QR Codes

What is a QR Code?

Basically, a QR Code is a barcode that allows you to do many different things. They’re used for encoding information in print media that drives people to a website or other digital medium. They were originally used to track auto parts, but have become popular for much broader, often commercial purposes.

How is it different than a barcode?

UPC barcodes encode data in only one plane (as scanners read the width and distance between the vertical lines), QR codes encode data both horizontally and vertically in a grid of tiny squares. This makes it possible for  much more data to be encoded in a smaller space. Barcodes  are good for little more than identifying products and objects. Special scanners can read barcodes, and match them to product names, prices and inventory, but that’s about all. QR codes, on the other hand, can embed much more information, and, when read with the proper software, can trigger actions like launching a website or downloading a file. Additionally, QR codes can be read from any angle, while barcodes must be aligned properly.

So what exactly can I do with QR codes?

QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content on smartphones. Simple uses include magazine advertisements that link to websites. It’s better to link to more interesting content, though. A video or slide show that can grab peoples attention and add some pizzazz is a much better use of QR codes. Google has been using QR codes to promote local businesses (and itself) with the Google Places business directory, which includes reviews, contact info, and coupons.

How Can I Use Them?

There are a number of apps in the iPhone App Store that can read QR Codes, including the free QRReader. Most Android phones  are able to read the codes right out of the box, as can newer Nokia handsets. Windows Mobile users can download QuickMarks. All you need to do is launch the appropriate app, and point your phone’s camera at the QR code you want to scan. QR codes are only bound to become more common in the coming months and years. We’re increasingly reliant on our mobile devices, and typing out URLs or other data on their tiny keyboards is still not very efficient. These squares of elaborately arranged boxes are a shortcut around that problem, can easily be integrated with various services, and incorporate geo-location data. Advertisers may not have figured it out just yet, but QR codes are their best friends.

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