The technological frontier just keeps expanding!
We're all familiar with the bar codes that are on all the items in grocery stores. They speed things up for us shoppers and the cashiers (except when you're in a hurry, of course). And they help the store and the manufacturers keep track of everything we buy.
Now, the technology exists that allows us to make our own personalized codes, known as "quick response" - or "QR codes." These two-dimensional bar codes store up to 250 characters of any sort of information we want. The info could be as basic as our name and contact information - a virtual business card, for example - or something even more useful, such as a link to a website, a blog or even an entire advertising campaign.
A company called "KAYLA" - based in Zurich, Switzerland - appears to be leader in this QR code technology. It allows anyone to generate their own free QR code, which can then be saved and posted on a blog...or printed out and put on a poster...or on the bumper of a car...or as a TATTOO - the sky's the limit.
To READ these codes, KAYLA also provides a free software download to your cell phone so a person can "take a snapshot" of the code with a cell phone camera. Once the downloaded software "scans" the QR code, the information in the code will display on the person's cell phone Internet browser.
So...what could possibly be a practical use for such a collection of random pixels, you rightfully ask?
Apparently, PLENTY! QR codes already are huge promotional tools in Japan and the UK - whose citizens also were using SMS technology years before the United States realized its potential. So if the Brits are using it, chances are it's gonna get here REALLY soon. Some cool examples:
Got a garage band and want to promote your songs and a special blog to your fans? Print out and post a QR code in the club so people can save it on the cell phones and learn how to become groupies.
Marketing a brand new product and want to give away samples along with additional info? Include a QR code in a billboard, a banner ad, or a flyer so people can save the code on their phone and learn how to download a coupon for a free sample.
Want to know what all the political candidates stand for in an upcoming election? Take a photo of each candidate's QR code and find out more. This actually has been used in at least one election (and probably many more) in Europe.
It is, indeed, a brave new world out there. But in five years, QR codes probably will be as commonplace as those grocery store bar codes. As long as we don't have to start pronouncing them, we should be okay!