QR codes were invented in Japan in 1994 and are used a lot in Asia. They’re all over the place in India. The basic concept is simple—a mobile two dimensional barcode. Instead of putting barcodes on merchandise for use in payments, you can put them anywhere. Here’s what one looks like. This is the one for wikipedia's home page:
Microsoft’s biggest announcement at this weeks’ CES was their version of QR codes called Microsoft Tag. These are two-dimensional color codes that contain a lot of information and are very readable by mobile phones’ cameras. A key to adoption of these codes is ease. How close do you have to be to the code to take an accurate picture; how much light is necessary; how good does the camera have to be to pick out the contrasts in color. From what I’ve heard through some savvy friends, the new Microsoft technology is best-of-breed on all fronts. Here's what a Microsoft Tag looks like for B2B Marketing Confidential:
However, we’re back to the Segway question. Will this thing take off, and will it last? I think it will. For one thing, it’s taken off and lasted in the more mobile-phone-savvy countries already. For another, it’s got a lot of real, honest-to-goodness business applications. Microsoft points out several of these:
- Real Estate Listings: Snap a code of a for sale sign, take a virtual tour on your phone.
- Business Cards: Snap a code on a business card and download the person’s contact info.
- Dating: Print out a t-shirt with your code. If people are interested, they snap you and get your digits (my friend Jeremy came up with this, I agree, it’s a bit sick).
- Linking to Facebook / Twitter: Snap codes and people automatically see what you’re looking at and where.
There are lots of others that I’ve thought of for B2B marketers:
- Put codes on retail displays / end caps. Snap the code and you download a coupon and get loyalty points
- Put codes on all of your hardware components. Snap the code and you’re automatically routed to the best tech support person for that device, along with the device’s serial number and configuration.
- Put codes on drug posters. Snap the code and a doctor downloads all the clinical data and prescription guidance.
- Put codes all over at events. Snap the codes to create a customer event portfolio, complete with time visited. The sponsors also know who you are, who else you visited, etc.
There are probably 10,000 other applications. I came up with the above in three minutes; I think with some heads-down time you could come with many more meaningful B2B applications. So B2B marketers, start planning for mobile / QC codes in your planning. Some open questions:
- Is Microsoft going to out-innovate Google here for a change, or will Google release their much better version shortly and snap up all the share?
- What does this mean for GPS integration? Didn’t even go there but imagine that…
- Implications for privacy? Is there a way to streamline “opt-in”?
So, so cool. I don’t say stuff like this too often, but this is exciting.