By Chad Upton – senior consultant
Smart phones brought the productivity of computers to our pockets, but their tiny size didn’t make any improvements to the full-size keyboards we leave at our desks. Smart phone users want quicker ways to enter text or website URLs.
Square bar codes, or QR codes are an easy way to “scan” text into your phone. This makes it easy for you to visit a website or copy useful text, such as phone numbers or contest entry codes into your phone without touching the keyboard.
QR codes have been around since they were invented by a Japanese company in 1994. Originally used to track products in warehouses, QR codes were designed to replace traditional “vertical line” bar codes. Traditional bar codes just represent numbers, which can be looked up in a database and translated into something meaningful. QR, or “Quick Response” bar codes were designed to contain the meaningful info right in the bar code.
They’ve been a successful marketing tool in Asia and Europe, but they’ve had limited success in North America. A recent survey of college students found that 81% of college students owned smart phones, but only 22% were able to successfully scan the QR code. Many students didn’t know a third party app was required on most platforms (iOS, Android, BlackBerry). Windows Phone is the only mobile platform that supports QR codes natively, and it has one of the smallest market shares.
Data types supported:
The support for Phone Numbers and SMS Messges is great, it allows you to scan a QR code and have that info pre-populated for you.
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology that offers similar use cases to QR codes, but through a different medium. While QR codes require a camera to “scan” the code, NFC uses a low powered magnetic field to send and receive data. That’s right, NFC has a peer to peer mode that allows bi-directional communication.
NFC is supported in the latest versions of Android, BlackBerry OS and Symbian. iPhone and Windows Phone support is expected next year. Although it has a lot of superior capabilities to QR codes, it does require specialized hardware in the phone. NFC is still fairly young and a little over a dozen handsets are currently available with the technology, but that number is expected to grow quickly.
Data types supported:
As you can see, NFC supports a few more data types than QR codes. The vcard support is great, bump your phone with someone else’s to exchange contact info.
QR codes and NFC offer some overlap in uses, but each one has fundamental advantages over the other for certain situations. If you’re running a contest and you want users to enter via text message, QR codes could be scanned from TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, transit ads, etc. It would be more costly to put an NFC tag in every magazine or newspaper, so QR might be the right choice here.
But, lets say you were attending a large event and wanted to connect to the secure wifi network. You could flip through all the event info to find the SSID and password for the network, but you’d much prefer tapping your phone as you enter and have it automatically connect in seconds. This is how technology is supposed to work.
Both technologies help you get small amounts of info into your phone without typing it, but each one has pros and cons.
|QR Codes||inexpensive, print/display anywhere, all phones have the hardware, scan pre-composed SMS messages||can be difficult or time consuming to scan, not always weatherproof|
|NFC||good native device support, weatherproof, quick and easy to scan, two way communication possible||more costly, cannot be used in as many ways as QR codes, limited phones supported at this time|
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New Toronto Group, an Elite RIM Partner, is currently developing 2 new training courses for RIM. The first course will be focused on “Developing Native Games for the PlayBook” and will be available in March 2012. The second course will be focused on “Developing Native Applications for the PlayBook” and will be available in May 2012. Table of Contents coming soon.
New Toronto Group, an Elite RIM Partner, is pleased to announce that Rod Nolan, NTG’s Senior Instructor, will be leading two special pre-conference training sessions for RIM at DevCon Asia in Singapore on December 5 and 6 on how to develop PlayBook applications 1) using Flex & AIR and 2) using WebWorks.