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!

Monday, 18 January 2010

New Year, New Beads!

My first blog of the year, so I'll begin by wishing you all a Happy New Year. It's been a very odd year so far and off to a bit of a slow start, mainly due to the snow. And we have more forecast for this Wednesday. Now I love a bit of a snowy sprinkly to prettify the place, but come on now... enough is enough! It's amazing how quickly the "magical sparkle" of the snow can turn into a "tedious slushy mess". I blame myself really. I wished for it. Two hours later we had three inches of the stuff and I was struggling to get up the hill I live on.

The moral of this story must surely be "Be careful what you wish for"!

So here are my first beads of the year. I have another Taj focal, this time a lentil shape, with some lovely detail;

Then there is a set of wavy beads, so I'm cleverly calling these, ummm... wave beads!

I love the shape of these. They really demonstrate the versatility of glass.

Finally a set of beads inspired by the night sky and star gazing adventures through my telescope.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral galaxy about 27 million light-years away and about twice the size of the Milky Way.

This set of Pinwheel Galaxy beads was inspired by the fabulous swirl of this beautiful galaxy. Droplets of real silver on the surface of the bead represent the starry masses that hang in the galaxy's gravitational sphere.

All of these beads are listed in my Etsy Shop.

I'm busy making some jewellery for a special project at the moment, but I'm hoping to be making lots more beads again soon.