How do two dimensional barcodes, like QRCodes work? What should we be doing with them?

Wordless Wednesday

My Digital Fingerprint, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Wordless Wednesday

Henna QR Code, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Wordless Wednesday

cake, originally uploaded by Aldon.

QR Codes on Name Tags

I’ve been to various conferences where a bar code is placed on a name tag, so that when you visit a vender in the exhibition hall, all they need to do is scan your badge to get information about about you entered into their system. It is generally quick and efficient, and I’ve often thought that it would be great if attendees could scan each others badges to exchange information.

Today, I received an email from a friend who seemed to be thinking along the same lines. She wanted organizers of a conference she was helping organize to use QR codes on the badges and was asking me my thoughts about how to do it.

Actually, depending on what you want to put in the QR code, it can be very simple. First, check out Kaywa for a quick and easy QR code generator. If you want to create a QR Code for a URL, just stick “http://qrcode.kaywa.com/img.php?s=5&d=” in front of the URL. Yes, there example has the URL encoded, but you don’t need that. This makes it really easy to set up a spreadsheet which will have a link to an image that you can embed in a mail merge.

In my case, I created a simple spreadsheet. The first column had a name. The second column had a twitter handle, and the third column was the formula:


I copied that formula down for each row. In essence what I was doing was making a column of images of the QR Code for the Twitter handle for each person.

Beyond the Keyboard has a blog post up about Creating a mail merge in Word using QR codes from Google Maps API. it doesn’t go into building the QR codes from the Google Maps API, and I find the Kaywa approach much simpler. However, it does have the information about how to build the mail merge, particularly in terms of the issue about getting images into the mail merge.

With that, you can skip down to the section, BEFORE YOU START: IMPORTANT TO KNOW. It talks about the problem with getting the mail merge to work.

Word does not automatically load the images when you create a mail merge. When Word creates the mail merge, it will not automatically load the image. This is a known problem.

Since I was doing things a little differently than the suggest, I glanced over the instructions and didn’t notice this part until I had tried severally times to get Word to load the images. Once I read that section and followed the instructions, the whole merge came together very simply.

So, for the merge section, I had something very simple

When I tried to preview it, the include picture was blank. That is because of the problem noted above. But, when I followed the workaround, I ended up with a document full of labels with QRCodes on them. I scanned a couple QR Codes and it worked nicely.

Perhaps I’ll make some labels like that for a Tweetup sometime soon.

Of course, instead of pointing to a Twitter page, you could point to people’s LinkedIn accounts, Facebook pages, event registration page, or any other page you could imagine.

So, name tags with QR Codes on them are actually fairly simple to create. Now, I just need a chance to use this.

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QR Code Adoption

Lee Odden over at ToPrankBlog put up a blog post today, Will QR Codes Gain Mass Adoption?.

His post ends,

as creative and interesting QR codes are, I’m a bit skeptical in terms of mass adoption. For some reason, I can’t imagine consumer behavior changing to start scanning codes for things when they could just search or enter a URL. There’s also the technology that needs to be adopted by more devices.

Granted, I was a bit skeptical of Foursquare and Twitter too, but also Google Wave and Second Life.

What do you think?

My regular readers will recall that I've talked a lot about QR codes, as well as Google Wave and Second Life. So, I wrote a fairly long comment, that stands pretty well as a blog post of its own:

I am an innovator/early adopter in the technology adoption lifecycle, so I've always been a fan of new sites and new technology, whether it be Foursquare, Twitter, or Second Life and Google Wave, so it should come as no surprise that I'm QR Code believer.

First, however, let me offer a brief digression about Second Life and Google Wave. I don't believe either of those ideas failed. What failed was the companies efforts to promote it. I've spent a lot of time in Second Life and alway felt it was seriously mismanaged. I started talking a lot back then about the importance of open source virtual worlds, and just as we see Second Life dwindling, we are seeing more and more interest in OpenSim, an open source version of Second Life servers. While I have less for criticisms of Google, I find it interesting that while Google has stopped promoting Google Wave, they handed to code over to Apache, and there folks working on various open source Apache Wave servers. (I've run both OpenSim and Apache Wave servers).

Okay. Back to QR Codes. People need a reason to scan a barcode, whether it is a one dimensional or two dimensional bar code. In supermarkets, where UPC codes have been around for a many years, and during the early years, were rarely scanned, it is only in recent years we have gotten to the point of consumers scanning bar codes as they check out. They get something in return, a shorter wait in the checkout line. (At least in theory).

If people will scan UPC codes for some value, they will scan QR codes if value is presented to them. I've seen small specialized cases where that value exists: Scanning a QR Code at a museum to get information about a painting. More information for those who scan QR codes. I've heard stories of people scanning QR Codes in Japan to request taxis pick them up at a taxi stand. Better service for those who scan QR codes. I've heard stories of QR codes on Real Estate ads as a more efficient way of asking for information about a house for sale, but I haven't seen that and don't have details. That said, the QR Codes that I've scanned in magazine articles have not provided me any benefit.

So, will QR Codes make it? Yeah, when some creative people find ways of using them to provide value to customers that they can also profit off of, and I'm sure there are some creative people out there that can pull it off.

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