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Ottawa Heart Institute drives donations with mobile bar codes

Mobile bar code payment systems are revolutionizing the way people donate to charitable causes, and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute is case in point.

Every year, millions of callers jam the phone lines of telethon switchboards to contribute to worthy causes, and while some enjoy the personal interaction over the phone, most  would rather not wait on the line. Moreover, recent earthquake relief efforts for Haiti indicate swift movement towards quick and easy ways for donors to give money to nonprofit organizations using mobile technology.

“2D bar codes are about opening up a sales dialogue—whenever the Mobio bar code is scanned, a transaction is taking place,” said Clovis Najm, CEO of Mobio Identity Systems Inc., Vancouver, BC. “Users type in their credit card information once and after scanning the bar code they acknowledge the transaction without having to re-enter their credit card information or a password.

“We’re a payments and identity company,” he said. “Typically during a transaction, it’s more than just payment information that’s required, either from the merchant or the consumer or both, and we streamline that flow.”

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, located on the site of the Ottawa Civic Hospital, has become a global leader in the fight against heart disease.

What started as a department in a hospital has evolved into Canada’s only complete cardiac center, encompassing prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, research and education.

In addition to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, 2D bar code specialist Mobio Identity Systems’ charity clients include the B.C. Children’s Hospital, Big Brothers, Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver and Better Life Brands.

The company’s restaurant and hospitality clients include Cardero Bottega, Amarcord Ristorante Italiano, Gudrun Tasting Room, Mis Trucos, Regional Tasting Lounge, Irish Heather and Salty Tongue.

Ottawa Hearts 2D bar codes
An example of mobile bar code payment technology advancing the ways people donate to charitable causes took place on March 28 during the Ottawa Heart Institute’s annual telethon on CTV Ottawa.

For the first time in history, viewers were able to use their iPhone and a mobile bar code payment system powered by Canadian company MobioID to make a real-time donation right off of the TV screen.

During the 10-hour telethon, a customized Mobio bar code was displayed on screen to let iPhone users scan and donate instantly.

“We’ve powered a lot of print-based 2D bar code solutions and interactions in the past, but the on-screen bar code initiative for the Ottawa Heart Institute is the first televised 2D bar code campaign in the world as far as we know,” Mr. Najm said. “Viewers were asked to download the iPhone app, scan the bar code then they’ve enrolled.

“They are asked ‘How much do you want to donate to Ottawa Hearts, you pick the amount,’ and the transaction happens under the hood,” he said. “We’re tied into the payment processor for Ottawa Hearts, so it’s a full Internet-based transaction.”

If donors were unable to watch the telethon, they can visit the Ottawa Hearts or MobioID Web site and scan the bar code anytime.

Bar codes will be distributed in local publications, as well as over Twitter, Facebook and email for anytime donations before, during and after the event.

The significance of mobile bar code donation capabilities in the not-for-profit sector includes the ability to inject innovation into the widely traditional telethon space and the ability to target younger audiences and appeal to Gen X and Y.

In addition, adding a mobile element leads to increased geographical reach. Mobio bar codes can go viral on Twitter, Facebook, email and phone-to-phone.

Another benefit is the fact that ongoing donations are possible post-event. Once a custom bar code is created, it can be used indefinitely in everything from print, TV and out-of-home advertising to T-shirts and other collateral.

While Mobio’s application is currently only available for Apple’s iPhone, the company is planning on releasing version for Google’s Android and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry later this year, and is considering Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Nokia’s Symbian and other platforms for sometime down the road.

Mobio is betting that the demand for 2D bar codes among both for-profit and nonprofit companies will continue to increase.

“I definitely think that 2D bar codes will live alongside UPC bar codes,” Mr. Najm said. “More data can be packed into a 2D bar code, and ultimately we’re seeing it become standardized.

“There will be some specific use cases with specialized 2D bar codes, and we are OK using any of them, but otherwise we use Datamatrix or QR codes as our preferred codes,” he said. “We’re working to streamline the flow for the user so an organization doesn’t have to think about all of the different use cases or the lighting, direction and distance of a user’s camera phone.

“We’re going to see a lot of businesses pick up the 2D bar codes on packaging for more information or promotions.”