Back in July 2008 a friend of mine, Joel returned from Japan. Knowing me he thought I’d be very interested in a breaking technology in Japan. Everywhere he went he said he saw little square barcodes and more importantly people pointing their phones at them. I quickly hit the Internet and discovered they were QR codes or Quick Response Codes, the codes were originally produced to monitor stock control on automotive production lines but given the recent technological breakthroughs of mobile phone hardware and the ability to manipulate this hardware with customisable software the code readers found their way onto your devices. In Japan QR readers are one of the most widely used applications on a mobile phones (here’s some stats) and have been embraced by businesses. So, what Are their uses and how are they being used? Well, following the success on tiny URL’s we see a need to fit into limited fields large amounts of information and QR Codes provide this without the need for a database of stored information or a connection to the Internet to decider a code, it’s all there stored in the code. Fortunately, unlike many software revelations the concept has been governed from the start to avoid deviation from the theory, read more on Wikipedia. This means that (in theory) although their a couple of different types of code, the reader you decide to install on your phone should read any code and their are plenty of tools to create your codes both on the Internet and on your phone / mobile device.
The function of the QR Code is to store large amounts of information in a small space. Much like tiny URL’s didn’t make much sense to us until the popular acceptance of micro blogging QR will probably not make much sense until industry shows us the application for real. Where this concept excels is the ability to automatically call a function on the phone, in times where we are continually trying to streamline our lives this really does pay dividends.
The QR Code can automatically open your browser at a web page, open a pre filled text message with respondent ready for your to hit send, it can pass contact information including phone numbers, email addresses etc to your phone and place them directly in the address book. Like many innovations we are in a catch 22 situation without big companies swing the benefit to there use and investing in it users will not install the software and with limited downloads of the software business fails to see the ROI. So, outside of the box, what possible applications do we see. Again, like I always say, the greatest power comes from a combination of technologies. On a basic level, imagine you are at a bus stop and you see a poster for a movie you want to see. You scan the barcode which automatically launches your browser on your phone, a simple HTML page loads and you are asked if it can access you current location using the phones built in GPS, you are forwarded to another page and within a matter of seconds you know where the local cinema is, the showings and price, you could even request directions to see google maps launch and take you there. Of course this has advertising implications and data collection. You are reading the local paper and see an advert in the classifieds, rather than be restricted by the 60 words that will fit onto the given space, you scan a QR Code and navigate directly to more information and possible images of the goods, or even better directly to the sellers eBay advert where you can follow the transaction through to the point of sale. Again offering marketing opportunities and the monitoring of consumer habits. Final example as I don’t give away all of my ideas, your retail packaging is cluttered with nutritional information, health and safety advise and you are missing you marketing message through lack of space, a simple barcode might solve this problem, allow consumer to record what the look at, compare prices and much more. This requires far more than outside the box thinking to reach it’s full potential but hopefully I am getting that across.
QR + Existing technologies = A very powerful tool
So how does it work? the squares within the image allow the device to read it in 3D space meaning it is not required to be flat, software calculates the trim and tilt and works out what the square image should look like. The code must conform so that it can be read across readers, this also means that developers have the opportunity to exploit the concept, creating their own codes and not relying on a few software suppliers.
I first tested the software on a HTC Touch Diamond with great results, no need to take a photo and then analyse it, it automatically handled the code when it saw the image. The iPhone App store has recently seen the arrival of QR Code readers although many require you to take a picture first then ask it to be read.
QuickMark Mobile Barcode
…and more popping up on the iTunes store
Create your codes