A print-based code technology that has already been in use for several years in Japan is about to debut in Australia. The QR (quick response) code operates in the same way as the more familiar bar code; it contains information that can be scanned by an appropriate reader. The difference is that since it’s actually a 2D matrix, it can contain far more information (up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters), and the scanning device is any 3G camera phone with appropriate QR software installed. A smaller version, Micro QRCode, holds up to 35 characters.
QR codes are now mainstream in Japan, and have been for a few years. Originally developed in 1994 by Denso-Wave, a company created to support the tracking of car part components manufactured by its parent company, QR codes gained a foothold in print media in Japan at the end of the last century, and international recognition with the publication of an ISO standard in 2001. Since then, QR codes have become ubiquitous in Japanese print media, outdoor advertising, and even on the occasional T-shirt. Sushi bars use them to track plates of sushi consumed by their customers. They appear in Japanese bus shelters posters, linking travelers to a site that provides up-to-date information on bus arrival and departure times.
A large installed base of 3G camera phones with software capable of reading captured QR codes as images was the final piece of the technology jigsaw required to bring QR technology to the masses. A number of open source or corporate groups produce free decoding/encoding software for QR codes, such as Taiwanese company Quickmark, which has decoder software for a huge range of camera phones. The image at the left is the QR Code for Macquarie University’s Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC), generated by the site’s DIY QR Code page. Generated code images can be downloaded in a range of formats, including PNG, SVG, GIF, and JPG.
Decoding the image will produce the following URL: http://www.mq.edu.au/learningandteachingcentre/. A web-capable phone could immediately connect the user to the website, providing further in-depth information on the LTC.
Telstra has now seen the light is is about to unleash QR technology on Australians in the form of QR-capable mobile phones with the scanning software pre-installed. Their QR intro site is here. Or see a Sydney Morning Herald Technology article on QR here.