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QR Code, a Symbol of Change

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Welcome to my QR Code.

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If you are online or read some popular print media, you have likely come across a cryptic symbol like one of those above, and maybe you have wondered about it? It might even look like some sort of bar code you see on packages from the USPS or FedEX, so why is it on webpages and blogs, and even my Sunday sale papers and advertisement? Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2D world of the two-dimensional matrix Quick Response (QR) barcode.

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This bar code was created by Japanese firm TDenso-Wave in 1994 for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, the QR code has become one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes, and in a broader context. What makes it unique to the everyday user is not the fact that it takes a QR barcode reader to understand it, but the mere fact that most every person with a smart phone has a QR code scanner built in. Or have the ability to download a QR scanner app for free.

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The ranks of the ubiquitous iPhones, Androids and Blackberry owner is growing quickly, and new phones are coming out all the time. According to a recent Nielsen study there will be more than 142 million smartphone users by the end of 2011, so that is a huge market.

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So what is the big deal with this pixilated symbol? Well, just as its name implies, it is a simple way to exchange data.  The QR Code is a simple way to get a bit of information to a user quickly without them having to memorize a bunch of information, like giving someone a web address. I am sure that like me, you have has a simple conversation that goes something like this, “go to aach-tee-tee-pea, colon, slash-slash, dubaya, dubya, dubya-dot-topsarge-dot-com, slash, mysite-dot-aach-tee-emm-ell.” After a missed dubya or a comma where a period should go, I usually figure out where I need to be. But if you are dealing with a complicated web address (or a complicated learner), getting them to the right web or portal location, can be a challenge.

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Melanie Attia, email marketing expert and product manager for Campaigner, noted last month that “The benefit [of using QR codes] is that customers can quickly opt-in to your [email] list without having to remember your website or landing page address – which is why the technology is popular as a URL shortener.”

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 QR codes can be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a URI or to compose an email or text message. Users can also generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR code generating sites. The site where I created my QR code was http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

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To use your phone as a scanner, check its owner instructions since some require a separate application to be installed. To find out what application to use for your phone, you can do a simple web search for the model of your phone along with “QR reader”. Once installed, when you see a QR code, use your phone’s application to scan it, the software will properly decode it and perform the function or task that is hard-coded in to the image.

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Not to be left out own their own, Microsoft created their own 2D code called Microsoft Tags. Using a similar blog outline like QR Codes, Tags use different sized or colored triangles in a grid matrix to provide the hotlink, though there are a couple of different styles they are testing. But today QR Code clearly are the frontrunner, and even some firms are developing customized or branded versions of QR Codes.

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Maybe it is the next big thing, maybe it’s just a blip in the wooly-wide-web, but anything that can hard-code information that I am less likely to mess up, and save me time? Well, I am going to listen a little and try to learn about it, even if it may or may not be my cup of tea. As a Knowledge Management professional I need to understand and know some of the current and emerging digital tools, especially if there is potential application to help me create and share knowledge.

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