Thursday, October 3, 2013

QR Codes in the workplace

Is there a place for QR Codes in the Workplace?

First off, what is a QR Code?  

The Wikipidia definition is:
QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed for theautomotive industry in Japan. A barcode is an optically machine-readable label that is attached to an item and that records information related to that item. The information encoded by a QR code may be made up of four standardized types ("modes") of data (numeric, alphanumeric, byte / binary,Kanji) or, through supported extensions, virtually any type of data.

So what kind of data can you advertise via a QR Code?

Website URLs - YouTube Videos - Google Maps Locations - Twitter Profiles - Facebook Pages - Telephone Numbers - SMS Messages - eMail addresses - eMail messages - Contact Details - Business Cards - Events - Free Text - and so much more...

Who can read them?

Anyone with a smart phone or a PC with a bar code scanner.
For the iPhone App I would recommend the Scan - QR Code and Barcode Reader - it is simples and easy to use.  Most other smart phones already have them built in...

Where can we use them?

Now we come to the crunch...
There are so many environments we could actually use them within our business.  I do not profess to know all of them, but I can see a use in many areas within IT and customer services.
We place analysers in hospital labs, ok they already have bar codes on them, but these hold serial number information etc. - what each country does, it also put a sticker on the machine with the Support Desk phone number on it, why not also have a bar code containing that number, so the lab person doesn't have to key in the phone number but just scans the bar code and the phone automatically rings the support desks.  IT Service desks could do the same with the laptops they send out to field staff...
We have major IT projects going on all the time, I always see big posters around the campus, want to find out more, put a bar code on the poster with the link to the portal for that project.

What is the alternative?

Yes there is an alternative, it's called NFC (Near Field Communication) - this is similar to bar codes, but instead of scanning a picture, you just hold your phone near the picture and the phone will pick up the information/URL/etc. - the one downside to this brillient technology s that Apple doesn't include it in their devices - so that is about 50% of the population ruled out...

Is it easy?

It is sooo easy to create your own QR Codes, all you have to do is use a simple service on t'internet, and there are many services out there....  The best service I have come across so far is QR Stuff, it has an easy interface to generate your codes in multiple formats, and a wealth of information on marketing, software, examples etc.

What are the downsides?

Well, there is always someone who will see the malicious side to a technology and there are people out there who will try to hack you phone via a QR code - you can read more information in the Wiki.
Another downside of the QR Code, is over use... check out the video, it explains it very well.

So what next?

From  my perspective, I am not sure how to propagate them into the business, I can see a place for them but only if the take-up is good, this can also be measured (if using URL links) by using short links and monitoring their use via web analytics - but the 1st step would be the education of our users on how to use them (not only for our business) in their everyday lives...