Monday, March 19, 2012

Q R You Kidding Me?

Months ago I wrote a column on the innovative use of QR codes. Those are the funny looking squares that visually encrypt information. You point your smart phone or tablet camera at them and use a QR code reader to decipher them. They will display some message or take you to a specific page (URL) on a web site where lots of information can be stored and kept fresh.

The example I included was the use of a QR code on a headstone in the cemetery. The code contained a link to a comprehensive obituary site which could support a mixture of text, graphics, photos and even video. By pointing and clicking, you could learn all about the deceased who was able to share their message and memories from beyond the grave.

Recently I heard two more stories about the use of QR codes. These were perhaps not as clever or well thought out.

The first involved a QR code printed on a poster in the subway. At first, this seemed like a perfectly good idea. There is a lot of foot traffic and most people have smart phones. Lots of people could take advantage of the instant availability of the additional information stored behind that QR block. Just point and click and there you go.

However, in the subway, underground, there is no cell signal. That eliminates the immediacy of access. Moreover, the particular story I heard reported the QR code was present on a poster that had been mounted on the wall on the other side of the tracks. In other words, the closest you could get to this poster would be 12 feet away. Unless you iPhone has the optional telephoto lens, you are not going to be able to gain any value from that QR code.

The other recent story was about the use of QR codes in a bar. It seems someone had the bright idea to print a QR code on the coasters in the bar. The QR code contained a list of taxis you could call if you needed a ride home because you had too much to drink.

An effort with good intentions, no doubt, but one doomed to fail. Imagine a highly intoxicated patron trying to operate their phone, snapping a photo of the code, choosing a taxi and successfully completing the phone call to arrange a pick up.  I'm guessing this didn't work out too well.

The moral of the story is a simple one. When deciding how and where to use technology, don't let the flash and dazzle or the coolness factor overwhelm common sense.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC