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VonCast unveils invisible digital watermarks

Published on February 18, 2011

Announced at DSCOOP6, Voncast's Peter Lancaster tells Cary about working with Digimarc to introduce printers to invisible digital watermarking.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, I'm Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Peter Lancaster of VonCast and I understand that you've made an announcement about some new digital watermarking technology.

Peter:  Hi, Cary.  Yes, indeed, we have today.  VonCast is a company Larry Von and I have put together and we're working very closely with Digimarc from Portland in Oregon to introduce to the direct marketing in the U.S. for invisible digital watermarks.

Cary:  So this would be -- I'm familiar with the invisible watermarks that are used in image tracking on the web with Getty or those folks that don't want people hijacking their images.  How is this different?

Peter:  Well this is different in as much that now we can embed into an image or in fact into a text panel a digital watermark that the human eye can't see in print but the camera on a Smartphone can.

Cary:  And so what would incent me if I got a brochure or a postcard or something with this digital -- what would incent me to even try to find it.  I mean a QR code I can see, so I can click on that, but tell me about

Peter:  Well that's a very good question.  Sometimes we might not want people to know there is a watermark there for security applications.  And other times we want them, so there is a little circle D there to indicate that there's an interactive image and things like direct mail there can be an extra insert to say, "Well if you really want to get this extra pay-off then this is what you do, download the app," which incidentally will also in come April time scan 1D codes, 2D codes as well.  So one app will essentially cover all of the different types of codes.

Cary:  So on the document, there'd be that circle D and that would be a signal to me as a user to take my Smartphone on it and snap it.

Peter:  Indeed.

Cary:  And then the purpose of the digital watermark is because the 2D barcode contains a lot of information.  This allows you to embed a lot more information than just the D could have.

Peter:  Absolutely.  The D is only there to indicate that the image itself is has a pay-off, has an incentive.  And then the key objective there is to make sure that the user experience is just absolutely fantastic.  So totally targeted with the landing page, with a choice of options, and then possibly video option or a discount coupon based on some relevance.  So this brings back to the printing industry the opportunity to do something that isn't open source.  So there is a revenue stream from this.  QR codes are great and have a fantastic application, but anybody can create a QR code in 90 seconds flat, print it on your inkjet printer, cut it out with a pair of scissors, stick it on top of someone else's code and it goes to your payment gateway rather than the real ones.  So we have to be very careful with open source.  This is an opportunity for the printing industry to make some money.

Cary:  Now earlier when you demonstrated this to me it went right to the custom page.  When I've used QR codes before, at least with the reader that I have, it brings up the link and gives me a choice.  Is that an option because I don't necessary want my phone randomly going to somebody's page that I don't have idea who they are.

Peter:  Well, absolutely.  And that's really why it's a good idea to have a landing page so you give the consumer the choice as to what they want to do.  So yes to visit or to download something or to opt in or whatever it is that you want to do.  And it's all part of a campaign.

Cary:  Okay.

Peter:  It shouldn't be just a one-off action; this is something where we create an interaction.  So then we generate more print.

Cary:  So actually if you think about some of the campaigns they've been doing in New York and other cities, they have these huge QR codes on sides of buildings you can snap when you're driving by, so now we're going to start seeing all these little D's and circles, right?

Peter:  Well we are really targeting a very tactile kind of thing so we're really helping the printing industry go for direct marketing where you're actually going to hold the print in your hand and benefit from that tactile element of the print as well, so that you're close to it and you're interacting with it.  And personalized URLs is a great but -- I open my mail in the kitchen, then I've my phone and my computer's actually in my office.  So my phone is usually never further away than that and I tend to use and I know I'm not alone and we only have to witness the sales of Smartphones now.

Cary:  So where would people go to find out more information about this?

Peter:  Well they basically send an e-mail to info@voncast.com and talk to us and we'll help you hopefully make some money again.

Cary:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

Peter:  Thank you.

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