Thursday, March 31, 2011

All tagged up

QR codes (quick response)are finally beginning to provide useful services and before long they could be even more common than their less sophisticated cousins the simple bar codes we see on every product in the supermarket. The principle is simple. Most smartphones can download a QR reader app and so if you see a QR-code your phone can scan it and immediately take you to a website or instruction film. No need to put long web addresses on advertising since our mobiles will simply remember the site automatically if the code is scanned.

At the moment QR-codes are being used mostly in advertising where you scan the code and can see more product information on a website. DIY chain The Home Depot have started using QR-codes to let customers access video DIY tips, product demos and further information. You can see how to use the product before you decide to buy. See more on Mashable, Mobile bar codes come to The Home Depot.

In education there are already many innovative applications of this technology, as well demonstrated in this excellent overview (below) by Carol Walker from JISC RSC Scotland N&E (see original post). QR-codes are used in libraries to help students access e-books and e-journas, to speed up borrowing and returning and for catalogue access. QR-codes around campus can be used to help new students get acquainted with the campus. Museums can have QR codes on every exhibit to provide extra information, activate video or audio commentary. Books can have QR-codes leading to new updated material. The potential is enormous.

At the moment this is still not mainstream. You need a smartphone and you need to download the application before QR codes become meaningful. Hopefully new mobiles will have a QR reader pre-installed thus eliminating one major hurdle. We're still waiting for the critical mass to be reached but the potential uses are so wide ranging that the only reason QR won't take off is that an even better solution emerges.

Basically everything could be tagged like this and you can't help wondering when we can have a bar code on our foreheads so people can find out everything about us without all the bother of engaging in long conversations.

The QR-code above will lead you straight to this blog!

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