September 2, 2010 • Article by Nettie Wells
Article first published as QR Codes – Linking The Physical World To The Digital on Technorati.
Since digital media’s earliest days, advertisers and marketers have struggled to link traditional media outlets with their digital counterparts. It’s much easier the other way round, so much so that some in the print media (British newspaper The Times for example) are beginning to charge for their online services. But finally there may be a way to bridge this divide, and somewhat unsurprisingly, it was developed in Japan some 16 years ago.
For those who are unaware what a QR code is, it can best be described as a uniquely designed arrangement of black modules arranged on a square white background (see picture above).
A more familiar term for many of you may be a matrix barcode and, much like a traditional barcode, what is so endearing about the matrix variety is their sheer functionality. Linking the physical world to the digital has been a huge problem, but QR codes can be used across all available media sources and all a user requires is the hardware to scan the code.
So what do users need and what will scanning a QR code actually do? Well with the rapid growth of 3G mobiles it is inevitable that iPhones, Android handsets and BlackBerrys will be the primary drivers.
Some Android devices are even building ZXing barcode scanners directly into the hardware. While QR has been around for a long time, it has taken this mobile explosion to really kick it onto a new level. Now advertisers can reach users at the peak of their interest; if a user wants more information about a product or service they can scan a QR code on their mobile and it will automatically open their internet browser to a relevant webpage.
While QR codes are currently being used commercially to promote online services, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of something much broader. While QR may be great for advertisers and marketers to push special offers and products it is still, at risk of being petty, quite ugly technology and difficult to integrate with traditional media campaigns (the poster for Ironman being the obvious exception).
I envisage a future where a more integrated version of a QR code will allows users to scan almost anything to get more information about it online, and the quicker marketers are on the uptake the better.