QR Code Buried On Outdoor Signage

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, April 07, 2011 at 03:05 PM with 1 comments

QR codes are not afraid of heights. Despite this, they still tend to be placed in obscure places, and in this place, mere inches from the ground.

The following sign was up for the month of September last year in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

photo of QR code on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

From a distance, you can barely see the QR code at the bottom right of the sign. I saw it, but I digress. Here’s a closer shot of the sign.

photo of QR code on detailed event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

I was able to get a closer shot, but I had to squat down to take the picture.

photo of QR code detail on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

The code did work at the time, but it brings up an error, now several months later.

Where it’s always nice to see a QR code in action, why implement one so poorly? The position so low to the ground makes it less likely to see, let alone scan. If you do scan it, you’d have to squat down or have to bend over in an awkward position. The description accompanying the code could be made much clearer and concise. I also encountered issues scanning the code as the protective clear plastic over the poster caused a reflection and didn’t allow me to quickly scan the code.

How could this have been improved? By simply moving it from the bottom right to the top right would have helped adoption. This would have positioned it at just above waist level, that is for someone like myself just under 6 feet. Making the accompanying text clearer may have helped as well, or simply having it say, “scan here or visit explorechicago.org” would have been all that was needed.

So, would you have even bothered to have scanned a code in such a location? Share that or any other thoughts in the comments of this post.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Nokia E7 Unboxing Video And Initial Observations

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, April 05, 2011 at 10:09 AM with 3 comments

Thanks to the folks at WOMWorld/Nokia I have received a brand new Nokia E7 mobile device to evaluate. I made the following video of the opening of the package and unboxing the device. It is embedded below, or follow this link and view it on YouTube.

As you can see (if you watched it) WOMWorld/Nokia outdid themselves again and created a custom outer wrapper for the device with a tweet I sent and signed by Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop.

The E7 is a solid device – made of metal, and feels solid when you hold it. This isn’t the first time I held an E7, as I got to try a pre-release model owned by Nokia staff when I went to Microsoft TechEd last fall in Berlin, but this is the first time I got to try it out myself. As a result, I gave the slide-up of the display to expose the keyboard a good workout, for as I said in the video, I work a device to its fullest extent!

Off To The Races But With Caution

Now that I have unboxed the E7, I will charge it, put in my T-Mobile SIM card, sync the device with my contacts and calendar and use it as my primary device. I am interested in getting to know the Symbian^3 operating system, use the camera and make my own observations on it, take advantage of the full keyboard and just plain see how it works for me.

That being said, as I was charging it and I was getting a feel for device, I made an observation I hadn’t heard before – there are no holes in the device to attach a wrist strap! I say this with an exclamation, as every Nokia device I have used over the years – going back to the Nokia 105 I had in the early 90’s - had them. Though I don’t have a wrist strap on my Nokia E72, I see the need for one on the E7 namely due to how I see using the camera. As it has a full touch screen and with the positioning of the shutter button, I would want the strap for both positioning the camera and ensuring I don’t drop the device! As the E7 has a flip screen, I can’t see how a case could be wrapped around it which would have wrist strap holes.

Look for more to come on the E7. Is there something you would like me to try out on the device? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments for this post.

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Time Magazine Artistic QR Codes

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM with 4 comments

Time magazine QR code adCan QR codes be artistic? Of course, and if you need examples right away check out the QR Arts site. When large corporations use QR codes, many notice. When major corporations do something artistic with QR codes (or anything artistic for that matter) people notice even more. That is, if you recognize it is an artistic QR code.

The accompanying photo is of a bus kiosk ad in Chicago for Time magazine. The familiar red border of Time is clearly visible. It looks like soldiers are walking in a swamp, but they are actually walking in a QR code! The code itself is rotated 180 degrees so all 3 large corner squares are visible, which is a very valid use for them. It is also angled back. Both of these are why I question if to the casual person walking by, will they realize it is a QR code? Upon scanning the QR code, you are taken to a page on Time’s Web site on the topic of war.

What do you think – upon first glance would you think this is a QR code? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments for this post.

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QR Code In Name.com Email Links To Android App Download

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 09, 2011 at 06:17 AM with 0 comments

In the past I have said QR codes are a way of tying the offline and online worlds. After seeing the use of a QR code I am writing about today, I am changing that statement to this: QR codes are a nexus between mediums.

