HCC2D Codes: Massive Data Storage In Colorful QR Codes

Gunel Ismayilova

Nov 27, 2023

5 min read

HCC2D Code

HCC2D (High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional) code is a type of 2D barcode consisting of a matrix of square color cells, using a color palette developed to achieve higher storage capacity than traditional QR codes while maintaining robustness and reliability. The prototype of HCC2D was developed by Antonio Grillo, Alessandro Lentini, Marco Querini, and Giuseppe F. Italiano, Department of Computer Science, Systems and Production University of ”Tor Vergata” in 2014.


The HCC2D code is part of a family of 2D color barcode technologies, including colored DataGlyphs and High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB). HCCB codes are sometimes confused with the HCC2D codes, but they are different types of 2D barcodes. Microsoft Research developed High Capacity Color Barcode, commonly known as Microsoft Tags, in 2013. Microsoft officially discontinued support for Microsoft Tags on August 19, 2015. Consequently, the Microsoft Tag service and infrastructure are no longer operational.


HCC2D code works by storing data in colorful square grids and is readable using a smartphone equipped with a megapixel camera capable of scanning HCC2D code or an HCC2D code reader app.


The features of High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code are its large capacity, color modules, adaptability to input size, QR compatibility, reliability and robustness, preservation of critical information, and minimal computational overheads.


The HCC2D code offers numerous advantages, including increased data capacity, robustness to distortions, enhanced error correction, compatibility with QR code technology, and versatility in color schemes.


High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code is still in the prototyping phase but has potential applications in various industries. HCC2D code is applicable for product packaging to provide detailed information, in advertising and marketing campaigns for interactive content, in ticketing and event management for quick access control, and for authentication and anti-counterfeiting measures. HCC2D codes’ benefits make it an attractive solution for high-capacity data storage.


The HCC2D code has several downsides, including hardware limitations, color distortion, reduced data density compared to certain barcode technologies, and computational overheads.

These factors affect the adoption of HCC2D codes, particularly in scenarios where compatible hardware is not readily available.


Generating an HCC2D code involves determining the data to encode, selecting an HCC2D code generation tool, setting the code parameters, generating the code, and testing and verifying its readability. Use dedicated scanning applications or smartphones with HCC2D code support for accurate scanning and decoding.


What is HCC2D Code?

HCC2D (High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional) code is a type of 2D barcode consisting of a matrix of square color cells, using a color palette developed to achieve higher storage capacity than traditional QR codes while maintaining robustness and reliability. The colors in HCC2D codes are selected from 2n-ary schemes, such as 4-ary (4 colors) or 8-ary (8 colors), enabling the encoding of 2 or 3 bits per module.


The limitations of traditional one-dimensional (1D) barcodes, which use varying line widths and spacings, have led to the adoption of two-dimensional (2D) codes that utilize geometric patterns such as squares, dots, triangles, and hexagons. These 2D codes offer higher data density and store more information than 1D barcodes. Examples of 2D color barcode technologies include the colored DataGlyphs, High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB), and High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional (HCC2D) codes.


The prototype of HCC2D was developed by Antonio Grillo, Alessandro Lentini, Marco Querini, and Giuseppe F. Italiano, Department of Computer Science, Systems and Production University of ”Tor Vergata” in 2014. The objective of High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code existence is to achieve higher data density and enable efficient encoding and decoding of information. These advancements are driven by the increasing demand for storing and transmitting more extensive amounts of data in a compact and visually appealing format. The availability of onboard cameras in mobile devices has played a significant role in the popularity and widespread use of 2D color barcodes, as HCC2D codes are able to be easily scanned using smartphones or other devices with matrix camera features capable of scanning HCC2D code.


HCCB codes are sometimes confused with the HCC2D codes, but they are different types of 2D barcodes. Microsoft Research developed High Capacity Color Barcode, commonly known as Microsoft Tags, in 2013. HCCB is a 2D barcode that stores more information than traditional barcodes readable by MS tag scanners. HCCB consists of a colored high-capacity pattern of triangles, unlike HCC2D codes. The data density of HCCB is increased by using a palette of 4 or 8 colors for the triangles, but black and white are still permitted. These triangle QR codes store data like text, URLs, videos, and photos. Users generate Microsoft barcodes via the gettag mobile app using a Microsoft QR code generator.


