Anyone with a bar code tattoo is about to wish they'd done their research.
In 1994, the Japanese corporation Denso-Wave designed the "Quick Response", two-dimensional bar code and made it open source. Originally used for tracking materials in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes are now being used to track just about anything. You can generate your own QR codes for free on sites such as Kaywa and QRStuff and embed any of the following types of data into the image:
Contact Details (VCARD)
Google Maps Location
With the proper application on their smartphone, anyone can scan the image and immediately access the encoded data. Here's an example of a QR code:
Because it represents data horizontally and vertically, a QR code can cram a lot of information into a small space - making it as scannable as the barcodes at the grocery store but much more versatile. The QR code has seen the most use in Japan. As far back as 2007, mobile devices in Japan came with the ability to read the codes and the codes could be found on posters providing links to events; in doctors' offices and salons allowing clients to make appointments easily; and even on fast food wrappers providing nutritional information.
Here's a little more detail about their design:
Better late than never, the US is now learning how to use QR codes. At the beginning of this year, The Weather Channel started displaying QR codes in the corner of their broadcast screen, embedding the codes with links to further information. Movie ticket website Fandango has invented their own version of QR codes which allows customers to purchase tickets via their phone that never need to be printed out.
A new company called Stickybits even created a social network out of both QR and UPC codes. With their Google Android application, you can scan the bar code on a bag of chips, attach a note about how bad this new flavor is, and anyone who scans that same product will see your attachment. Stickybits also allows you to link videos, music, and pictures to any QR and UPC codes.
Slightly more useful, is Google Maps' integration of the codes into Google Places. After registering your location (office, club, restaurant, etc.) you can print out a QR code to place in your window. Anyone who passes by can scan the code with their smartphone and immediately be directed to your website, menu, location on Google Maps, etc.
The inherent obstacle to the success of the QR code is that a smartphone is needed to read them. Estimates for the percentage of Americans who currently own a smartphone range from 15-20%, but Nielsen Media Research predicts that by 2011 50% of cell phone users will be on smartphones.
The ability to bridge the gap between virtual and physical platforms is pretty cool. If Nielsen's predictions hold true, QR codes could become essential to any company's media and marketing strategies.
Below are some free QR code reader applications. Happy scanning.
For Android: ZXing Barcode Scanner
For iPhone: QR Reader
For Blackberry: It should already be on your phone - open Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and click "Scan a Group Barcode"