. It is even possible to print Codabar codes using typewriter-like impact printers, which allows the creation of a large number of codes with consecutive numbers without having to use computer equipment. After each printed code, the printer's stamp is mechanically turned to the next number, as for example in mechanical mile counters.

Code 11

Code 11 is a barcode symbology developed by Intermec in 1977. It is used primarily in telecommunications. The symbol can encode any length string consisting of the digits 0–9 and the dash character (-). A twelfth code represents the start/stop character, commonly printed as "*". One or two modulo-11 check digit(s) can be included.

It is a discrete, binary symbology where each digit consists of three bars and two spaces; a single narrow space separates consecutive symbols. The width of a digit is not fixed; three digits (0, 9 and -) have one wide element, while the others have two wide elements.

The valid codes have one wide bar, and may have one additional wide element (bar or space).

The decode table has 15 entries because the symbols with two wide bars (1, 4 and 5) are listed twice.

Assuming narrow elements are one unit wide and wide elements are two units, the average digit is 7.8 units. This is better than codes with a larger repertoire like Codabar (10 units) or Code 39 (11 units), but not quite as good as interleaved 2 of 5 (7 units). The non-binary symbology Code 128 uses 5.5 units per digit (11 units per digit pair).

Data Matrix

A Data Matrix is a two-dimensional barcode consisting of black and white "cells" or modules arranged in either a square or rectangular pattern, also known as a matrix. The information to be encoded can be text or numeric data. Usual data size is from a few bytes up to 1556 bytes. The length of the encoded data depends on the number of cells in the matrix. Error correction codes are often used to increase reliability: even if one or more cells are damaged so it is unreadable, the message can still be read. A Data Matrix symbol can store up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.

Data Matrix symbols are rectangular, usually square in shape and composed of square "cells" which represent bits. Depending on the coding used, a "light" cell represents a 0 and a "dark" cell is a 1, or vice versa. Every Data Matrix is composed of two solid adjacent borders in an "L" shape (called the "finder pattern") and two other borders consisting of alternating dark and light "cells" or modules (called the "timing pattern"). Within these borders are rows and columns of cells encoding information. The finder pattern is used to locate and orient the symbol while the timing pattern provides a count of the number of rows and columns in the symbol. As more data is encoded in the symbol, the number of cells (rows and columns) increases. Each code is unique. Symbol sizes vary from 10×10 to 144×144 in the new version ECC 200, and from 9×9 to 49×49 in the old version ECC 000 – 140.


ITF-14 is the GS1 implementation of an Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF) bar code to encode a Global Trade Item Number. ITF-14 symbols are generally used on packaging levels of a product, such as a case box of 24 cans of soup. The ITF-14 will always encode 14 digits.

The GS1 GEPIR tool can be used to find out the company identification for a given GTIN-14 that is encoded in an ITF-14 Symbol.

The thick black border around the symbol is called the Bearer Bar. The purpose of a Bearer Bar is to equalise the pressure exerted by the printing plate over the entire surface of the symbol, and to enhance reading reliability by helping to reduce the probability of misreads

or short scans that may occur when the scanner is held to a bar code at too large an angle. Such instances of skewed scanning cause the scanning beam to enter or exit the bar code symbol through the Bearer Bar at its top or bottom edge, forcing the scanner to detect an invalid scan since Bearer Bars are much wider than a legitimate black bar.

International Standard Audiovisual Number

International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) is a unique identifier for audiovisual works and related versions, similar to ISBN for books. It was developed within an ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) TC46/SC9 working group. ISAN is managed and run by ISAN-IA.

MSI Barcode

MSI (also known as Modified Plessey) is a barcode symbology developed by the MSI Data Corporation, based on the original Plessey Code symbology. It is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking. MSI is used primarily for inventory control, marking storage containers and shelves in warehouse environments.


MaxiCode is a public domain, machine-readable symbol system originally created and used by United Parcel Service. Suitable for tracking and managing the shipment of packages, it resembles a barcode, but uses dots arranged in a hexagonal grid instead of bars. MaxiCode has been standardised under ISO/IEC 16023.A MaxiCode symbol (internally called "Bird's Eye", "Target", "dense code", or "UPS code") appears as a 1 inch square, with a bullseye in the middle, surrounded by a pattern of hexagonal dots. It can store about 93 characters of information, and up to 8 MaxiCode symbols can be chained together to convey more data. The centered symmetrical bullseye is useful in automatic symbol location regardless of orientation, and it allows MaxiCode symbols to be scanned even on a package traveling rapidly.

MaxiCode symbology was released by UPS in 1992.

Mobile multi-coloured composite

A mobile multi-coloured composite (MMCC) is a two dimensional coloured barcode designed to distribute media via traditional print media, without the need for network connectivity. MMCC barcodes are designed to be scanned with ordinary camera-phones (from VGA resolution onward).

