Friday, 23 March 2012

It's all in the code

No doubt you've seen them around, those crazy looking squares with blocks of black ink. Random patterns from another world? A new art form?

QR Codes is the new kid on the block and is currently spreading rapidly and seems to be the "thing" to have. So what is a QR Code?

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) are a 2D bar code.  Instead of bars or black which signify a number or letter format, these codes also represent position within the square, giving the code a greater capacity to store localised information.

Just imagine that you've walked into your local supermarket and picked up a can of beans. On the side of that can, you'll see a bar code.  The bar code will likely also have a "human readable" number underneath which is designed for the operator of the till to enter the code should the scanner fail to read the black lines correctly.  However, that bar code is 'just' a number.  It's often down to the computer system at the till to match that code to the products information and price etc.

For example, my bean can might have  12345678 on the side and in my store it means "Maf's beans" however, if I took that same can and ran into my neighbours wood yard, he might have 12345678 to represent a plank of wood.  Therefore, the bar code simply represents a number, and it's down to the computer system to translate that into a usable item. (It should be noted for those interested, that there is a numbering system supported by GS1 who ensure that no two retail codes are used twice. However, to keep this article as simple as possible, we'll not explore that part)

QR Codes are different, as they can contain information WITHIN them.  Therefore, they are not dependant on a computer system to relay that code into a database to find out what it might represent, but that it contains everything in the code that is required for the QR Scanner to interpret.

By way of example, I visited a web site ( and generated the following code based on our Estuary IT Web Page.

Within this code is our URL which points to our Web page.  You could also put your contact details into a QR code, or just some notes or information.  You could put product descriptions or even a SMS text message, ready to fire up and send off.

One of the most common uses is to have this next to a product, so that customers can scan the code while in the store and receive special offers or discount for the product they are viewing.

Certainly, codes will change the way we interact with things that we do.  If you have a smart phone, why not download a free QR scanner and see what you can do in a QR code.

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