Name.com is a great domain name registrar I use personally and for my business (note the link is an affiliate link). They have a clean and intuitive user interface that does not bombard you with upselling options at every click! They also provide outstanding and efficient human support whenever I need it. As part of that service, Name.com have recently launched an app for Android mobile devices, allowing you not only to register new domain names, but backorder domains as well as manage your entire account. They announced this with an email message as pictured below.

screen of name.com Android app email

In it, there is a QR code. It links to a page on their Web site for the app. The email message is consistent in design with the Web page. The options they include on this Web page, including the ability to download it by SMS (texting to us in the US) and email, as well as a QR code taking you directly to the Android Market.

In this case, the QR code was a bridge between digital mediums – email and the Web. Of course if I read this email on my mobile device I wouldn’t be able to scan it, but as I opened it from within my Thunderbird email client, it worked. An argument can be made whether to link directly to the Android Market from the email rather to a landing page which then links to the Market. This is a great scenario for performing A/B or split testing on the email message, which they may have done anyway. Overall I believe this email from Name.com does a decent job of communicating the value behind the QR code.

What do you think of this QR code use? Would you link directly to the Android Market? Have you or would you use a QR code in an email message? You are welcome to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments of this post.

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Kellogg’s New Crunchy Nut Cereal Uses QR Code To Reinforce Marketing

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 02, 2011 at 07:27 AM with 6 comments

A visit to the cereal aisle of a US supermarket is always an overwhelming experience, as with each visit it appears that there’s even more choices to make. In this crowded field of breakfast foods, you need to stand out somehow, and why not with a QR code?

A new variety of cereal, Crunchy Nut from Kellogg’s, featured a QR code on the back of its cereal box as shown below:

photo of back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Note there was not a QR code on the front of the box, and I discovered this when I went to buy the cereal. The detail of the QR code is shown below:

photo of QR code on back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Upon scanning the code, you are taken to a mobile Web optimized site where it shows a video reinforcing its marketing message about eating the cereal day or night because “it’s morning somewhere.” I have visited the site a few times and I observed different videos.

This a good example of a presentation of a QR code as well as what it links to. In a prominent location, the message offers both the option to send an SMS message or to scan the code, and below it tells the cereal eater how they can get a reader app, and if they do so, they may be charged for it. In this case, Kellogg’s chose to call it a 2D bar code, and my guess all of this text was vetted by their legal department and thus it is called as such, as technically QR code is a trademarked name, but offered as an open standard.

Only if the cereal lived up to the quality of the QR code presentation – it was a little bland for my taste, and not that crunchy either, but I digress. The QR code won me over in this case.

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A Next Frontier In Mobile Is Behind The Corporate Firewall

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

While I say I cannot predict the future, sometimes things are so glaring to some and not others, by pointing out you are opening eyes for some people. One of them for me is “a” next frontier in the use of mobile technology – to get beyond the corporate firewall and use all of the tools and data like you can do on a full computer. Note I say “a” next frontier, as it is out there, I just don’t know if it’s the “next” or “last” frontier.

Why do I believe this? Over the years I have managed public Web sites, corporate Intranets, Extranets, portals and knowledge management systems. I have seen how these tools, when used effectively, make people productive. I have also seen how when not managed properly they become a huge mess and waste of resources. Typically, there is a mix of these within most organizations, everything from advanced applications, to a PC under someone’s desk hosting a group’s Intranet Web site, to email.

Going Beyond Email

Using your mobile device to work as you would at work is long overdue. Most corporate workers who have a mobile device use it for email. But beyond email, there may be a limited amount of apps or data available to them. Mobile devices have Web browsers, but you may not be able to make a VPN connection within your company’s firewall. Not having this prevents you from accessing what you can do on your work computer, from your desk or away from it.

More and more email is being used to get around this lack of access. Have you ever asked co-workers or your admin to send you files or information you can’t get at? I see this all the time as friends – even my wife – have to do this in order to get what they may need for a conference call they have to make from a remote location. There’s no other way, especially if getting online with your notebook computer is not an option, or you don’t want to lug it (and power cables, etc.) around.

Going Beyond Mindsets and Existing Network Infrastructure

Shortly before his inauguration, there was buzz about how US President Obama wanted to carry a BlackBerry. In the end, he got one. It is not completely known what kind of security is in use with his device, but the bottom-line is it was achievable. My guess is it’s not out of reach for most companies.

Part of the issue with going mobile with your company information is a mindset it is not secure. This is where you need to go beyond your current infrastructure. As tablets and smarter phones hit the market and become more and more commonplace, the demands from staff will require both of these looming issues to be addressed.

Do I Need An App For That?

Once you go beyond the firewall, the fun begins. Some content and applications may already look great on a mobile browser. Some package applications may already have mobile-friendly interfaces, or even apps to access data. I recently saw a development tool for interfacing with CICS screens on an iPad. (If you don’t know what CICS is, its how most applications were developed on mainframe computers that allowed users to enter and query data. As many CICS screens are still alive and kicking today, thus the opportunity for such a tool). Then there’s the content and applications where you’ll need to either build or buy (or both) to access them outside of the office.