MMCC is being developed at Edith Cowan University by Drs Alfred Tan and Douglas Chai. "A provisional patent has been filed and capital is being sought to develop a suite of mobile encoding and decoding software for mainstream, low-resolution camera mobile phones.


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Patch Code

Patch Code is a barcode developed by Kodak for use in automated scanning.


Pharmacode, also known as Pharmaceutical Binary Code, is a barcode standard, used in the pharmaceutical industry as a packing control system. It is designed to be readable despite printing errors. It can be printed in multiple colors as a check to ensure that the remainder of the packaging (which the pharmaceutical company must print to protect itself from legal liability) is correctly printed.

For best practice (better security), the code should always contain at least three bars and should always be a combination of both thick and thin bars, (all thick bars or all thin bars do not represent a secure code).

Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique

The Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique (PLANET) barcode was used by the United States Postal Service to identify and track pieces of mail during delivery - the Post Office's "CONFIRM" services. It was fully superseded by Intelligent Mail Barcode by January 28, 2013.

A PLANET barcode appears either 12 or 14 digits long.

The barcode:

identifies mailpiece class and shape

identifies the Confirm Subscriber ID

includes up to 6 digits of additional information that the Confirm subscriber chose, such as a mailing number, mailing campaign ID or customer ID

ends with a check digitLike POSTNET, PLANET encodes the data in half- and full-height bars. Also like POSTNET, PLANET always starts and ends with a full bar (often called a guard rail), and each individual digit is represented by a set of five bars using a two-out-of-five code. However, in POSTNET, the two bars are full bars; in PLANET, the two-of-five are the short bars. As with POSTNET, the check digit is calculated by summing the other characters and calculating the single digit which, when added to the sum, makes the total divisible by 10.


RM4SCC (Royal Mail 4-State Customer Code) is the name of the barcode character set based on the Royal Mail 4-State Bar Code symbology created by Royal Mail. The RM4SCC is used for the Royal Mail Cleanmail service. It enables UK postcodes as well as Delivery Point Suffixes (DPSs) to be easily read by a machine at high speed.

This barcode is known as CBC (Customer Bar Code) within Royal Mail.

PostNL uses a slightly modified version called KIX which stands for Klant index (Customer index); it differs from CBC in that it doesn't use the start and end symbols or the checksum, separates the house number and suffixes with an X, and is placed below the address. Singapore Post uses RM4SCC without alteration.There are strict guidelines governing usage of these barcodes, which allow for maximum readability by machines.

They can be used with Royal Mail's Cleanmail system, as an alternative to OCR readable fonts, to allow businesses to easily and cheaply send large quantities of letters.


A SPARQCode is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) encoding standard that is based on the physical QR Code definition created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave.


Semacode is a software company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It is also this company's trade name for their machine-readable ISO/IEC 16022 Data Matrix barcodes, which are used to encode Internet URLs.

Semacodes are primarily aimed at being used with cellular phones which have built-in cameras, to quickly capture a Web site address for use in the phone's web browser. Semacodes are in fact DataMatrix encoded URLs.

The Semacode website states that Semacode tags are an "open system" and that tag creation is "completely unrestricted," with the SDK software tools being free of charge for non-commercial use.Potential uses for Semacode tags are still being explored, and will complement development of the concept of using mobile phones as devices for information gathering and exchange. Suggestions from the Semacode.org website included:

placing Semacode tags on posters, such as those for concerts and public performances. Those interested could use their mobile phone to take a photo of the tag, which could link them directly to the web page where they could order tickets.

using Semacode tags and mobile phones to enable multilingual museum exhibits - a tag photographed at the exhibition entrance could set a language cookie in the phone's web browser, and subsequent Semacode tags displayed at each exhibit could then link the phone's browser directly to a web page about the item, displayed in the user's language of choice.

placing Semacode tags on name tags given to conference attendees. These tags could provide the corporate web address of each attendee's company, or their biography and contact details.


ShotCode is a circular barcode created by High Energy Magic of Cambridge University. It uses a dartboard-like circle, with a bullseye in the centre and datacircles surrounding it. The technology reads databits from these datacircles by measuring the angle and distance from the bullseye for each.

ShotCodes are designed to be read with a regular camera (including those found on mobile phones and webcams) without the need to purchase other specialised hardware. ShotCodes differ from matrix barcodes in that they do not store regular data - rather, they store a look up number consisting of 40 bits of data. This needs to link to a server that holds information regarding a mapped URL which the reading device can connect to in order to download said data.

Linear barcodes
Post office barcodes
2D barcodes (stacked)
2D barcodes (matrix)
Polar coordinate barcodes
Technological issues
Other data tags
Related topics

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