QR Codes in the Media: Barcode Tattoos.

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Have you ever seen a barcode or QR Code tattoo and wondered if it actaully scans, or if it is just a pretty pattern?

Well Scott Blake, of www.barcodeart.com has worked it out and created a handy little chart for tattooists or potential tattooees

Minimum size is 5cmx5cm (20 characters), but if you want a decently sized quote, you’ll need to go quite a bit bigger: 8cm x 8cm (90 characters).

He also sells temporary tattoos, for those of a more changeable mindset.


Categories: QR Codes in the Media

QR Codes in the Media: Best Practies, by The Digital Nirvana

Here’s a nice, informative article about some best practises to use when adding QR Codes to your promotional campaign:


As it is short, I won’t steal its thunder by quoting all the best parts – I will just say that before you implement QR Codes in a media campaign, take a quick look at this to make sure you aren’t missing out on something important.





Categories: QR Codes in the Media

QR Codes in the Media: IOU clothes with tags

From Springwise.com we hear of an interesting line of fashion clothes, the USP being that each item is handmade and uniquely made in Europe, using hand woven material from India.

Our interest is that each item is said to come with a QR code label, allowing the potential purchaser to see the life story of each individual garment. It is an excellent method of potentially providing a lot of information, in a shelf-space friendly format.

Unfortunately, the website of the clothing company, The IOU Project  seems to consist of solely a background history of the company’s plans and is very light on any detailed information.

Categories: QR Codes in the Media

QR Code Tech Info: MECARD Format

May 2, 2011 4 comments

Now you are (hopefully) getting familiar with sharing your personal details using a QR Code, specifically your contact details. Here we go a little more in depth in exactly what it is you are sharing and how.

One small issue with the QR Code format is that is only defines how the entirely of the data is encoded and does not include any specification for defining specific types of information within this blockof information. That is, if you were to encode a string of information, the QR Code would be the same, regardless of the type of data. e.g. if we were to encode the text ‘Anonymous Aardvark’, that could be decoded as a contact name, a telephone number, a website address or an email address. Of course, if you were to try to dial this ‘telephone number’ or send an email to this ’email address’, it clearly will not work – but it is the application that will perform the sanity check on the data – the QR Code decoder itself is quite happy for you to claim that ‘Anonymous Aardvark’ is a valid telephone number.

So, one way around this potential problem is for the world to accept various standards of data definitions and code the relevant apps to recommend them. The MECARD is one such format. As it was the Japanese phone industry that pushed the QR Code into popularity, it seems reasonable to use DotCoMo‘s address card format as a standard.

The chances are, if you use a standard app or website to create a Contact QR code, it will use the MECARD format by default. Also, if you read a QR Code with this format of information, most likely your decoding application will recognise this format and understand it.

So, what’s inside the MECARD format?

The first few characters are ‘MECARD:’  and this helps the decoding software to understand what it is looking at. The rest of the fields are as follows. Note that a) no field is compulsory – you can skip any of them and b) each field can be repeated. However, most likely your decoding application will be happy with multiple telephone numbers for a single contact, but multiple names are going to give it problems

The field names used are:

N:  Contact name (if comma separated, uses LASTNAME,FIRSTNAME)

SOUND:  Contact name in Japanese (Kana). Same comma rules as N:

TEL: Telephone number

TEL-AV: Videophone Tel number

EMAIL:  Email address

NOTE: Memo text field

BDAY: Birthday (YYYMMDD format)

ADR: Address. Comma separated: PO box, room number, house number, city, prefecture, zip code and country

URL:  Website

NICKNAME: Display name

(for more complete specs, please see DotCoMo’s website

Let’s look at one and see what we can get.

when we decode this, we get:

MECARD:N:Anonymous Aardvark;ADR:The Highstreet Cityville Big State 55555555 United Kingdom;TEL:+1111111111;TEL:+3333333333;TEL:+2222222222;TEL:+4444444444;

Adding in some line breaks:

N:Anonymous Aardvark;
ADR:The Highstreet Cityville Big State 55555555 United Kingdom;

Now, at first glance, it seems fairly simple and comprehensive. However, taking some time to look deeper shows some potential problems that we should be aware of: specifically, there are 4 different telephone numbers, but no distinction between them. In this sample, we have a work, mobile, fax and home number, but no indication which is which.

If the same software is used to decode and encode the QR Code, then we should be alright, but there is no guarantee of this at all. Perhaps Encoder A believes that they are 1)work, 2)mobile, 3)fax, 4)home – but Decoder B believes they are 1)mobile, 2)work, 3)home 4)fax. The potential for mixing up a contact’s details is high.

A really good QR Code encoder will allow you to select which fields are included in the QR Code.

A really good and well-thought out QR Code decoder will allow you to edit the details of a contact and swap around the label of the various fields.

If you are creating your own QR Code for sharing your personal details (perhaps for printing on a business card, or similar), then it seems that the best option is to only include as much information as the MECARD standard defines; for example, one telephone number and one email address only.

If you are encoding QR Codes directly from your phone’s address book, be aware of the limitations of this format and choose an encoder that lets you limit the number of fields used.

