QR Codes


This is a repost of an entry I did for Dalhousies School of information management blog “SimCast” but that was a while ago, so I thought I’d repost it here.

Quick Response codes, better known as “QR codes” or “2d codes,” are going to become increasingly popular as more smartphone users download decoding apps. QR codes are a great way to bridge the gap between the physical and digital information sources and could be appropriate for your next project.

What are QR codes:

QR code exampleA QR code is a matrix barcode that can be read by a smart phone, provided that a QR code reader application is installed. This is how QR codes link a physical object to digital information, a process sometimes referred to as augmented reality. For those unfamiliar with QR codes, a good starting place is this excellent article “How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business” by Jeff Korhan. Korhan does a great job of explaining, how QR codes work without technical jargon.

Why QR codes are important:

Some of you might be thinking, why not just give out a url? How hard is it for someone to take out a pen and piece of paper, and write down a web address or other information contained in the QR code? The problem lies in the number of characters users must enter to navigate to specific online information. Nice short natural language url’s are practically unavailable and content management software tends to increase the length of a specific url. This means that pen and paper recording combined with manual entry of these urls will produce unreliable results. Take for example the URL of a previous post from this very blog:


The above string is 83 characters long, and one missing slash will not return the specific information from this post. I’m suggesting that QR codes could be more efficient way to link directly to these long urls.

Current QR codes use:

Most of the “how to” information pertaining to QR code implementation suggests ways to enhance marketing campaigns. Ideas range from adding codes to store front doors that provide a link to the company website, or adding value to billboard advertisements by providing a link to a coupon for the business.

How to incorporate QR Codes in to the academic setting:

QR codes could make an excellent addition to an academic poster presentation. The space on an academic poster is already at a premium and, at first pass, the idea of adding an object that is not particularly attractive may not seem like the best use of this space. It is, however, a great way to bridge the gap between the limited information available on the poster and the wealth of information can’t be displayed. Imagine for a moment that you’re nearing the end of a busy poster conference and one final title catches your eye. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one interested in this poster. The presenter is in conversation with someone, and you don’t have time to wait for, what could be, a long conversation to end. Instead, you pull out your smartphone, snap the QR code, and now you have a link to the presenter’s website which you can follow up on later. Even better, imagine the head of a department snapping a shot of your poster’s QR code and being impressed with the linked website.

The office doors of professors and staff are also a potential space to take advantage of this technology. Since many professors already have online profiles, it would be relatively simple to generate a link to their site. This way a visitor can access more information than just office hours.
The tipping point of coding that quickly links physical locations with digital information is around the corner. Once Apple, Nikon or RIM provides a native QR reading application in their devices, this type of information delivery will become relatively common.

Get started:

If you are interested in taking advantage if this technology, here are a couple of options for creating QR codes:

  • http://goo.gl/ – Google’s url shortener automatically generates a QR code with the shortened url. Google account holders are provided with some analytic tools to track the number of visitors that used the QR code.
  • http://quikqr.com/ – Simply paste the url into the text box, and Quikqr will produce a .png image for you to save and attach to your project.

So… what content would you like to link to?
Jason Harris

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