The house next door to us is for sale. As is the common real estate practice, attached to the For Sale sign is a box which holds printed marketing materials. As is also a very common occurrence, the box is usually empty. Someone wishing information about the house then has to write down the agent information, go home, access the network, search Google, and navigate to the listing. There has to be a better way.
Recently, I have been hearing alot about a technology that is already in place in Japan which allows a cell phone cameras to scan bar codes. By pointing the camera phone at a code and taking a photo, the customer can download information related to the item on which the code is attached. The customer can bypass long URLs, search engines, and phone menus and go straight to the associated network destination. The bar code can connect directly to different web sites based on time, day of week, or customer preferences (age, gender) and presented in a preferred language or time zone (e.g. EST or PST).
In the case of the house for sale next door, the sign could have printed on it a bar code that contains all the information about the house. The potential buyer could use their cell phone to scan the code and immediately access all the pertinent information, including a link to the listing. They could also take a virtual tour.
An example of these bar codes are QR codes. While conventional bar codes can store about 20 digits of information, a single QR (quick response) code is capable of handling 7,089 characters including numeric and alphabetic characters, symbols, and binary data. One can store just about anything as a QR code, including images. You may have seen routing QR codes on packages from the 'brown' delivery service. QR codes are apparently quite durable, allowing up to 30% of the code to be obscured or removed by dirt, marks or damage and still readable. QR codes can be printed as a graphic image by any printer. The QR code is an established ISO (ISO/IEC18004) standard.
One of the technologies used to link the code to content using mobile devices is being led by the company qode. Their web site provides some examples on how the technology works.
As I think about their potential in libraries many things come to mind:
- Smart codes on materials could link customers directly to bibliographic information, reviews, or additional networked support materials.
- codes on devices could lead customers to help and tip sheets.
- codes on promotional and marketing materials could lead customers to the library web site.
- codes on handouts could direct customers directly to databases, a journal article or a current bibliography.
I think there is great potential here. What other ways could these smart bar codes be used in a library setting? Please comment away!
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