Getting to Grips With QR Codes

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Have you spotted how common QR codes have become lately? On seat reservations on the train; on food packaging; in magazines. Pretty much anywhere with a bit of spare white space seems to have them these days.

QR means Quick Response and is a two dimensional version of the bar code we're more familiar with. It can carry lots more information than its bar code cousin and was first used by car manufacturers. When I went round the Nissan car factory in Sunderland in the early 1990s, they were using bar codes to track progress through the production line, so I'm not surprised QR codes hail from this industry.

If you took a picture of the above code on your smart phone (or on a laptop camera or suchlike), you'd be directed right back to Veg Plotting's Home Page. Pretty cool eh? NAH and I are very excited about their potential, even though neither of us have a smart enough phone to read them. Indeed NAH has set up a QR code for his blog and consequently put up a couple of large laminated versions up on Joyce. They've become quite a talking point with younger visitors to Midsomer Norton station. He's also put his code on his blog's business style cards - that's one up on mine :)

I discussed their possibilities when I went round the RHS trials field at Wisley back in September. It would be a great way of directing visitors to the details of particular trials and a more instant way of getting there. At the moment the display just has details of the general AGM trials website in its usual www form.

They also have great potential for plant labels: again a code which links to AGM information could be displayed where applicable, and/or to much more detailed cultivation instructions than the rather limited version we currently see. I've also seen them used for various competitions and special offers.

However, more of us would need to have smart phones before these codes could become truly enmeshed in our daily lives. I also believe there needs to be sufficient written information alongside to tempt us to explore a particular code. If they were everywhere and the majority led to information we're not interested in, then we'd soon get pretty fed up and start ignoring them.

Claire Potter came up with a fun use via the wrapping paper she launched recently. Her QR code directs you to a secret part of her website with all kinds of craft ideas. The code's error correction capabilities also mean they're being explored as an artistic medium as up to 30% of a code can be altered without impacting on its successful usage. Have a look at @BarCodeArt's blog for more information and ideas.

I obtained my QR code via the kaywa website (via google) if you fancy having a further explore for yourself. There's quite a few websites offering them (e.g. the blog link above links to another), though I don't know whether there's a 'best' provider.

I'd love to hear about your ideas or the novel ways you've seen them being used via the Comments below.

Update: this post has been picked up by The Times of India in their QR codes topic, so welcome to anyone who's hopped over from there :)


  1. How extraordinary - and very interesting too. Will investigate further.

    I don't think I know what a smart phone is. Funny how we learn about things at completely erratic rates; become skilled in some areas of modern technology and completely left behind with others.

  2. Esther - mobile phone + Personal Digital Assistant = smart phone e.g. iPhone, Blackberry etc. They typically have a camera and internet access, both of which are needed for QR codes to work.

  3. I've also seen them used as an Avatar. I'm not sure that would be effective if we all adopted that strategy though.

  4. Never heard of them - fantastic though. Wonder if you could apply them to say national trust gardens with a code you log which takes you to page of information about the particular spot

  5. Mark - that's exactly the kind of use I have in mind :)

  6. I love the idea of using them on plant labels, gallery exhibits etc. Only problem is, I never really use a mobile phone, so just have an old clunky one. This might be one exciting technical innovation that I miss out on due to not having the up-to-date toys, not something I ever thought would be true of me!

  7. Hi Janet - we're the same. That's why I said in the post that smart phones need to be in much more common use for QR Codes to be really effective.

  8. Fascinating - though (following on from my comment on your blogaversary post) I do hope they don't end up everywhere, as that picture does hurt my eyes ...

  9. Juliet - it's probably hurting your eyes because my image is much larger than usual. They're much smaller in real life, so I hope they don't become an issue for you.

  10. Yes, I think you're right, VP - they're also much more glaring on a screen than they would be on paper.

  11. Juliet - quite right and they're designed to be out there rather on screen


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