Access content and data in multiple formats on multiple platforms is an opportunity to drive innovation in your corporate Intranet and sites. Everything from comprehensive search to centralizing content to reaping value “dead” or unpopular content can be gained from this effort. As you go forward, build into your requirements mobile platform compatibility, whether for your own internal development or for your third-party vendors. Just think about taking an online training course on your mobile device while sitting in the waiting room for jury duty, and you get the power and convenience of extending the workplace to mobile devices.

Keeping Up With Small Businesses

Many small businesses have some of this capability already. Google Apps works well on Android devices. Salesforce.com has apps for many devices. QuickBooks Online has mobile versions of its full Web-based application. All of these are hosted, third-party services, which does not require the infrastructure to go beyond the firewall. As some larger businesses use Salesforce already, they have an advantage with the ability for their users to work on a mobile device.

Big Picture Thinking On Little Devices

Looking back on what I have presented, I covered a lot, and at a high-level, big picture perspective. As anyone who has worked in computer systems knows, the devil is in the details. But keeping in mind a roadmap to where you want to be, from the short-term to as far out as you can realistically plan, literally getting the information into the hands of those who need it will be critical and advantageous for any business. Let alone the opportunity for those who will be involved in making this happen, whether they build mobile hardware, platforms, apps or supporting software.

Do you agree on this future frontier of mobile? Are you looking forward to it? Are you using it today? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.

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QR Codes In Grammy Awards Broadcast Chicago Transit Ads

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

On Sunday, February 13, 2011 the Grammy Awards will be held and broadcast on the CBS network in the US. To promote this, there are ads displayed on the “L” train platforms in Chicago, also known as the Chicago Transit Authority or CTA. Below is a photo of how 3 ad panels are displayed together.

photo of Grammy Awards transit ads in Chicago with QR codes

On each panel there is a QR code. When scanned, it goes to a Web site called MusicIsLifeIsMusic.com, specifically to a page for the artist appearing on the particular ad panel. Below is a detailed photo of a QR code for an ad for Katy Perry.

photo of Grammy Awards ad QR code for Katy Perry

Note I took the second photo before the first one – I first saw the ad panels which featured the second photo at a very narrow point on the platform and was only able to get the detail, where I was able to get a wider shot of 3 panels together, interestingly at the same station and in the 3 panel photo, there is not one of Katy Perry.

There’s a few unique aspects to these ads and how they use QR codes. As each panel has a different QR code, it can be determined which of the 3 was scanned. This can tell one of 2 things – either the person scanning has a preference to the particular artist, or they chose that QR code at random or because it was easier to scan. Also note the Grammy Award trophy in the QR code. As QR codes have built-in redundancy and can have degradation up to 30%, some part of the code can be replaced with another image. There is no magic to this – you have to make the change and test the heck out of it to make it effective.

These particular ads are positioned low to the ground. As a result, you need to bend down to scan, which may cause some not to do so, especially at the narrow part of the train platform where I was. Many times I see QR codes towards the bottom of an ad, which is unfortunate, as QR codes are not afraid of heights!

What do you think of this use of QR codes? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.

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Nokia E7 Design Video Sneak Peek

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, February 03, 2011 at 11:26 AM with 0 comments

Despite news and opinion out there regarding Nokia, one thing most everyone agrees with (realizing not everyone agrees with anything!) is that Nokia has some innovative designs for their mobile devices. This holds true for the Nokia E7, which I had the chance to get my hands on when I was in Berlin in November at Microsoft TechEd as a guest of Nokia.

Tomorrow, February 4, 2011 a new video is being released by Nokia on the design of the E7. However, I got a link to the video ahead of this release, and it is available for viewing now. You can view the embedded video below, or click this link to watch the Nokia E7 Design video on YouTube.

Thanks to the folks at WOMWorld/Nokia for sending me this sneak peek video link.

As to when the E7 will officially launch and be available in the US among other countries remains to be seen, unfortunately. Back in November, I was told it would be released “Christmastime” but shortly afterwards it was announced there were production delays. Once it is available, I hope to get my hands on an actual model and give it an actual run. In the meantime, this video will have to do.

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QR Codes In Action On The Hot Iron Every Week

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 02, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

QR code links to QR Codes in Action at The Hot IronThere is no shortage of discussion on QR codes. Whether people are asking what the heck they are to weighing the merits of using them, QR codes are a phenomenon that is not going away any time soon. How far they go is very much part of the discussion.

QR codes tie the offline and online worlds with simplicity. By scanning them with your smartphone (or even Web cam) you will get information – from a URL to a full contact record to a short message. This is my definition, and there are many out there. But rather than focus on the ultimate definition for a QR code, I’d rather show how they are being used.

Starting today and every Wednesday I will show a QR code in action. Each post will feature a picture of a QR code I take over the course of my day. I will describe how it is being used, and of course provide any commentary as appropriate.

Watch for QR Codes in Action here at The Hot Iron as part of the regular RSS feed or by viewing just the QR Codes in Action posts. I welcome your comments and questions, and if you want to learn more how you can use QR codes for your business, please contact us at Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Initial Thoughts On The Nokia E7

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni with the Nokia E7When I was preparing to attend the Microsoft TechEd Europe conference last week, I was hoping I would get my hands on the new, yet-to-be-released Nokia E7 smartphone. As TechEd is a business technology conference, and the E7 is being positioned as a business mobile device, I was pretty confident there would be an E7 or 2 available for me to try.

The good news is there was, however they were the personal devices of the Nokia staff who were there for the show and working at the booth. So where I was able to hold and try an E7, nobody handed me one and told me to walk around the exhibit floor and take it for a test drive. As a result, I had limited access, but enough to collect some initial thoughts and opinions which may be of value for others. I have also listed a number of things I would like to try out once the device is released. Interestingly, it was also the first time I had my hands on a Nokia N8, which came in handy for comparison of the 2 devices.

First, here’s my initial thoughts, and not necessarily in a priority order:

  • Good size – The E7 has a decent-sized screen. When the keyboard is “stored” under the device, it fits well in your hand and is not too bulky. After sliding the keyboard out, it is practical to type and use while holding in my hands as well as placing it on a flat surface. It is also a bit larger than the N8, as you can see from this angled yet side-by-side comparison photo I took.
    photo of Nokia N8 and E7
  • Solid – A hallmark of Nokias is they are solidly built, and the E7 continues this tradition. When I attempted to slide out the keyboard for the first time, I was cautious as I didn’t want to do it with too much force. But once I did it and a few more times, I got the hang of it. The keyboard can take a little pressure on the slide mechanism.
  • Decent keyboard – The keyboard is more like the N97 than the E75, which is a good thing. There are arrow keys rather than a joystick, which is preferred to me, especially on a touchscreen device. I say the keyboard is good, and to make it great would be to add an additional row of keys so I don’t have to press an “alt” key to type numbers. But it does have 4 rows of keys as compared to 3 on the N97.
  • Memory – The E7 has 16 GB of memory on-board. I asked how much available memory was free on the device when it is shipped, and I was told it was about 14 GB, as there are core files and some audio and images and video shipped on the device. There is no memory card slot, and some have had issue with this. Personally, Micro SD cards are too darn small for my big hands. The E7 has a Micro USB connector, and with an adapter cable you can connect a USB Flash drive. I saw a demo of this – when connected, you can browse the Flash drive just as if was an inserted memory card. You can also run files off the Flash drive, including video and presentations, which to me looked seamless.
  • Video – I saw 2 examples of this. First was a video file played off a Flash drive, and as I said above it looked fine. I also saw NHL Gamecenter, an app which shows clips of hockey games. I watched this both on the device as well as when it was connected to an HDTV using its HDMI out port. The video quality was very good on the E7 and good on the HDTV, though there was some pixilation. My assumption is this was due to the compression of the video itself as it is probably optimized to deliver over a mobile network. The photo below is of a game clip on an HDTV from the E7.
    photo of NHL Gamecenter on an HDTV from a Nokia E7
  • Camera - The camera on the E7 is 8 megapixels, as compared to a 12 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens on the N8. When I asked about this, I was told part of the decision-making was the price of the device, and part was that in order to have the Zeiss lens on the N8, it extends from the back of the device, which if done on the E7 it would not be able to lay flat on a surface. This makes sense as you won’t always be holding it when typing.

So what did I want to do that I did not have the opportunity to? Here’s a few things:

  • Take video and photos and look at them on my PC.
  • Try reading text outside in sunlight and in a dimly lit room, as well as see how much I can adjust the text size.
  • View PDF documents.
  • Write and edit a blog post.
  • Surfing the Web, including hitting various eCommerce Web sites.

In short, I would want to use it as I do my E72 device on a daily basis.

One last thought – orange would be my color of choice! It’s a unique color and the metallic color looks impressive, plus it will match my luggage.

I hope my initial thoughts are of some help. What are your thoughts on what you have seen and heard on the E7 so far?

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