Microsoft officially discontinued support for Microsoft Tags on August 19, 2015. Consequently, the Microsoft Tag service and infrastructure are no longer operational. Microsoft Tags are no longer actively used or supported by Microsoft, although 2D barcodes continue to be used for similar purposes.


How Does HCC2D Code Work?

HCC2D code works by storing data in colorful square grids and is readable using a smartphone equipped with a megapixel camera capable of scanning HCC2D code or an HCC2D code reader app. The unique pattern on HCC2D codes is translated into human-readable data when scanned. The scanning device uses its camera to capture an image of the HCC2D code, and the software processes the image to decode the information stored within the 2D color barcode. Decoding opens up the associated data, such as a website, images, text, or video, and makes it available.


The High Capacity Colored 2-dimensional code inherits the function patterns of QR codes, commonly used 2D barcodes. It means that the HCC2D code includes the same pattern structures and features as QR codes but with the addition of the color encoding scheme. The colorful barcode HCC2D is printable and scannable like other barcodes. However, it introduces chromatic distortions due to the printing and scanning process, which result in errors during barcode reading.


The purpose of the HCC2D code is to optimize the trade-off between reliability and data density. Various algorithms, including clustering and machine learning classifiers, have been studied to decode HCC2D codes and minimize the error rate. The choice of color classifiers and decoding methods plays a crucial role in achieving accurate and efficient decoding of color barcode cells.


The High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code is colored because colored cells store more data in each module than traditional QR codes. Introducing a color palette composed of 8 colors, an HCC2D code of Version 19, and the M correction level enables storing 15,048 bits per square inch. HCC2D data density is slightly lower than Microsoft’s HCCB data density. However, HCC2D preserves similar robustness in detection, alignment, and error correction as the standard QR code, while HCCB lacks patterns supporting detection and alignment.


What are the Use Case Applications of HCC2D Code?

High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code is currently in prototyping, but HCC2D codes still have potential use cases across various industries requiring high data storage. Listed below are a few examples of the use case applications of HCC2D code.


  • Product Packaging: HCC2D codes are able to be used on product packaging to provide detailed information about the product, including manufacturing details, ingredients, expiration dates, product specifications, and even the video of the product instruction. The increased data capacity provided by HCC2D codes allows for more extensive and accurate information to be stored in a compact format.
  • Advertising and Marketing: HCC2D codes is able potentially utilized in advertising and marketing campaigns to provide interactive and engaging content to consumers. Users access websites, high-resolution promotional videos, or social media pages by scanning the HCC2D code, allowing targeted marketing and information dissemination.
  • Ticketing and Event Management: High Capacity Colored 2D codes are suitable for event tickets, concerts, or transportation services. The 2D colored barcodes are able to contain essential information such as seat numbers, event details, or boarding passes. Scanning the HCC2D code at the venue or point of entry facilitate quick and efficient access control.
  • Authentication and Anti-Counterfeiting: HCC2D codes are able to serve as a security feature for product authentication and anti-counterfeiting measures. The color encoding and increased data capacity of HCC2D codes enable manufacturers to embed unique identifiers, tamper-evident features, or encrypted information to verify the authenticity of products and protect against counterfeiting.


What are the Features of an HCC2D Code?

HCC2D code has specific features that make High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code different than the other codes.


  • Data density enhancement: HCC2D codes leverage colors to enhance data density compared to traditional QR codes. A single module stores more information by assigning multiple bits to each module, allowing for higher data capacity.
  • Color modules: HCC2D codes introduce the use of colored modules. Each module represents more than one bit of information, enabling higher data storage capabilities. The introduction of colors poses challenges in handling color distortions caused by hardware equipment during the Print&Scan process.
  • Adaptability to Input Size: These 2D color barcodes dynamically adjust their dimensions based on the amount of data to be encoded. Its adaptability ensures that the HCC2D code size is optimized for the input data, avoiding unnecessary space and maximizing the data density.
  • Compatibility with QR codes: High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional codes are designed to be fully compatible with the standard QR code. They preserve the Function Patterns, Format Information, and Version Information of QR codes. The compatibility provides the possibility of implementing the feature of reading HCC2D codes to existing QR code scanning technologies.
  • Reliability and Robustness: HCC2D codes maintain QR codes' robustness and reliability properties. High Capacity Colored QR codes withstand distortions, dirt, and damage and maintain readability even under adverse conditions. Error correction codes, such as Reed-Solomon codes, are applied to correct errors and ensure accurate decoding.
  • Preservation of Critical Information: High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional codes preserve critical information such as function patterns, format information, and version information defined in QR codes. Modifying the information leads to recognition failures, so HCC2D codes maintain compatibility by saving the structure and position of these elements.
  • Minimum of Computational Overheads: HCC2D codes introduce less computational overhead than QR codes. The decoding process of HCC2D codes is efficient, and the computational requirements are not significantly higher than those of QR codes.


