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QR codes: so ugly, yet so much potential!

 

This QR code will link you to a contact page for Kiangle with links to this website, Facebook and Twitter, as well as our mailing address. Not the most thrilling destination, but at least you get to try it out!

Here’s an iPhone QR code reader or Blackberry QR code reader you can use if you don’t have one already!

 

 

The Gutenberg Press changed society forever. So did the pencil, camera, radio, television, personal computer and, more recently, the iPhone and iPad.

It’s easy to recognize successful media devices and technologies looking backwards. But what about looking forward? Will the print newspaper survive? Will the Kindle supplant books? Will children still learn how to shape their letters when typing is so much faster? And how about those odd-looking blotches, called QR codes, popping up everywhere on billboards, wine bottles, and “for sale” signs?

That last item is an interesting one. A QR code is ugly, certainly (with a few notable exceptions, like this one from Polo Ralph Lauren), but useful. More than that, it is a connector, an interface, between the analog world we live and move and breathe in, and the digital world we’ve been learning to inhabit these past two decades or so.

Image this: you are walking through your neighbourhood when you notice that a house has just come on the market a couple of blocks from your place. The sign tells you the most critical information: that the house is for sale, and whom you should contact to get more information. However, that is all you get, and by the time you get home you no longer remember the realtor’s name and must go hunting to get more information on that real estate that caught your eye. If you are on a mission to help a friend move into your neighbourhood, you’ll eventually get the information you need, such as agent, specifications on the house, the asking price, and whether it’s near an elementary school. You could drive back to the house and get the agent’s name and number, you could do a hunt-and-search project through the MLS listing to see if you can find the house online, or you could simply tell your friend to get on it and do all that by themselves. Or, if you’re already swamped, you might just let it drop and save yourself the effort.

But what if you could get all the information your friend needs as you pass by the garden gate? You see a QR code, one of those square-shaped symbols that’s reminiscent of the striped code on your can of Campbell’s soup. You have your phone in your pocket so you can check on the teens at home while you walk. You have a QR code reader installed on your phone, so all you do is open the app, aim it at the QR code and, if the person who set it up was thinking about you and not them when they organized it, you get all the information you need on the house in an instant. Moments later, you email the link to your friend, and they can immediately decide if it looks like the home would be a good fit for their family and their budget.

One feature that makes them remarkable is the power and speed of the connection they provide between where you are “in real life” at this exact moment, and the digital world of information, coupons, sales, events, media, and so much more. Even the name bears a clue: “QR” stands for “Quick Response,” and they are, indeed, very fast portals to online material — no typing required!

Just as people resisted the radio and telephone when they were first introduced, in spite of how powerful they promised to be as communication tools, people sometimes resist modern communication tools when they are first introduced. Will QR codes be widely adopted in the future? Who’s to say for sure, but they certainly have potential to enhance communication. Will someone come up with an even better tool that achieves the same analog-digital result? Probably, just like the personal computer and solid-ink printer has replaced the original tool, the printing press of the 16th century. Regardless of the finer details, someday we’ll wonder how we ever coped without them. That’s certainly the case in Asia, where QR codes are already ubiquitous!

The point is, QR codes are a step in a new direction, one that links the analog world with the digital one. I doubt we’ll let this new-found ability to interface quickly and easily between the two worlds drop. The only real question I have is this: Which tool will we end up using to achieve this connection, and will someone invent something even faster and easier?

This will be an interesting one to watch.

ea/

PS: Use the QR code at the top of this post to try it out!

 

About Erin Anne Beirne

I use storytelling and "content marketing" to promote my clients' work. I develop and implement communications strategies using all the on- and offline tools and media at our disposal, publish books and ebooks and market them internationally, or even just simply create a new website and teach the client how to run it. If you have something interesting to say, a valuable service to offer, or an important cause to promote, I'd love to work with you, too!

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