QR Codes could be used for so much more

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| September 25, 2011

Smartphones are no longer just a means of communicating, working on the go or playing games; they have become our lifelines. Sure, I could realistically live without my phone. But I would have to change the way I go about my day from the ground up. My phone is always by my side and it has become my do-it-all tool for everything I encounter: taking pictures, paying bills, banking, discovering new locations and much more. As trivial as some of these things may be, they should serve as testaments to how integrated smartphones have truly become with our lives.

And that's just it. These always-connected smartphones are outgunning their non-smart counterparts, meaning more people have the power of the ever-growing Internet at their fingertips every single day. If they are met with a question they don't know the answer to, they can simply open up the browser and pay Ol' Google a visit. Problem solved.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I do this every single day.

Many companies around the world have taken advantage of consumers being always-connected by fitting their products, business cards or other adverts with "scannable" bardcodes. These barcodes you see printed on various mediums are better known as QR Codes. Using the ShopSavvy application (or one of the million alternatives), you can point your phone at the barcode and uncover whatever is encoded into the barcode. In most modern uses, you will be directed to a webpage or YouTube video detailing something relevant to where you found the code. It's nothing fancy, but very useful.

Last night, I was sitting in Time Warner Cable Arena, waiting on the Hurricanes to hit the ice while looking over a promotional flyer. The two-sided flyer had promotional information, websites and other useful information plastered all over it. Buried in lower right-hand corner of the front was a QR Code for information on the North Carolina Education Lottery. Naturally, I drew my phone, fired up ShopSavvy and scanned the barcode, which took me to a YouTube video detailing a "second chance drawing" for the lottery.

Of course, the QR Code I scanned wasn't anything spectacular, nor was I expecting it to be. Quite frankly, I don't care about the lottery. But it doesn't matter. There is always an air of mystery behind QR Codes. Every time I see one out in public, a strange urge comes over me and I feel the need to scan it ... just to see. And that's why they're so great.

After looking over the flyer another time, it hit me. Why are QR Codes not being smacked on every product out there? I do know that Best Buy and Wal-Mart have been fitting some of their shelf product tags with QR Codes. But why haven't other major retailers picked up the slack? And why are they only being widely used for product details?

I could cover a million different reasons more companies should use these codes to quickly link consumers to more information on their product: they're incredibly easy and effortless to make, cheaper than printing thousands of business cards that will be thrown away or lost shortly thereafter, they can give much more detail than say a product card in a retail store, etc. None of this is really new or novel either. Take RIM for instance. They use QR Codes in their popular BBM service. Instead of manually entering a PIN (a unique hexadecimal number assigned to each and every BlackBerry), users can simply scan another's barcode to add them to their friends list.

But I'm left wondering why nobody is using QR Codes for Foursquare check-ins, adding people on social networks (instead of searching through thousands of random people with the same name), sharing apps or the other endless possibilities. Why are developers not using these nifty barcodes for media sharing and other neat ways of connecting and sharing?

Who knows, maybe companies are investing in NFC tags instead. I'm looking forward to the big NFC push myself, if it ever arrives. But the caveat of NFC technology is it has hardware requirements. QR Codes technically do, too. But what phone doesn't come with a camera? Using both NFC and QR Codes together would only make sense – a QR Code could indicate the location of the NFC tag. But I digress.

Am I crazy and just overlooking the thousands of QR Codes I should be seeing every day? Do you scan QR Codes when you see them? Or do you just ignore them? Do you think they should be used more and in different ways? Chime in below!