When Did HCC2D Code Originate?

The HCC2D (High Capacity Colored Two Dimensional) code originated in 2014. The 2D-colored QR code was introduced by Antonio Grillo, Alessandro Lentini, Marco Querini, and Giuseppe F. Italiano. The High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code was proposed as a new technology that builds upon the basis of QR codes while incorporating colors to increase data density, maintaining robustness and reliability. The High capacity-colored QR code is still in the prototyping phase, so its development and evolution continue today.


Where Is the HCC2D Code Used Today?

HCC2D codes are able to be used in various applications and industries where high-capacity data storage, reliable scanning, and robustness to distortions are required. HCC2D codes are currently in prototype stages, but there is significant potential for them to be used in different industries, as regular QR codes are.


How Can HCC2D Code Be Scanned?

The HCC2D code can be scanned using a mobile device equipped with a megapixel camera capable of scanning HCC2D codes. Listed below are the five simple steps for scanning HCC2D codes.


  1. Use a suitable HCC2D code scanning application. Open the phone or tablet's megapixel camera or the application that supports scanning and decoding colored 2D barcodes.
  2. Position the code within the scanning area. Align the HCC2D code within the scanning area displayed on the device's screen. Ensure that the entire code is visible and well-lit for better scanning accuracy.
  3. Capture the image. Hold the device steady and let the camera focus on the coloring QR code. The application attempts to capture the image automatically.
  4. Be patient during decoding and interpretation. Wait until the scanning application analyzes the captured image, decodes the HCC2D code, and interprets the encoded information. The application takes a few seconds to process the code and extract the data.
  5. Retrieve the scanned information. The scanning application displays the retrieved information on the device's screen after successfully decoding the HCC2D code. It is permissible to store text, URLs, videos, audio, or any other data stored within the colorful QR code.


What are the Benefits of the HCC2D Code?

High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code offers several benefits compared to standard QR codes. Listed below are the five benefits of HCC2D.


  • Higher data density: The HCC2D code utilizes color pallets to encode information, allowing for a higher data density than regular QR codes. Each module of the standard QR code represents one bit according to this rule: black cells store 1, and white cells store 0. Instead, HCC2D uses a color palette with multiple colors; each color cell represents more than one bit of information. It increases the data stored in a given area.
  • Geometric distortion robustness: The HCC2D code is designed to maintain the robustness to geometric distortions that QR codes possess. A high-capacity 2D colored barcode resists dirt, damage, and distortion while incurring little computational overhead compared to a QR code.
  • Enhanced error correction: The High Capacity Colored 2D code incorporates Reed Solomon error correction techniques to compensate for errors introduced during printing and scanning. Adding redundancy to the color barcode data corrects errors and improves the reliability of the barcode reading.
  • Compatible with QR code infrastructure: The HCC2D code is built upon the structure of QR codes, utilizing function patterns, format, and version information from QR codes. Modifying these critical pieces of information tends to cause recognition failures, so they are not reduced to increase data density. Its compatibility allows easy integration with existing QR code infrastructure and reading devices.
  • Flexible color schemes: The HCC2D code supports different color schemes, such as 4-ary color schemes (4 colors encoding 2 bit/module) and 8-ary color schemes (8 colors encoding 3 bit/module). The flexibility enables customization based on specific requirements and applications.


What are the Downsides of the HCC2D Code?

Listed below are some disadvantages of the HCC2D code that must be considered in addition to its data density and robustness advantages.


