Earth Day and QR Codes

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 10:09 PM with 5 comments

QR code for Earth Day 2009 Happy Belated Earth Day 2009! You either scrambled to do something “green” or wondered what more you can do, as it seems you are living about as green of a life as possible. I took a few moments to think about my day-to-day actions and how they impact the big picture of the world, and one word came to mind – innovation.

The Usual Suspects

As I have previously stated here on The Hot Iron I try to be as aware as possible as to my environmental impact. I wrote what I do in a draft environmental statement for my consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC though I never got any feedback and it still has not reached Dunkirk’s Web site. I also carry a Reisenthel bag with me everywhere I go. Based on these, I feel I am doing as much as I have control over to do.

Other than these actions, making a greater impact takes more work, and that’s where I feel innovation comes into play. When thinking about it more, another thing came to mind – QR codes.

What are QR Codes and Why Should I Care

QR stands for “quick response” and a QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode in the form of a cube. With 2 dimensions, it can store a larger amount of information than a traditional 1-dimensional barcode (e.g. UPC code on a product). As a result, you can store whole sentences of information, Web site URLs, email addresses and even entire contact information records. For example, the accompanying QR code in this post reads, “Happy Earth Day 2009 from The Hot Iron @ !”

So how would you know that? QR codes are read by a scanner, and the most common form of scanner is a camera on a mobile device with accompanying software. Most Nokia models come preinstalled with a reader, otherwise you can get one from i-nigma among other vendors. Many devices are supported with a notable exception in Palm OS devices.

When the QR code is scanned, the information stored in the QR code is transferred to the mobile device, and you can then process it. If it displays text, you can read and save it. If it’s a URL, you can then browse to it. If an email address, you can send a message to it. If it’s contact information, you can add it to your contacts. This is basic usage of it. With more advanced software, you can do almost anything.

The following is a popular YouTube video from Japan showing how you can get nutritional information for McDonald’s menu items if you can’t see it you can view it here.

Tying The Message Together

As you may guess, QR codes are popular in Asia and in Europe but are still emerging in the US. I see QR codes as an innovative way to effectively communicate and reduce waste and costs at the same time. QR codes only require energy when they are scanned, and by the scanner themselves. They are also more eco-friendly than an RFID tag that require special manufacturing as well as are more cost effective. Here are a few examples of "green" uses that come to mind.

  • Subway ads feature a QR code, eliminating the need to have tear-off postcard pads attached to them, or the need to write down information and hard-to-remember URLs.
  • For that matter, all advertising should have a QR code with whatever desired call to action the advertiser desires.
  • At networking events or conferences, people can wear name badges sporting QR codes with their contact information. This eliminates the need to print and carry business cards, and reduces the time to process information from those cards.
  • At the Lollapalooza festival this year in Chicago, replace giving out cards on lanyards with people scanning QR codes to get free songs from iTunes, and they could be downloaded right to your device bypassing the iTunes computer software (with a more robust scanner software).

Where Earth Day continues to be popular, for many it is a day to make symbolic gestures. New, fresh and innovative ideas are needed to reinvigorate it, and QR codes fit the bill. What say you?

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