Posted by: mikepearsonnz | August 31, 2009

A QR code is worth 500 words

My QR contact details

Is this a Rorschach ink blot test?

No, its my business card, in QR code format.

A QR code is an open source matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) capable of storing max. 4,296 alphanumeric characters.   Users with a camera phone can photograph the QR code.  A QR reader app can then perform an action, such as launch the phone browser, display the text, or create a new contact.   It takes longer to explain it, than to actually do it,  (demonstration below).

Putting a QR code on a physical world object, causing the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.

QR codes are used heavily in Japan and appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that users might need information about.  Google trends shows low awareness outside of Asian countries.  (QR code was originally developed in Japan).

With the explosion of good quality camera phones, the time is ripe for exploiting the potential of this technology.   I recently amplified an article about Dustin Haisler,  the CIO of a small town in Texas, who is using QR codes for historical sites, municipal buildings and police vehicles.    “I realized that QR codes could not only be used in filing but, more importantly, in economic development,” he says.

The economic value of QR codes has not been quantified.  Their cousin, the conventional barcodes has been around for 30 years.  They are estimated to save supermarkets and customers about a billion dollars a year.

In New Zealand there appears to be little awareness of QR codes.  New Zealand does not have enough search volume for Google trends to show a graph.  A Google search for “QR code” shows only 1,510 hits.


Have a go yourself

PC users:

iPhone users:

Open source coders


How can you take this knowledge and put it to work efficiently and profitably?

QR codes are a convenient way to link the real world to the virtual world.   In your business, what objects would benefit from a QR code, linking to further online information?  For example, tourists might snap a QR code at each place they visit, giving them a “guidebook on demand”.  Their collection of QR codes becomes a virtual album to share with others.

QR codes use significantly less space to transfer lots of information.  They also significantly reduce the likelihood of human error in retransmission and capture. What types of paper information are often rekeyed into a computer system?

For example, what say I send you a paper invoice, but on it I print a QR code.  You can scan that code and have the information accurately entered into your system with little effort.  If the information in the QR code follows a standard format, then it acts as a bridge between two different virtual (accounting) systems.

Finally, what types of information do you produce, that people might like to conveniently store off-line on their cellphone?  Perhaps tramping hut information or travel information in a foreign country.



1. Photograph the QR code

1. Photograph the QR code

2. Use the photo

2. Use the photo

App decodes the info

App decodes the info

4. Info triggers New Contact

4. Info triggers New Contact


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