You’ve surely seen those black-and-white graphical squares in your favorite magazine or even at the grocery store. They’re QR (quick response) codes, 2D bar codes that hold a large amount of data in a small space. Invented by DENSO WAVE (part of DENSO) in 1994, QR codes can be read quickly using compatible software. They may be best-known as mobile marketing tools thanks to the widespread use of smartphones—QR code reader apps scan the code and link users to websites, coupons, and other special features. However, information professionals can use them on anything from their business cards (to link to a curriculum vitae) or library shelves (to link to the library’s catalog).
Today QR codes have moved beyond advertising—here are some current uses for the technology.
From QR to ER
Emergency medical workers who need to make quick decisions about a patient’s care can benefit from the MyID medical identification bracelet from Endevr. Each bracelet features a QR code that can be scanned to access the wearer’s medical history. The information stored on the bracelet, including vital health statistics such as allergies, emergency contacts, and insurance information, is entered on the MyID website, where it’s stored securely for easy updating. A phone number on each bracelet connects to a 24/7 live operator who can access the wearer’s emergency profile. The bracelets come in three types—Cadence, Sleek, and Sport—all of which are fully adjustable and waterproof.
Delivering messages via food is nothing new—cakes have birthday messages, cookies contain fortunes—but now companies can spread the word with QR codes. Chocolate Graphics, a personalized-chocolate enterprise, offers marketing opportunities to international companies with its Chocolate QR Codes. Businesses can order 2" or 4" milk, dark, or white chocolate squares. The company’s patent-protected system adds the embossed QR code to the chocolate so that the entire piece of candy is edible as well as scannable.
Vehicle Rescue Maps
Luxury cars are known for their amenities, but now they’re looking beyond comfort to rescue. As of 2013, S-Class Mercedes-Benz automobiles come with two separate QR code stickers to help emergency workers carry out an effective rescue. These QR codes link to a vehicle rescue map showing the locations of the airbags, battery, tanks, electric cables, and so on. All car manufacturers provide paper maps of these items, but drivers don’t always put them in an easy-to-find location. The Mercedes-Benz stickers are located on the inside of the fuel tank flap as well as the B-pillar (the vertical divider between the front window and the rear window) on the side of the car opposite the fuel tank. The stickers are easily accessible from outside the car, and it’s unlikely that both would be damaged in an accident.
Take a Look, It’s in a Book
In an effort to add a bit of modernity to traditional publishing practices, some publishers are adding QR codes to their print books. For example, Melville House’s HybridBook project adds additional materials, called Melville House Illuminations, to a novel’s core text. Readers can scan QR codes printed throughout the book to access essays, maps, photographs, and illustrations that supplement the text. Melville House’s goal is to bring the functionality of enhanced ebooks to its physical book program and to give brick-and-mortar bookstores a competitive edge. Readers can download the corresponding Illuminations for free after purchasing a book.
More than 10 million pets are lost each year, according to FurCode, a pet tag company that uses laser-etched QR codes instead of traditional engraved tags. When owners’ contact information changes, they can update their profiles on the FurCode website for free instead of purchasing a new tag. People who find a lost pet can scan the QR code on the animal’s tag to access details such as the owner’s address and phone number, veterinary contact information, and any special diet or care instructions. FurCodes work internationally and can be replaced for free if damaged. They come in a variety of colors and styles to fit any size dog or cat.
Quiring Monuments, which specializes in custom headstones and other monuments, offers mourners a way to collaborate on a living memorial for their loved ones. The program, called Living Headstones, adds QR codes to headstones. The codes link to a personalized Living Headstones webpage where families can upload an obituary, family heritage information, photos, and other memories. Website visitors can add comments, and content can be linked to social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Quiring’s living memorials connect family across the globe so they can grieve together. QR codes can be attached to existing cemetery headstones, mausoleum shutters, cremation urns, or public memorials such as garden benches or memorial plaques.