The Globe and Mail - What's a QR Code? Consumers still aren't sure

(13-Apr-11) The smartphone has taken the old-fashioned barcode to a new level.

You may have seen them, even if you didn't know what they were. These new “quick response codes” look more like weird postage stamps, full of maze-like squares and lines.

Once they're scanned or a picture is taken of them with an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry smartphone, these barcodes can link to more product information or allow a consumer to make a purchase.

“QR codes are truly mobile,” said chief marketing officer Mark Binns of Mobio Identity Systems Inc., which uses the codes in mobile marketing and mobile commerce.

“You put a QR code on a billboard and you can point your phone at it standing on the street,” Binns said.

Vancouver-based Mobio has a free app for iPhone and Android phones — one is coming soon for BlackBerry smartphones — that consumers can download to scan QR codes. It's one of many.

These two-dimensional barcodes, which are now starting to show up in North America, can be used to let people enter contests, vote on the top stars in a hockey game or receive a coupon offer. You can buy coffee or order food with them, link to a video, website or a photo of a product.

They can be found on the bottom of billboards and in magazine ads or can stand alone, like the giant Calvin Klein billboards that were nothing but a huge red QR code telling consumers to “get it uncensored” that linked to a racy video.

They're just starting to make their way into TV ads, said Binns, adding that Mobio ran a contest for Global TV in British Columbia using a QR code that had viewers putting their smartphones up to their television sets to scan the barcode to participate.

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