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Worth Much More Than the Paper It’s Printed On Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd. IP

Website: Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd.External site: a new window will open.
Category: IT

3-D machine-readable codes turn paper into a real-world data storage space

Building off one-dimensional barcodes that have been identifying store items since the 1970s, two-dimensional codes such as QR codes used horizontal and vertical geometry to store details such as website links. Now, Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd. has gone a step further with a three-dimensional code capable of storing almost a megabyte of data.


PM Codes use multiple color layers to achieve three-dimensional data storage; courtesy of Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd.

At first glance the PM Code (short for “paper memory”) resembles a colorful QR code. However, Content Idea of ASIA CEO and Chairman Tatsuya Onoda explains that the code uses a color matrix comprised of up to 24 different RGB color layers that effectively turns paper into low-cost, recordable media. Although Onoda patented the concept 10 years ago, he has now succeeded in making the technology so simple anyone can use


PM Codes can be used to store data such as photos and audio files.

Offline Data Storage

Compared to QR codes, which can only hold 3 kilobytes of data, Onoda says the PM Code can store up to 0.72 megabytes—240 times as much. This expanded storage means a PM Code can play a simple song, display a photo, or offer multilingual guidance thanks to its ability to accommodate data in formats such as html, html5, zip, 3gp, mpeg, midi, jpeg, gif and png.

While QR codes are generally used to access a URL – and thus only serve a function with an internet connection – PM Codes retain all their data without any online access. “You can create a platform that doesn’t require a database just with the cost of paper,” Onoda says.

As User-Friendly as Paper

Just like barcodes and QR codes, the PM Code is simple to use. Content Idea of ASIA has developed a reader application that’s available as a free download in the App Store and Google Play, and the code can be printed with standard laser or inkjet printers, with the company’s patented algorithm compensating for variations in color due to printer and paper quality.

The PM Code has already debuted in Japan in collaboration with firms such as newspaper company Asahi Shimbun and label manufacturer Sato Holdings. Onoda envisions countless other applications, such as offering multilingual guidance in museums or storing personal medical information on cards that could still be read when the internet is down after a disaster.


PM Codes are simple to use thanks to Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd.’s free reader app.

Bound in Partnership

Having patented the technology in Japan, the U.S., E.U., U.K., France and Germany, Onoda is now looking for partners around the world, with a focus on B-to-B licensing for music data companies, multilingual information services and disaster information groups.

PM Code Singapore was established in April 2016, and Onoda is working to set up a branch in the U.S. in the next year. Onoda is even looking for backers to help take him beyond 3-D, envisioning 4-D, 5-D and 6-D codes that use different shapes for potential storage capacities of 7.7 megabytes, 2.0 gigabytes and even 1.2 terabytes, respectively.

Based on interview in October 2016


Tatsuya Onoda, CEO and Chairman of Content Idea of ASIA Co., Ltd.