Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

QR codes contain lots of information, can simplify your life

18

April

ggcode.jpgYou can find them everywhere now, those weird-looking symbols that look like something from a science-fiction movie. They're on store windows, sale flyers, business cards, magazines and product packages. Some people are even sporting them as tattoos. But what are they, an alien art form?

They're called QR codes (Quick Response) and although they have been common in Japan for some time, they're just coming into mainstream use in North America. QR codes can store lots of encoded information but to access that information you need a QR code scanner. Luckily for us, most smartphones now have high-quality cameras that can double as code scanners with the right app.

OK, so now you know what QR codes are but what are some of the things they can do when scanned?

  • Store a contact vCard that will automatically transfer to a mobile phone
  • Store email information and open a pre-addressed, blank email
  • Automatically send a mobile device to a web site
  • Automatically dial a phone number
  • Address an SMS or text message
  • Automatically connect a wireless phone to a WiFi network
  • Deliver a Geo Location
  • Send event information to a calendar
  • Install an app on a mobile device

qrad.jpg

Instead of putting all that www.myaddress.com and thisisme@gmail.com on your business cards, for instance, you could make a clean design and include a small QR code so people could quickly transfer that information to their mobile device. Or put a code on return address labels to direct people to your blog. Car dealers could use QR code stickers that would take customers to a web page for each car with lots of photos and details. You could use them as property tags so that when items are misplaced the codes can deliver your contact information. Keep thinking about it and you'll find many more uses.

To scan the codes you need a smartphone with a camera and a QR code app. Some Android phones come with one called ZXing (Zebra Crossing) and another popular one is called QR Droid. Many others are available in the Android Marketplace.

On the iPhone you'll find more than 50 app choices available. My favorite two are ATTScanner (from AT&T) and i-nigma 4. Both these code reader apps also are available for Android and Blackberry too.

So how do you create your own QR codes? It's very simple, thanks to many web sites providing tools for QR code creation. All you do is enter the data you want included in the code, then press one button and you'll get a QR code image you can download. Here are a few of my favorite sites for QR code creation:

So what if you already have a box full of business cards but you want to add QR codes to them? Add stickers! This business, stickerscan.com, specializes in making QR code stickers, signs, magnets and even temporary tattoos for various uses. You also can make them yourself by using one of the QR code generators above and some sticker paper for your printer.

rickroll.pngOnce you understand how they work, QR codes can be great for driving traffic to your online business and also can be a lot of fun to use with social media accounts. You can even use them to create a high-tech scavenger hunt with new clues available each time participants scan a found code. For an example, scan the code at left and tell me what you think.

Oh, you also can use them to play jokes on people.  ; - )

[Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2011 11:08am]

    

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