Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Technology Observations in Japan

I've already mentioned my thoughts on e-Books and e-Readers, which were provoked by my recent trip to Japan. While there, I noticed a few other things that might interest fellow techies, and thought I'd share them here.

QR Codes
I'm starting to notice QR codes in North America, but their use seems pretty limited so far. I've seen one or two in magazines and a few on items like coffee cups, but nothing widespread or in mainstream use. In Japan, however, they were pretty ubiquitous. For example, they were used on all my boarding passes, and passengers scanned them in a machine to get on the plane, similar to a train ticket turnstile. I thought that was pretty cool! Boarding seemed to go a lot faster than on my flight from Seattle, but maybe that's just because anything to do with traveling seems much more streamlined and organized in Japan than in North America.

In North America, smartphones are pretty common. The cost has come down significantly and you'd be hard-pressed not to notice them in any major North American city. I also saw quite a few smartphones on my trip to Europe last year. In Japan, however, the same style of flip phone I used when I lived there five years ago is still popular. I was surprised to see so few iPhones (I think I saw fewer than 10), or even any phone with a touch screen. I suppose that the Japanese phones are much better at handling Japanese script/kanji, but it was also interesting to note how more people seemed to use their phones as actual phones than I see here too.

Of course Japan is full of technological wonders, most of which didn't phase me since it wasn't my first visit. A few things are changing though - it seems to me that credit card use has increased, and you can now use cell phones to pay for even more goods and services, which is pretty cool. The contrast of cellphone types and the use of QR codes are the main two things that stood out to me the most.

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