iBarga and QR codes comes to Barga

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This site has been on line, in various versions since 1996. Over those 14 years we have been following the philosophy written under the main site heading; that of  ” busily putting Barga on the map since 1996″ Many people have arrived in Barga after reading the articles and stories on these pages, one or two of them seemingly better informed about events and people in Barga than the actual inhabitants but even though we have been very successful in getting people to come and see Barga for themselves there has still been a small problem once they arrive. Information for visitors once inside the city walls is sometimes difficult to get. There is an information office in the Barga Vecchia but it is not open every hour of the day or staffed by people with multi-language abilities and so another information system is needed to fill that gap. Please welcome, what we hope will be the answer to that problem.

Back in April 2008 we published a cartoon (here) containing a black and white square design and asking the question, just what do we call these things ? Datamatrics, sematags or 2d barcodes? Over the next couple of years they ended up with another name – that of QR codes but whatever the name,  2008 was the start of a definite project here in Barga using those designs which after two years of preparations and field trials was finally officially released to the public this week under the name of iBarga.

The Palazzo Pancrazi in Barga Vecchia was where the project was unveiled at a press conference called to publicise the first ever medieval historic centre in Tuscany to be connected to the internet via 2D barcodes and cell phones. All the restaurants and bars in Barga Vecchia, all the churches, all the piazza’s, all the statues and all place of interest for visitors to Barga have been tagged with a small white ceramic tile with a printed individual two dimensional bar code which can be read by any of the new smart phones.

All the visitor has to do is point their cell phone at the tile, which then brings up on the screen of their phone information about the area. So pointing it at the tile on the Duomo will bring up information about the Duomo, if they point it at one outside Palazzo Pancrazi, it will be information about Palazzo Pancrazi etc. etc.

More than that, they can also decide in which language they want the information. For the moment the iBarga project is running with eight European languages plus Arabic, Chinese and Japanese and with more languages available shortly.

iBarga has also been set up to be almost maintenance free as information about each individual location can be easily updated so that a restaurant can easily update their site on iBarga using their cell phone – daily menus, dish of the day etc.  Barga Jazz Club has a qr code outside the club which shows who will be playing there in the future – this too, easily updated via a simple twitter to the iBarga site.

Images from the press conference held in Palazzo Pancrazi this morning to officially launch the iBarga project.

The Mayor of Barga Marco Bonini speaking at the press conference (in Italiano)

Overview of QR Codes

A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR Codes are now used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging). QR Codes can be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a URI or to compose a text message or email. Users can also generate and print their own QR Code for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR Code generating sites. Frank C. Hudetz, a US Marketing Services Professional, claims to have invented the idea of mapping bar codes to a URL.

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or on just about any object about which users might need information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone’s browser. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.


How the project has unfolded since 2008

A number of art projects on the mountains surrounding Barga were using QR codes – in 2008 – Margini – Artists in Residence at the Rifugio Enrico Rossi sulle Alpi Apuane and during 2009 and 2010 – Tambura in Banda Larga on Monte Tambura.

During the summer of 2010 the QR codes appeared in a number of different places in Barga including on t-shirts and publicity for Barga Jazz 2010, on one of the chairs in Chairart and on the new disc “Invisible Cities” from Andrea Guzzoletti

The decision to use Ceramic Tiles

Back in 2008 and 2009 a series of tests were done to see if the system was workable using printed labels – stickers which were put up in the town to see what reaction there would be. Although initially they were working perfectly, there were a few problems with the weather degrading the labels and making them unreadable or removing them completely (there was also the problem of small boys removing the labels and collecting them) Something more permanent was needed. Also some thought would have to be given to the aesthetics of sticking a label onto a 500 year old palazzo or the 1000 year old Duomo.

After a few trials with laminating labels to protect them from the elements, it was decided to use ceramic tiles which were carefully selected and screen printed with a QR code with inks that can withstand the rigours of full summer sunlight and deep winter chills without degrading. They were small enough for all the information to be still recognisable by the system, not too large to be an eyesore in the historic centre of Barga and above all aesthetically pleasing in their own right.

So where does the project go from here ?

And here comes the exciting part – it was announced at the press conference by the Mayor of Barga, Marco Bonini that the second part of the project will shortly be activated – namely, a WiFi system over the whole of Barga Vecchia allowing fast internet access for anybody inside the city walls. Just what the ibarga project needed to make it work at full capacity. Interesting times we live in.

