Alibaba signs up brands for QR-like dotless visual codes

Dotless Visual Codes

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has launched a platform for brands and product manufacturers that will enable them to place “dotless visual codes” on product packaging so that consumers can scan to check a product’s authenticity and get information, discounts and recommendations based on their preferences.

The Blue Stars platform is the first to make use of QR code-like Dotless Visual Codes, a new standard for offline-to-online connectivity that has been developed by Visualead, an Israeli start-up in which Alibaba invested an undisclosed sum and entered a strategic partnership with in January 2015. To scan the codes, consumers will need Alibaba’s Taobao mobile app, which now includes Visualead’s reader software.

“When consumers scan the Blue Stars codes with Alibaba Group’s mobile Taobao application, they receive information about the specific product, such as feedback on the authenticity of the product they are holding or targeted online promotions directly from the product brand,” Visualead explains.

“Leading brands such as L’Oréal and Ferrero have created millions of unique dotless visual codes for their product packages sold in China. The new codes resemble QR codes in their distinct square markers, which intuitively inform consumers that the codes should be scanned with a mobile device.

“However, as opposed to monochrome QR codes, dotless visual codes are designed to embed a colourful image, logo, or a visual call to action on 90% of the code’s surface, making them far more visually appealing and engaging to consumers. The new standard also utilises multiple information security and computer vision methods that make dotless visual codes more secure than regular QR codes.”

 Dotless codes have evolved from traditional QR codes.
PROGRESS: Dotless codes have evolved from traditional QR codes. Click to enlarge.

“L’Oréal and Ferrero are two of the leading brands. There are many other leading brands, some of them are Chinese, some of them are international; their products are going to be introduced to the market in the millions and by the end of 2015, I think also in the billions,” Oded Israeli, vice president of marketing at Visualead, told NFC World.

“Since Alibaba is just launching the platform now and launching the technology to go with it on the mobile Taobao application, then I guess that those products will hit the market in the upcoming weeks and months. All of the leading international brands and a lot of the leading Chinese brands are selling their products on Alibaba commerce platforms and this platform has the potential to reach all of the leading brands.”

“If brands want to use dotless visual codes on a product, they need to have an application that has the secure scanner that knows how to interpret those codes,” Israeli continued. “Mobile Taobao, the number one commerce application by Alibaba which is installed on hundreds of millions of devices in China, has this secure scanner technology integrated within the app.

“It doesn’t have to be Taobao or Alibaba however; our technology is aimed at different applications in different countries and different use cases, but a certain application that includes our technology would have to be involved in order to utilise these codes.”

A video shows the company’s more complex Visual QR Codes in action:

“Alibaba is not only one of our investors but also a strategic partner, and a very close partner to us, and I can tell you we’re working with Alibaba on multiple projects in different areas,” Israeli added. “I can tell you there is more to expect.”

“Alibaba Group is dedicated to providing our community of merchants with innovative solutions to help them grow in today’s mobile era,” says Zhang Kuo, director of Alibaba Group’s mobile business division. “We are happy to work together with Visualead to introduce its new dotless visual codes standard to our merchants as an important part of our Blue Stars platform.”

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