  • Limited Hardware: The HCC2D code relies on specialized hardware equipment for the Print&Scan process. The process necessitates users to have access to compatible devices or printers that support the color capabilities required for scanning and decoding HCC2D codes. It limits the widespread adoption of HCC2D codes, especially in scenarios where such hardware is not readily available.
  • Distorted Color: Introducing color into barcodes poses challenges related to color distortions. The HCC2D code needs to account for chromatic distortions during the decoding phase. The Color Palette Pattern is one technique that aims to reduce these distortions, but variations in color reproduction and scanning conditions still prevent accurate decoding of the HCC2D code.
  • Reduced Data Density than HCCB: The HCC2D code aims to increase data density over standard QR codes; however, it falls behind Microsoft's HCCB. The trade-off between reliability and data density means HCC2D has lower data capacity than several color barcode technologies.
  • Computed Overheads: HCC2D has little computational overhead compared to QR codes, but color classification and decoding algorithms require additional processing. This affects scanning speed and efficiency, especially when dealing with large or complex HCC2D codes.


How to Generate HCC2D Code

To generate the HCC2D code, follow these 5 steps when High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional codes are ready for commercial usage.


  1. Determine the data to encode. Decide on the information to include in the HCC2D code, such as images, videos, URLs, or other data.
  2. Choose an HCC2D code generation tool. Look for software or an app that supports HCC2D code generation. It must provide the necessary functions and algorithms to create HCC2D codes.
  3. Set the code parameters. Specify the size and configuration of the high-capacity 2D colored QR code, such as the dimensions and color palette. These parameters depend on the specific requirements and the capabilities of the code-generation tool used.
  4. Generate the code. Use the HCC2D code generator to create the HCC2D code based on the provided data and parameters. The device uses color to convert the data into a pattern of colored modules that form the HCC2D code.
  5. Test and verify the generated code. Validate the generated HCC2D code to ensure its readability and accuracy. Use a suitable HCC2D code reader or scanner to confirm that the code was successfully decoded and the stored data retrieved correctly.



Can an HCC2D Code be Scanned by Any Mobile Phone's Camera?

No, an HCC2D code cannot be scanned by any mobile phone’s camera. Users must use a dedicated scanning application or smartphone camera explicitly supporting HCC2D codes. High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional codes require specific decoding algorithms and color classification techniques to interpret the information encoded in the code accurately. HCC2D scanners are designed to handle the specific requirements and challenges associated with HCC2D code decoding, including color classification and error correction.


The development of the High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional (HCC2D) code prototype involved the implementation of two applications: the encoder and the decoder. The encoder was built using the libqrencode C library to encode data into standard QR code symbols. The decoder was implemented using zxing, an open-source Java project that improves the processing of 1D and 2D barcodes. The encoder and the decoder are capable of recognizing standard QR codes in the implementation. The decoder performs operations such as detecting the position detection pattern, utilizing the alignment patterns, and reading the version and format information preserved from the standard QR code processing. The decoder attempts to detect the color palette after these initial operations. The decoder processes an HCC2D code if the color palette is successfully detected. The program otherwise assumes the code is a standard QR code and attempts to decode it accordingly.


Is HCC2D Code Discontinued?

No, the HCC2D code is not discontinued. The High Capacity Colored 2D code has been a prototype of a new type of 2D barcode since 2014, but it has not yet been released.


What is the difference between the HCC2D Code and the HCCB Code?

The HCC2D code and the HCCB code are distinct 2D barcode technologies.


An HCCB barcode uses clusters of colored triangles to encode data. Data is represented using colored triangles and has a high data density. HCC2D uses a color palette to achieve a higher storage capacity than traditional QR codes by storing square color cells in a matrix. Microsoft Tag is a mobile tagging application based on HCCB, which was developed by Microsoft Research engineers. Italiano, Querini, Grillo, and Grilla developed HCC2D at Tor Vergata University in 2014. Microsoft Tag was officially discontinued in 2015, and its services are no longer operational.HCC2D is still in the prototyping phase and has the potential for future adoption in various industries.


Conclusion

High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional code has the potential to revolutionize data storage and information sharing in various industries in the future with its ability to store more data in a compact and visually appealing format. HCC2D codes are expected to be adopted and integrated into broader applications that require high-capacity data storage, reliable scanning, and robustness to distortions as technology advances. The future of HCC2D codes is promising, offering a balance between data density and reliability for efficient and effective data encoding and decoding.


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