To understand a Quick Response (QR) code and its power, you first need to get familiar with a regular bar code.
Bar codes are optical, machine-readable representations of data. This data is represented in a linear, or one-dimensional, fashion with each bar of a bar code embedded with certain information. The cumulative set of these bars provides a snapshot of factual data about the item that it is placed with a level of end-user interactivity that is limited. Data in bar codes is merely part of a brief, one-way knowledge exchange: how much does the item cost, who signed for the package; how much does the pallet weigh, etc.?
With QR codes, data can be embedded on a two-dimensional matrix – both vertically and horizontally. This arrangement allows much more storage per code – up to several hundred times the amount of data carried by ordinary bar codes. It also allows the flexibility of embedding different types of data, including those that encourage further information discovery and active engagement on the part of the user. For example, hotlinks to websites; contact information that can be stored, dialed or e-mailed by touch; sales material like menus with usable coupons; garden planting guides; movie reviews in video format; interactive maps and more can be readily and quickly accessed from devices (typically smart phones) with reader applications. This act of linking from a user’s device directly to physical world objects is called “object hyperlinking” or “hardlinking.”
A PRACTICAL BENEFIT OF A QR CODE CAN BE SEEN IN THIS SCENARIO
For a high school science class, each student is assigned a chemical element and told to explain all aspects about the element. One student is researching Oxygen, and collects almost everything he wants to include in his report, but is still looking for something unique. After a little extra digging, he comes across a poster of the periodic table where QR codes have been used to represent each element. He scans the code for Oxygen and goes directly to a documentary video clip from the University of Nottingham, giving him just the information he needs for his report. Want to know what he found? Scan the QR code in the image or check out “The Periodic Table of Videos” – a great collection of QR codes put to use.
Originally Published in Headline Discoveries