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10 Comments on "iBarga and QR codes comes to Barga"

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In tutti i sensi, un gran lavoro: utilissimo, ma immagino molto dispendioso sia in termini di tempo che di risorse, perlomeno intellettuali.
Mi auguro che i principali beneficiari (albergatori, ristoratori ecc…) e la nostra amministrazione comunale, sempre pronta a rimarcare in ogni occasione la vocazione turistica di Barga, abbiano saputo fornirti un supporto adeguato.
Non solo morale…

P.S. fuori tema: da un sito attento come Barganews alle mutazioni dell’informazione nell’era di Internet, mi sarei aspettato qualche commento alla faccenda wikileaks: né Frank né Doggybag hanno niente in cantiere?

Bravo Keane. To the degree that Barga leads Italy (or realms beyond) in imagination, he’s the reason why. And complimenti to the artist who constructed those marvelous cardboard figures in the backdrop. With respect to WikiLeaks, caro Mato, one question seems pertinent: is this a matter of genuine information? Answer: sicuramente no. What news is there in reading that Berlusconi is ludicrously venal, Bush ignorant and paranoid, Ahmadinejad mato (sorry!), Putin sinister, Sarkozy unstable or Ghedafi capable of playing all the roles of Commedia del Arte at the same time. These are observations Doggybag, Monacu or Mato and their pals… Read more »
Con la pioggia di questi giorni, è dura uscire di casa per fare quattro chiacchiere dall’Aristo, ma il commento di Frank mi ha comunque consolato: ad una prima impressione, anche a me non erano sembrate grandi notizie, in termini di contenuti. Però, se il nostro ministro degli esteri parlava addirittura di “11 settembre della diplomazia” e contemporaneamente le “bombe” di wikileaks rimbalzavano sulle prima pagine di tutto il mondo, evidentemente non avevo capito bene. Purtroppo, lo dico da un punto di osservazione assolutamente limitato come quello della stampa sportiva italiana, anche chi si deve occupare di informazione in prima persona,… Read more »
“the Internet Age’s massive assault on privacy” – first of all I am not convinced that the concept of privacy is universally understood. What you believe is privacy and the limits once breached are not the same for everybody or all cultures. The Italian sense of privacy is a good deal different from the English ideal… there is no such word in the Italian language as “privacy” for instance, they are forced to use the English word .. how much does that tell you ? Secondly, it seems to me that privacy is a concept that has already been lost… Read more »
I can buy the editor’s observation as an intellectual commentary on where things seem headed, but surely not as a way to manage one’s own life. Who among us really believes that privacy is no more than a dated affectation, something to “get over?” And perhaps more to the point, who among us is prepared to translate that view into a life conducted without benefit of personal confidences or the opportunity to escape unwanted public scrutiny? Privacy isn’t simply an idiosyncratic feature of certain cultures or of an era that’s come to an end. It’s an absolute right, clung to… Read more »
I neither have the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all of these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects. (Shakespeare, 2007: IV, 1) What can the ancient Greek conception of melancholy tell us about life today? Not much, it seems. Through most of Western European history melancholy was a central cultural theme; it organized, focussed and… Read more »
Among the likely consequences of the WikiLeak affair, the one to which Mato alludes is the most chilling. Already, as he notes, the political class is calling it the “11 settembre della diplomazia” — in short, transforming it into a pretense for unprededented security measures, this time directed squarely at the flow of information. Not gossip, which is essentially the “content” of WikiLeaks, but the data necessary to maintain an informed public. A friend in Paris, the leading investigative reporter of his generation, shared his concerns on this theme yesterday. “Le plus inquiétant parait être que les “nations démocratiques” vont… Read more »
jack nannini
Sorry to put the boot into your academic pleasantries, guys. Illuminating though they most certainly are, my thinking is that you’ve all somewhat missed the point here! Above and beyond the personal and professional motives of the since incarcerated Assange, whose current woes are no doubt far more pressing than any character assassination visited upon him here and elsewhere; irrespective of the actual diplomatic and regulatory consequences of making public classified documents through the internet; not to speak of the generally sorry state of news gathering worldwide to which debatably the advent of the internet may have contributed: what we… Read more »
jack nannini

[…] and so another information system is needed to fill that gap. Please welcome, what we hope will be the answer to that […]