Your touchscreen can “read” this ink

Posted by on 15 Apr 2012 | Category: Industry Trends

Source: gigaom

Ever since the smartphone era began, companies have looked for ways to quickly get information from the offline product world onto the phone. Barcode scanning is a popular approach while QR codes and proprietary tags, such as those from Microsoft, are other solutions. These all require cameras and specifically printed codes; what if we could just use what looks like a standard ink solution and the touchscreen on our phones?



That’s exactly the idea behind Printechnologic’s Touchcode; the German company has developed an electronic print product with interactivity. Printed material using Touchcode technology looks no different than a standard print product, is recyclable and can be used on a range of products, such as tickets, food items, business cards, or nearly anything that you can put ink on. A customizable electronic code embedded in the print process interacts with a phone’s capacitive screen, much like your fingers do, giving the handset a web address or file download, for example. Here’s how the company describes it:

“Touchcode is an invisible electronic code printed on paper, cardboard, film or labels. Just put the product on the display of your smartphone/tablet/multitouch device to read the data – no matter if you’d like to confirm the authenticity of your brand product or make your card game come to life. With Touchcode, you add interactivity to just about any product.”

It’s a simply elegant solution and takes advantage of the growing number of touchscreen devices in the mobile market. DisplaySearch estimates that 2011 saw 566 million touch screen shipments for mobile phones, with rapid expansion going forward. Here’s an interactive video demo on the website showing how Touchcode works and explaining the many possibilities for the product:


Touchcode is ingenious because it directly bridges the physical and digital worlds with a medium that’s been used for thousands of years: Ink. The products looks no different than any printed medium today. And they gain the extra characteristic of working with a capacitive touch screen.

Imagine tapping a printed card in Starbucks to your handset for a direct download of the tune currently playing. Maybe a printed concert ticket can open up a web page with the artist’s bio or an advance listen to an upcoming but unpublished song. Or instead of manually logging your food with a barcode, the food packaging itself contains a link to the nutritional values and can log the entry for you while also providing relevant recipes.

The idea behind these interactive codes has really never been the problem in adoption. Instead, the implementations haven’t been quite as universal as they need to be. Near-field communications, or NFC, tags could help, but they require both the tag and a phone with an NFC reader. Barcodes are probably the next best thing up until now, but are an electronic-only solution; unless you’ve learned to “read” a barcode yourself, they add little value alone.

Printed materials with Touchcode technology offer two solutions, however. The printed information itself is understandable by anyone who can read while extra information or links to other data works with a touch-capable smartphone. I’d call that a win all around if Touchcode can get clients to start using its codes during the print process.

How to Create OCR Scannable Business Cards

Posted by on 12 Mar 2010 | Category: Design, Hints & Tips, Industry Trends


More and more business people are looking to import business card information into their databases. So until bar-coding like QR Codes and Microsoft Tags become a standard feature on business cards, people are using some form of business card scanner with OCR technology.

Whether with an OCR mobile app (see below) or a flatbed scanner, OCR can drastically simplify the process of transferring contacts from paper to your contact management database.


But even the best OCR business card reader technology has limitations.

Cards with certain design features simply don’t scan well. And as scanning becomes more common, this is something that business card designers should keep in mind if they don’t want to use bar-coding. That contact was important enough for you to give your business card to; you need to make sure you make it easy for them to accurately add you to their contacts list.

So here are some helpful hints for creating a scannable business card.


  • Use fancy fonts. These easily confuse OCR software, especially on letters like “c” and “e”. A clean font like Helvetica may seem boring, but it is easy for OCR to translate.
  • Combine your name and title. Names and titles separated by a comma on a single line (such as “Nancy Nally, Editor”) don’t translate correctly in OCR.
  • Overlay text on a pattern. This is too confusing for OCR.
  • Angle text. Currently OCR scanning doesn’t translate text that isn’t parallel to the edges of the card.
  • Mix orientations. Keep all the text oriented in the same direction.


  • Keep it big. If you get squinty looking at your card, so will OCR software.
  • Give text breathing room. Keep letters nicely spaced so that the OCR can distinguish them easily from each other.
  • Keep it light. Cards with dark backgrounds seem impossible to scan (even those with high-contrast white text).
  • Put your company name somewhere in text. OCR can’t translate stylised logos, so make sure the company’s name is in text somewhere too.
  • Keep it on one side. Scanners only read one side of a card, so keep all the critical contact information on one side.

This last issue is a very common problem with many cards. Double-sided printing is becoming very “trendy” which creates the temptation to spread the critical contact information on both sides of the card, making it inaccessible to card reading technology.

Ideally, you should have contact information on only one side of the card, and then use the other side for a logo or mini sales brochure. Here at CQ we have the ability to print a different back on each card in a set, offering the ability to get very creative with a card back’s promotional uses. Meanwhile, the front of the card can hold all of the traditional contact information in a clean and simple (scannable) format.

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