What is……a QR code?
They’re springing up on everything. Square panels with strange hieroglyphic like squiggles and seemingly random patterns. You may have wondered what they are. Well, they’re QR codes
What is a QR Code?
At its most basic, a QR (Quick response) code is a barcode on steroids. They’re used for encoding information in two-dimensional space — like in the pages of magazines, in advertisements and even on TV and Web sites. They were originally used to track auto parts, but have become popular for much broader, often commercial purposes.
Why should I care about QR Codes?
With as many as half of us now owning smartphones, and that number growing on a daily basis, QR Codes have the potential to have a major impact upon society and particularly in advertising, marketing and customer service with a wealth of product information just one scan away
QR codes are huge in Japan and across the East, and are slowly beginning to become commonplace in the West. Soon enough you’ll be seeing QR codes on product packaging, shop displays, printed and billboard advertisements as well as in emails and on websites. The scope of use for QR codes is enormous, particularly for the marketing and advertising of products, brands, services and anything else you can think of
How is a QR Code different from a normal barcode?
While a normal barcode encodes data in only the horizontal plane (as scanners read the width and distance between the vertical lines), QR codes encode data both horizontally and vertically in a grid of tiny squares. This allows for much more data to be encoded in a smaller space. Barcodes, then, though ubiquitous, are good for little more than identifying products and objects. Specially programmed scanners can read barcodes, and match them to product names, prices and inventory, but that’s about it. QR codes, on the other hand, can actually embed that information in the code itself, and, when read with the proper software, can trigger actions like launching a website or downloading a file. Additionally, QR codes can be read from any angle, while barcodes must be aligned properly
How do I scan a QR Code?
If you have a smartphone like an iPhone, Android or Blackberry then there a number of different barcode scanner applications such as Red Laser, Barcode Scanner and QR Scanner that can read and decode data from a QR code. The majority of these are completely FREE, and all you have to do once you install one is to use your phone’s camera to scan the barcode, which will then automatically load the encoded data for you
So what exactly can I do with QR codes?
QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content on smartphones. Simple uses include magazine advertisements that link to websites. Putting the codes to more complex use, start-up Pingtag uses them as a sort of digital business card for sharing LinkedIn accounts and contact info. Android uses QR codes to link directly to apps in the Android Marketplace, and the municipality of Bordeaux has posted them all over the city in order to track parking meters, provide links to information from the World Heritage Foundation and guide visitors to nearby shops or parking locations via Google Maps. In turn, Google has been using QR codes to promote local businesses (and itself) with the Google Places business directory, which includes reviews, contact info, and, if the business so wishes, coupons
QR codes often feature URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place (a practice known as “mobile tagging”). The codes are increasingly found in places such as product labels, billboards, and buildings, inviting passers-by to pull out their mobile phones and uncover the encoded information. Codes can provide tracking information for products in industry, routing data on a mailing label, or contact information on a business card. Small in size, the code pattern can be hidden or integrated into an esthetically attractive image in newspapers, magazines, or clothing
QR codes are bound to become more common in the coming months and years. We’re increasingly reliant on our mobile devices, and typing out URLs or other data on their tiny keyboards is still not very efficient. These squares of elaborately arranged boxes are a shortcut around that problem, can easily be integrated with various services, and incorporate geo-location data. Advertisers may not have figured it out just yet, but QR codes are their best friends
Most unusual application?
Remembering your loved one in just a few words often creates a dilemma. What could you possibly say? Thanks to an American gravestone maker, Quiring Monuments, that choice was made slightly easier as they began to add QR codes to customised headstones!
It allows family members to link to a site where pictures, videos and tributes can be uploaded. Users can also log on and add their memories to the page, creating a pool of well-wishers. Quiring Monuments say that this is a ‘living’ memorial that has revolutionised the way we remember loved ones, at a cost of just under £50. Who’s going to be first to market with this in the UK?