It seems like they’re everywhere these days, those pixelated looking black and white squares. I see them on ads in the Bart station, on stickers on benches and buses, and everywhere from websites to billboards. What are they?? And more importantly, how can you harness this fast growing technology for personal networking?
What are those things called?
The official name is Quick Response code. Abbreviated, it reads as QR code or just QR. The are also called 2D barcodes, Matrix codes, or “you know, those things you can take a picture with on your phone and then something cool happens,” technically speaking. Think about them this way: when you scan a bar code on something at the grocery store, the scanner immediately picks up the coded information (price, item name, etc) and sends it, decoded, to a computer screen. QRs are just like this only way cooler: they are made by compressing and stacking several barcodes so information can be coded both vertically and horizontally, which means more total information can be stored and rapidly decoded (denso-wave.com).
This technology was developed in Japan way back in 1994 by Denso Wave with the “aim of being a symbol that is easily interpreted by scanner equipment.” However, since computers were roughly the size of a small house in 1994, the technology (unsurprisingly) didn’t catch on. But now that computers have developed and been compressed down into smartphone size, QRs are springing up faster than posters of Justin Bieber. Simply download a QR reader app from your app store or marketplace, and any internet connected phone instantly becomes a portal from the real world to a digital one! Open the camera on your phone as if you are intending to take a picture of it, and when your camera recognizes the QR it will instantly connect to the coded data online.
What do they do?
Currently, there is no limit on uses for a QR codes. Their primary use in the United States is in advertising campaigns. QRs,though, can link to virtually anything your smartphone can access.
- Coupons and rewards. Embed the QR in an ad and scan for a coupon.
- Games/contests/polls. The QR connects you to an interactive site for the product in the ad.
- Call. A QR can automatically dial a phone number for you (mojo.com).
- Purchases and donations. A QR can help you purchase a product by connecting to your credit card account (mojo.com).
- Boarding Pass. American, Delta, and United Airlines accept QR codes as boarding passes that can be scanned at your gate (mojo.com).
- Video. QR codes can be linked directly to a video that correspond to the ad it was scanned from
And this is only in the U.S. In Japan, QR codes are even more widespread, from McDonalds hamburger wrappers to tags inside of t-shirts! You can even design your QR so it looks less like random dots and more like a face or logo.
How can I use them?
This is the best part about QR codes, you can get one right now! Codes are generated from QR code generators online, like http://qrcode.kaywa.com/. You can link them to anything your heart desires – and it only takes a minute! Here are some ways to start using them right now to expand your personal network or brand.
- Put them on your business card. Especially if you work in the tech space, this makes you look super relevant and tech savvy. It can be extremely practical too, by linking to your website, LinkedIn, or Professional Facebook page!
- Put them in your email signature. Connect back to an interesting video of your company, a personal blog or project, or your resume and professional information.
- Have them at your next office-hosted event. You can put them on balloons or napkins or even t-shirts. They then can link back to a coupon or promotion for your company.