iBarga and QR codes comes to Barga
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.