Guest Post By Isobel Brierley
Unsurprisingly, QR codes have been around a lot longer in Japan than anywhere else, and it was Japan where I first saw them. I didn’t know what they were at the time, but everyone was using them. I was at a festival, and one of the tents there was offering a prize to people who used the QR code they had at certain times of the day. For Internet Week 2010, 11 different agencies with buildings in Times Square, New York, put up giant QR codes on billboards to advertise their businesses.
Now, they’re all over the place in most of the rest of the world. Although originally used for tracking vehicle parts, now they’re used in contests and adverts everywhere. They’re on the back of buses on MI5 adverts, on McDonald’s drinks and in magazines and newspapers. On some Youtube videos there’s a QR code next to the video so you can visit the mobile site. There’s QR codes in so many places it’s beginning to feel a little bit like I could be hallucinating them, like Tetris vision.
In the NHS, QR codes are being used in several different ways. They’re on patients’ wristbands, so that doctors and nurses can find out easier what medicine each person has been given and any other basic details. There’s also a website called Club Drug Clinic, and through the QR codes on posters and stickers in various clubs, people can gain access to information and help with drug problems.
Some schools are using them on their websites to link to surveys and other useful information for parents and students alike. Several tourism companies are adding QR codes to their maps so that tourists can access information about the area they’re visiting.
To make things more interesting, a lot of different companies are customising their QR codes to make them stand out more, like the BBC one there. There are multicoloured ones, ones with pictures, ones decorated with little flowers and all sorts. As long as you can still do whatever you need to do with it, it doesn’t matter what you do to them.
There is a difference between barcodes and QR codes. While both are used to scan things, barcodes are generally used to take inventory of stock in the manufacturing and retail industries, whereas QR codes – also referred to sometimes as 3D barcodes – are more about acting as a link to make various websites more quickly accessible to people. QR codes are also more easily used, since they can work when scanned at any angle; the three squares in the corners tell the scanner which way up everything’s supposed to be.