QR Codes: What are they?

I’ve recently come across these things called ‘QR Codes’, and have been blown away by the possibilities. I’ll start organising my thoughts in a series of blog entries here so please be sure to subscribe to either the email updates, the RSS feed, or follow me on Twitter to get the latest.

Before I go all weird and lose you, I’d better explain (for those who don’t know what I’m talking about) what a QR code is;

“A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994.” Source: Wikipedia

” By carrying information in both directions [2d], QR code can carry up to several hundred times the amount of data carried by an ordinary bar codes.” Source: QR Code.com

“Anyone with a smartphone can scan and read QR codes with the click of a camera, and anyone with access to a computer can generate QR codes themselves” Source: 5 Unique Uses for QR Codes

You can find these barcodes on a variety of different objects these days, from a Pepsi bottle, to a tattoo (!), a coat or scarf, or even on the side of a building. Yes, I did say the side of a building – it’s in Japan and ispossibly the first of it’s generation: the QR Coded building.

So, irrespective of where you find these, what are they for? The code can store all kinds of information, from a web address to a secret page (or series of mobile games in the case of the Pepsi bottle) to contact information (Vcard) to phone number and SMS details.

The below YouTube video from IETScreencasts introduces QR Codes.

So, what can QR Codes be used for? Try some of these examples;

  1. Ticketing – originally designed for information that is too large to be held in the standard vertical-bar barcode, the QR code is an excellent way for keeping track of items in a warehouse. Not to be outdone, it has also been used for concert registration.
  2. Marketing – Pepsi have been putting these codes on bottles and cans which, when processed, open up otherwise hidden areas of their website for mobile games and competitions. It has also been used on bar coasters to promote beer or a bands new album. How about this for the gritty film “28 Weeks Later” instead of a usual billboard advert?
  3. Opening Times – Put the barcode on the door, even next to the list of opening times, and anyone can scan and re-use the code at any other time to check if you’re open before getting out of bed.
  4. qrcodeGoogle Local Business Service – Google are placing these codes on the stickers you get for the favourite place by letting “customers – and potential customers – instantly learn more about a business, by visiting a mobile version of the business’ Place Page on any supported phone.” Here’s one for my favourite eatery in Bournemouth called the Urban Reef.
  5. Treasure Hunt – As with all treasure hunts, you plan the route and place the codes in places. You can cover a building or an entire town with them (don’t litter!) but the code is the direction from one to the next.

What else, and how can education use these things? Well, I’ll cover that in another post when I’ve collected my thoughts and read a little more around the subject.

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  • ken

    When QR codes first came out in Japan companies like DoCoMo had to teach the public how to use them
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/docomo-tv-commercial-promoting-qr-codes/

    • Ken – Indeed, and this is one of the biggest drawbacks I encounter when I talk to people about using them; there is an element of teaching people what they are and how they work (and how they can access them) which is a turn-off to their implementation.

      We’ll get there, eventually, I’m sure.

      All the best, David

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  • Carrie

    I’m putting a QR code in my Christmas letter. I’m linking to a funny Christmas youtube video. I briefly explain what to do and that this is a way our family is sharing more Christmas cheer. So now the predictable Christmas letter just got a bit more interesting!