Quick Response Time

We’ve been having a bit of a discussion about Quick Response (QR) codes at work. These are two-dimensional barcodes that allow the contents to be decoded at high speed. The main use for them at the moment is allowing people to scan in codes (maybe in a magazine or in a presentation) using a mobile phone (with a camera or QR reader) that then provides the user with the relevant URL.

I first heard them mentioned in 2007 when the Pet Shop Boys used QR codes in their download-only single Integral. They originated in Japan and are fairly mainstream out there now.


QR codes came up at work because the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has made £20K available to the University of Bath e-Learning team for scoping out the potential use of QR codes for educational use. I recently ran a workshop on Embracing Web 2.0 Technologies to Grease the Wheels of Team Cohesion with Andy Ramsden, the head of Bath e-learning, and all his slides had QR codes on them.

Andy Ramsden has called for people to experiment with QR codes and Paul Walk, our Technical Manager, has been having a go and recorded his thoughts on his blog.

Paul ruminates:

So, QR codes – what are they good for? There’s clearly some interest – I mentioned what I was doing on Twitter and got quite a bit of interest. But it’s still rare to come across QR codes in the wild. I see them occasionally on blogs/web-pages but I just don’t much see the point of that (except to allow people like me to experiment). I see QR codes as an interim technology, but a potentially useful one, which bridges the gap between paper-based and digital information. So long as paper documents are an important aspect of our lives (no sign of that paper-less office yet) then this would seem to be potentially useful.

I’m not the most technical of people and don’t even have a camera on my mobile phone so it will be a while before QR codes mean much to me but the potential for use is plain to see. QR codes let you put up to two pages of information into something the size of a stamp. Whether it will take off is another matter….During our discussion a colleague pointed out that attempts to exploit the potential of barcodes have happened before – :Cuecats ended up where the sun doesn’t shine.

So what are the implications for remote workers? Again it’s difficult to say at this early stage but already it is possible to create QR Codes for your Twitter feed and you can also use QR codes on Google maps. In the future people may keep all their contact information in this way (no more need for business cards), people could wear clothes with codes on them to advertise stuff. I have even read about clocks that use the code and mean that you ‘virtually clock-in’, maybe this will mean you’ll have to really be at your desk at 9am, rather than just pretending?

There are quite a few free QR code generators out there including Winksite and Kaywa. The QR code image included in this post is for the Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog URL. Is it time to get a T-Shirt printed?