QR codes a quick link to more information

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's a QR code, anyway? Ever since the Eureka Springs Downtown Network found the winner of their Come Back for Christmas contest through scanning QR codes, using the little black and white box of undecipherable symbols brings up some interesting possibilities.

A QR, or Quick Response, code is a type of matrix barcode created by Toyota subsidiary, Denso Wave, in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. It became popular due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity.

The code most often consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data and was designed to allow contents to be decoded at high speed.

According to an article by Terrence O'Brien on switched.com, "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.

"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."

And why would that be? QR codes might kick-start widespread thinking and innovation around information connected to locations and objects. In museums, for example, QR codes might appear on plaques beside art displays, directing patrons to information about the artwork and the artist.

QR codes, once generated in an image editing tool like Photoshop, even allow a user to work their own visual logo or brand into the image itself.

In an online article for Fast Company Magazine titled 13 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes for Marketing, the author mentions using them for promotions and giveaways and encouraging patronage from the iPhone and Android set by creating discounts specific to the QR codes.

Codes could run in advertisements or be posted throughout a store -- even put on T-shirts for a public event for more engagement from the crowd. (If the wearer doesn't mind being scanned.)

Hardware stores could link to how-to videos on YouTube showing how to use specific power tools. Groceries could link to pages that talk about how their products were sourced, and perhaps to interviews of the farmers who grew the food.

Even J.C. Penney is rolling out a unique holiday QR code program that lets shoppers personalize gifts with voice messages encoded on the gift.

Techies may want to check out how it all works at onebiginternet.com/2011/02/the-complete-guide-to-qr-code-technology.

It's a brave new box.

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