Getting to know QR codes

Androids and iPhones are taking the world by storm, and along with these phones (which, let’s face it, when your “phone” is able to control your television and turn off your lights, it’s not really just a phone anymore, it’s your entire universe, which comes to a screeching halt when you lose it or it (heaven forbid) stops working), comes a plethora of fun, interesting and confusing new apps, codes and gadgets.

One in particular that is still relatively new to the U.S. but is widely popular in Japan is a two-dimensional square that looks like a scrambled barcode, called a QR code. QR codes, or Quick Response codes can be scanned by smartphones that then reveal websites, photos, videos, music or text on the users phone.

QR codes can be found almost anywhere, in magazines and newspapers, on buses, on buildings (Times Square was recently outfitted with giant QR codes on buildings to celebrate Internet Week 2010), window clings, business cards, marketing materials, t-shirts, blogs, fast food sandwich wrappers (showing nutritional information or a cooscpaupon). The possibilities are endless.

But what do I get by scanning a QR code?

Part of the fun of scanning QR codes is finding out what it links you to, and a lot of what you’re going to get depends on where the QR code is that you are scanning.

An upcoming trend is placing a QR code on your business card. Imagine that after a client scans the QR code on your business card it automatically gives them the option to save your name, phone number(s), e-mail address, Twitter username, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, website, blog, etc. The information that they receive is entirely up to you when you create the code. You could even have the QR code take them directly to your website, or a coupon for a discount off of your services.

Promoting an event? Put a QR code on the marketing materials with a link to the registration page with a discounted price, or use it to link up directions to the event with accommodations and parking instructions.

Creating QR codes

There are numerous QR code generators available, but a really simple and free one to get started is The generator is as simple as choosing the barcode format such as a URL, text, e-mail, SMS, location, contact   information or calendar event, selecting the image size and then determining the content of your code. For example, the QR code pictured above is a URL linking to OSCPA’s website. If you have a smartphone, locate the barcode scanner app or download any one of the several QR code readers available in the Market or App Store, and scan the code.

You can have a lot of fun with QR codes, and the possibilities of what you can use them for are endless. Just remember that even though QR codes started showing up in the U.S. in 2008, the concept is still relatively new. Most people won’t know what QR codes are, let alone know how to use them. Don’t let that discourage you from using them though. QR codes are quickly gaining popularity, and when they start to reach your professional and social circles, you’ll be ahead of the game!