Information expansion barcode for public space designed in Tokyo
HORIZONTALLY THIN STRIP
Fits smartly onto any station sign without spoiling the sign design.
READABLE at MEDIUM & LONG-DISTANCE
Is excellent for use with ceiling signs and other signs that must be read from a distance.
JUST AFFIX for SERVICE
Service any sign by simply affixing an XPAND code. Using Adobe Illustrator, you can easily create new layouts for new signs.
FREELY CREATE DISPLAY CONTENT
You can continue utilizing your current information distribution system because you can link to any website or app via XPAND codes.
EAN/UPC CODE COMPATIBILITY
If using a EAN/UPC code compatible barcode reader app, simply add one line of program code to utilize XPAND.CODES service.
Installation and operation costs are made relatively inexpensive through open source technology.
Birth of the XPAND code
We handle the signage for many of the railways and bus companies in Japan.
In recent years, the country has shown an increased demand for multilingual signs. A combination of Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese and Korean have proven to be the most in demand, although depending upon the region, there have been needs for other languages, as well.
Simultaneously displaying all of the above mentioned languages would make the signs very difficult to read and would also hinder the functionality of the signs. The three Asian languages, in particular, provide a difficult challenge in that, compared to the English alphabet, they use highly complex characters formed with a high density of lines that reduce the legibility of small characters that would convolute the signs as a whole.
That is why we have focused on the use of barcodes and smartphones to provide multilingual-support, and have conducted various trial and error tests in this traffic sign design project.
The most common barcodes worldwide are QR code and EAN codes. QR codes tend to be used more often by users of smartphones equipped with scanner apps.
The drawback is that QR codes must be scanned in close proximity, so in order to scan them from several meters away, the codes must be very large.
Again, when QR codes are displayed on horizontal signs, there is considerably less space to display other information, they are distracting and ruin the overall design of the signs.
That is why we have implemented XPAND codes, which are redesigned barcodes.
QR Code and XPAND Code Comparison
Simulated image of both codes placed on station signs. When scanning codes from several meters away, the QR code must be large and overwhelms the signage, whereas the XPAND code issues no such hindrances.
Features of the XPAND code
There are many code formats in addition to the QR and EAN codes.
Unfortunately, most other types of formats require specialized applications that make them inconvenient for smartphone users.
Therefore, a new barcode was designed based upon the premise that an existing EAN code recognition engine could be used to read the barcode, and that users must be able to scan it using the same apps they used for scanning QR codes and EAN codes.
In order to stimulate use, QR codes were sometimes placed alongside XPAND codes in an attempt entice users who were still unfamiliar with XPAND codes.
In order utilize barcodes on signs, EAN codes were cropped, then enclosed in a frame to distinguish it from other parts of the sign.
The name of the domain “XPAND.CODES” doubles as the logo and is printed together with the informational categories such as “Public Transport”. Code size and color can be customized to match the sign design.
When the barcode reader app is launched to scan an XPAND code, the informational content of the sign are displayed on the smartphone. A specialized application is not required. Our system provides easy access from standard barcode readers to XPAND code servers.
ISO compliant signs and original awareness signs with XPAND codes are currently being sold on Amazon.jp. When the XPAND codes are scanned, the information is displayed in the preset language of the user’s smartphone.
Present and future of the XPAND code
Since its announcement, XPAND codes have been taken up by the media and praised for their sophistication.
We are currently providing railway, bus and public facility operators with XPAND code implementation solutions and services.
They are expected to further proliferate once they are fully introduced at railway stations in the third quarter of 2017.
With the approach of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the need for conveying information in multiple languages is ever increasing and XPAND codes will no doubt serve to fulfill those multilingual needs.
Concurrent efforts include expanding XPAND codes worldwide.