Categories: Information

QR Codes in the Media: Scanlife Competition

A company called Scanlife has launched a competition to encourage the general public to scan barcodes for the chance to win a prize.
You need to download their app for your phone and then scan the UPC codes on cans/bottles of Coke/Pepsi. If you get lucky, you can win a peize (a gift card for Amazon, Best Best, Macy’s, etc)
The technically interesting part is that the UPC codes are identical for each item. i.e. the barcode is the same for all 12 oz. cans of Coke – yet they say you  ‘ Now just scan those products as many times as you want and hope you hit the winning scan!’
So, this probably means that it is purely a random draw, that is triggered by scanning a valid barcode – I wonder if there is any mechanism to stop you from just rescanning the same barcode over and over again until you win?
It’s a clever idea to put the scanning idea into the minds of the general public – nothing quite opens our mind up to new experiences as well as the offer of free money does!
News from intomobile.com
Direct link to relevant blog: blog.scanlife.com
Categories: QR Codes in the Media

QR Codes in the Media: Reporters without Borders

April 30, 2011 6 comments

A very clever print campaign that pairs traditional and new media to make an interesting and engaging promotion.

A print ad is produced with a QR Code that opens up a video on the phone, that is used in conjunction with the printed image:

I suggest you watch the short video as it explains how it works and the clever way that it makes its point:

This is such a clever campaign that has enough novelty to compel the viewer to try it and yet the central message is not lost in the technical side of it. As well as impressing the viewer with the process, it compliments the message exceedingly well – graphically illustrating the problem of having a point of view heard.

Categories: QR Codes in the Media

Android Software: QR Droid

April 28, 2011 1 comment

Here we have a treat: a very-well written app for scanning QR Codes on an Android phone that really gives the impression that the developer spent a lot of time on it.  It’s free with ads, or a donation will remove them.

The app icon will take you to the menu screen, but, showing thought,  the software lets you create an icon that will take you straight to the scanner and get scanning quickly.

If the app recognises a QR Code, it will decode it automatically. Note that you can turn on your camera flash (if you have one) as a lightsource for scanning in low light with the button in the top right. If you change your mind and want to generate a QR Code instead, you can press the button in the top left. This shows the thought that has gone into the usability of the software as it is easy to switch between modes without having to navigate a lot of menus. Decoding time is pretty much standard at about 1 second for a scan.

A bonus with the newest version is that (on most devices), pressing your ‘search’ key can be defined to launch the scanning mode. If you scan a lot of QR Codes, this is very fast as you don’t even need to touch your screen.

Using the (very pretty) menu screen, you can also decode from an image on the phone, an image URL and a surprisingly useful ‘History’ open that lists your previous scan/generations, with the option to regenerate the QR Code,  or the decoded information. Very useful indeed as it you may find yourself trying to remember what you scanned earlier that day.

Generating a contact will take you to a pretty list of all your contacts. Slightly disappointingly, it does not use the contacts ‘group’ abilities and so lists all your contacts in a long list. The better option in this case is to select the contact using your phone’s ‘Contacts’ and use the context menu to select QR Droid there. If you do use the app, at least you have a search box for the contact’s name (but only the name, not company name or address) or simply flick down and scroll though them all.

A very well thought-out ability is to choose what fields you want to include in the QR Code: when I share a contact’s details with someone, there is a good chance that I don’t want to give all the information that I might have on them (e.g. their private phone number, or email or home address). You can choose to remove entire fields and all the data is editable. note the not particularly works-safe ads

Thoughtfully, it will warn you if your QR Code is going to have more detail than some readers can understand, but will still let you go ahead and create it anyway.

The generator is also both powerful and simple: by default is creates a large QR Code on screen with the option to share or save it. If you want to customise it, simple buttons let you choose from a range of pixel sizes and foreground colours- the colour picker is a little fiddle and unresponsive, but it will remember your choice for next time.

Oddly, it also gives you the option to add a thumbnailed image from your phone in the centre of the QR Code. You cannot choose the position or size of the picture as these are fixed. At first, I was dubious as to its use – I can’t say that this is hugely attractive, but after a few plays I grew to like this feature as it allows you to tag your QR Codes to make them more recognisable to your eye. You’d really need to add some simple icons to your phone to make the best use of this feature(perhaps the developer could throw in some samples in the future?)

Creating a geolocation QR Code from a Google Maps location from the menu isn’t particularly useful, since it works from a location from an URL and most people will be using the Google Maps app instead – however using the shortcut from within the Google Maps app is simplicity itself. You can also enter in Lat/long manually:

Generating codes is also a well-thought out process with menu options for Contact, URL, Application, Phone Number, Calendar Event, Plain Text, Geolocation, SMS QR Code generation

The ads aren’t too little intrusive as they pop up at the top of some of the screen, but a donation payment will remove them for you. The recommended amount is USD2.50, but you can choose from USD1.50 – USD10.00 and really it is worth it to support the excellent work by the developers.

For those of you who are really concerned for your privacy, they have a ‘private’ version that does not have access to your contacts or browsing history. You can still create QR Codes of these types- you’ll just have to enter all the information by hand. Probably not really using this version unless you have a tinfoil hat in your wardrobe.

In conclusion: This is the app to get. No question about it.

QR Droid in the Marketplace

QR Droid Private in the Marketplace

Official Website: qrdroid.com

Categories: QR Code Software