Wednesday, 27 January 2010

QR Codes (more exciting than they sound – read on!)

Followers of my blog will know that I love gadgets and technology, so when I discovered an app for my iPhone that reads barcodes I was in my element. There are lots of similar apps, but I downloaded RedLaser to play with. It works on the premise that while out shopping, you scan items, and are immediately presented with details of where you can buy the item, and how the price compares at different retailers.

So, of course, I set to work zapping everything in my kitchen cupboard. The barcode reader worked really well and scanned everything I presented to it. However, although the app is supposed to support us here in the UK it is clear that its catalogue is just not as well developed as one would have hoped. But I had fun and learned more about bar codes than I ever knew there was to learn!

This led me to the discovery of QR Codes, or ‘Quick Response’ Codes. I’ve often seen little square codes on the backs of products, or in magazines, and even on the front page of Moo stickers, but I’ve never understood their potential.

Of course, I may be way behind the rest of you in learning about this technology, but for the uninitiated QR Codes are 2 dimensional barcodes. This means that unlike the barcodes we are more familiar with, like the one above, they carry information on both the horizontal and vertical planes. By carrying information in both directions, QR code can carry up to several hundred times the amount of data carried by ordinary bar codes.

QR code was developed by Denso in 1994 and has been used in wide variety of applications, such as manufacturing, logistics, and sales applications. In terms of common everyday use, QR Code is now being used in all kinds of ways. Look out for it printed on paperback spines, or at exhibitions and events.

Ok, so now we know what they are, but so what? How can I read them?

To read QR code you need a QR Reader. Many of the Japanese smartphones actually have an inbuilt QR Reader, but for those that don’t there are plenty of downloadable readers to choose from, many of which are free. I chose i-nigma, by 3GVision Inc for the iPhone. You just launch the app, scan the code through the phone camera, and you can then retrieve the information contained in the code. If the information is a link to a website you can launch the site directly from your mobile.

This technology has massive potential. In Japan and the US QR codes are now being displayed in the corner of movie posters. Scanning the code will take you straight to the movie trailer. Brilliant!

You will by now realise from my blogs that for me pretty much everything eventually comes around to beads and jewellery, and you’ll be pleased to read that this blog is no different! The Spring Fair & Jewellery Show at the NEC in February will make use of QR Codes in a massive way.

They will be using QR codes as a method of accessing, which is the mobile event site. QR codes will be displayed prominently on Spring Fair signage and other marketing collateral enabling visitors to access the site directly from their phones. They list the benefits of this technology as;

• Convenience for visitors of comprehensive event and exhibitor details in the palm of their hand.
• Ability for visitors to plan the day’s schedule of exhibitor visits, presentations and seminars.
• Convenience for visitors of all exhibitor contact details and product information still at their fingertips once they’re left the show.

All too often new technology, while very impressive, actually has very little practical application. I think the reverse is true in the case of QR code. It’s quite incredible really that although it has been around for over 15 years it’s not used more in this way. I guess as more people migrate to smartphones QR code becomes more accessible, so perhaps we’re on the verge of something that will grow and grow. Who knows?

So, the next logical step was to create my very own QR Code for my Bumpy Beads website, and here it is;

Scanning the code will reveal that it points directly to Brilliant!

The next step will be for me to reproduce the QR code onto the reverse of my business cards. Stickers with my code can be placed on the backs of my jewellery boxes. Imagine it printed onto a t-shirt and worn at a Bead Fair! Or on a vinyl car window sticker, or a tote bag... or... well... anywhere really!

It is also completely possible to direct the QR code to a different place each day, so one day someone scanning it would be taken to my website, or another day to my Etsy Shop. I could point people to a different beadmaking or jewellery making tip each week, or link people to my favourite site of the week. So my business card would become so much more than just another business card. It would evolve, and be exciting, and worth hanging on to!

Scanning the QR code below will point you to my Etsy Shop, but scan it tomorrow and it may well point you somewhere entirely different. How exciting!

The possibilities are endless, so I’m just going for a lie down now I’ve worn myself out thinking about them. But look out for QR code on my website, in my blog, on my business cards and wherever else I can use it!

Happy scanning!


Julie ... Lush! said...

Woah, clever clogs

I've downloaded the reader and read your code, brilliant - still getting my head round it.

How on earth did you create the code though?

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment. Your URL is actually in the QR code. You cannot change where the QR code points someone who scans it. You can, however, have your site forward to another site when you want to, but that can create problems.

Microsoft tags ( ) is another way to go. It can be smaller, can be in color and you CAN change where it points to at any time. That is because the URL is not in the tag, it's at Microsoft's hosting site where you can change it.

Bumpy Beads said...

Hi Anon, and thank you for your comment :)

You are of course completely correct that in the case of my first QR Code the URL to my chosen website is incorporated into it, and I’m therefore not able to change where it points someone too.

However, if you scan the second QR code it is indeed possible to change where it points the scanner to, because I have used a hosting site and therefore CAN change where it points to at any time. To prove the point, if you scan the second tag now it will take you to my Flickr gallery, and not my Etsy store, which is where it took you earlier ;)

Microsoft tags are certainly impressive, but they are not the only hosting option. There are many free hosting sites out there.

Clearly, being able to produce tags in colour with pictures on will be perfect for some users, but that does rely on an expertise with graphics, or the willingness to pay someone else to produce them.

I actually kind of like the monotone industrial look of the standard QR codes. I like the fact that the code is all out front and obvious. But then I am the kind of person who likes to see the moving parts in clocks and watches, so maybe that’s just me!

Bumpy Beads said...

Julie - Google "QR Generator" ;)

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Anonymous said...

I just downloaded the app and that is way cool. Thank you for teaching me something new today!