I thought I’d take a diversion from talking about iPhones and iPads here as nothing that exciting is happening at the moment and talk about QR codes, a really handy way to give people information on a mobile phone from a website or printed publication.
Firstly, what are QR codes? A kind of Barcode? Checkout the QR code on the right here, it’s a link to my website. The idea is you point your mobile phone at the image and are taken straight to the website.
To quote Wikipedia, that well-known source of all truth… “A QR code (abbreviation for Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.”
Put simply, stick one of these on your fizzy pop can and kids who can’t type will easily access your website or whatever else you want them to look at. The limits of these codes seem to be around 256 characters – which gives you a lot to play with. Try the link to the Wikipedia site reference on the left.
So firstly, how do we READ QR codes?
ON the iPhone, “SCAN” is in my experience the fastest, easiest, no-frills QR code reader – it’s free and it works. On the iPhone 4 it’s just about instant. If you have one of these devices there is NO reason NOT to have this app! Just go to the App store on your phone and look for “scan” without the quotes.. their icon is shown above on the left. It’s free and no catches that I can see. Indeed even the demo image on the App store (seen on the right here) takes you to a valid site instantly with more information on QR codes. The Android phones will have their own scanners and success will vary depending on the software and the camera on the Android phone.
How do we GENERATE QR codes?
That’s just as easy. To have a play I recommend you go to this website… http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ – it really doesn’t get any easier.
The more technical among you might be thinking – well that’s fine but I want to generate these on my own website….well… here’s the thing. Google have an API for this.
Put in your information, hit “Create QR code” and Bob’s your uncle.. try this for example..
What is REALLY good about this is that you can use this as the basis of generating images on your website or elsewhere in custom ways.
The colouring above should help you see what is fixed and what you need to change for your requirements. The %3A is necessary to use in place of colons in addresses, the rest should be obvious – size of the graphic and the address you want to link to…
A project called the ZXing project allows you to create a QR code easily with your contact information which, when scanned (for example by the excellent SCAN App) will create a new telephone contact for you. Check that out here.
The QR code on the right is an example – scan it and you should see a new contact open up with my details including phone, address and notes. The same site has other options such as calendar events but at least on my iPhone, they do not actually create calendar events as yet. As soon as they do I can see a whole host of applications arising.
If you want to give people-on-the-move easy access to your website or other information – there it is…QR codes. Cheap, cheerful, easy and as far as I can tell, reliable.