From the bar to QR

    Have you come across those       curious cube symbols that seem to be more and more present in public spaces nowadays? I have seen them so often in various contexts recently and always asked myself what the meaning of them might be. It was not until I talked to a friend of mine that I found out about their name and purpose.

They are called QR-codes and can be read with the help of a Smartphone and then reveal a whole load of information. QR stands for quick response and these codes can be compared to their predecessor, the bar code on product packages. The Smartphone boom has presented Apps helping the user to scan codes and thereby decodifying information.

These cubic black and white symbols have become extremely popular. You will find them on lamp posts, on tram stops and on advertising posters. Sometimes they are even handed in as business cards. Their presence can also be noticed in newspapers and magazines and I even found an Edgar City Card featuring one of them the other day.

QR-codes can embed all sorts of information. Web pages are particularly popular to be codified. When scanning the code, the Smartphone user will find the corresponding website on the browser of his mobile phone. But it is also possible to codify texts which would be the case for business cards or even invitations to a party.

The background of QR-codes originally was an industrial one. It was developed by Denso, a Toyota subsidiary, in 1994 for logistic purposes such as tracking parts in the vehicle manufacturing process. In Japan and in South Korea they have been used for quite some time already but their hype has just started off in other parts of the world. An important point worth mentioning is that the QR-codes are free to use by anyone. Even though the inventors own the patent rights, they have decided not to make use of them.

Nowadays, they appear as digital stamps within Deutsche Post and Deutsche Bahnmakes use of them in their virtual ticket option. Another interesting aspect is the usage of these matrix codes in museums in order to provide the visitors with additional information, images, videos or even links to Wikipedia. When the idea of this possibility crossed my mind, I made use of the Google blog search and found out that some museums are already putting this technology into practice. One example can be found on this article by a fellow French blogger.

You may want to try creating your own QR-code which is possible on pages such as http://goqr.me . You simply insert the web address or text of your choice and it is easily converted into a graphics data that can be copied or downloaded and then used. The user can also define the size of the code. Small QR-codes come in handy on stickers, letters and business cards whereas large ones can be printed on t-shirts or cups.

I wonder if people will soon start tattooing QR-codes on their necks or arms, as an allusion to the previous barcode tattoo-hype, in order to send out their message to the world. We live in a codified world nowadays and those who know how to read between the lines might want to share a message as a quick response.  Just as a hint, try out the QR-code in the picture shown above.

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2 thoughts on “From the bar to QR

  1. Hey Ana,
    I enjoyed reading your post! I really like your topic. I just knew this symbol from Deutsche Bahn online tickets, I had no idea it was used for so many other things and that it was so popular.
    I totally agree to your conclusion. Nice post!

  2. Hey Ana,

    you wrote exactly what I thought the other day!
    I’ve seen these QR-codes everywhere, and I was wondering if they are used the same way as the bar codes on products. I’ve noticed them on Deutsche Bahn tickets bought online and on boarding pass, but then they came up at all places, as you mentioned in newspapers, on posters and so on. So I looked them up in the internet and found out that they can contain a lot more data than just a few figures.
    While reading your post I was wondering if they also could look differently than these black and white boxes, because I thought if they are used for advertising or on business cards they might not always fit into the picture.

    Then I found a blog where they present how to make the QR-codes more beautiful, without loosing its function. Maybe you want to take a look:
    http://mashable.com/2011/04/18/qr-code-design-tips/

    I really enjoyed reading your post, it is so clearly structured and easily explained,
    combined with the topic, very well done!

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