Every Day Connected

QR Codes: Use Your Smartphone to Get Freebies

Those strange little codes are much more than what they seem. Here’s how to take advantage of ...

Have you noticed those black-and-white pixilated boxes popping up these days? They seem to be all over the place -- billboards, shop windows, T-shirts. Are they simply barcodes … or the CIA’s latest attempt at mass mind control?

Actually, neither. Those obscure squares (called Quick Response (QR) codes) have been around since 1994, when Japanese Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave created them to track inventory. Since then, their purpose has changed. Businesses now use them to bring their brands and products to you in the quickest, smartest, most convenient way possible: through your phone.

What the QR Does for You
This is how it works: Within the code’s op-art matrix lies information a company wants to share with you, like its storefront address, map, online catalogue, coupons, viral videos and more -- the offerings are endless.

To access the code’s contents, you download the appropriate QR-code-reading app on your smartphone, then lift your phone, as if you’re taking a picture, to scan the code. It’s as easy as that.

If you have a smartphone, try the following apps:

  • For Android and iPhone: Quick-Mark QR Code Reader
    It’s free and feature-rich, and it doesn’t just scan QR codes; it also creates them. Want to share your contact information? Just create a code that your buddy can scan off your phone, and your information is instantly transferred.
  • For BlackBerry: QR Code Scanner Pro
    It’s also free and it’s popular, thanks to its ability to scan the code instantly without needing to use the phone’s camera. And though you can’t create QR codes with this particular app, there are plenty of generators online that allow you to create a code from a URL, phone number, text or SMS.

Where to Use QR Codes
With the Nielsen Company projecting that smartphones will outsell feature phones this year, a wide range of industries are turning to QR codes to draw consumers into their online worlds.

Popular brands like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Pepsi and Starbucks have all used mobile barcodes in their advertising efforts. And notably, The Home Depot has just announced its own mobile barcode program, with codes showing up in print ads on its website and on selected items in stores. All customers have to do to take advantage of product videos, reviews, promotions and discounts is download an app (ScanLife) from the company’s site on their smartphones.

One last thing to remember before you get scan-happy: Make sure you’ve downloaded the correct app based on the type of phone you have; otherwise, the software won’t work. You can either access the app store through your device, or connect your phone to your computer’s USB port and download the software online.



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