Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Internet of Things Mediated by QR Codes

A QR (Quick Response) code is two-dimensional visual structure that can be registered with a digital camera in a portable device. Whereas a linear bar code may accommodate 128 characters; a 2D QR Code, can comprise as many as 7,089 characters. QR code reader apps are available for the iPhone, the Android, and through service providers such as Sprint. QR codes can be scanned from even low-resolution computer screens, online videos (including YouTube), stickers and printed-paper. QR codes have been used to link to stored content not available on the Internet as well as lead the user to a specific website, special offer or otherwise unavailable multimedia content. Louis Vuitton has used QR codes in product design, and Teradadesign and Qosmo's N Building in Dubai allows users to read the building by accessing GIS-positioned Twitter entries from customers, make reservations and download coupons.

Qosmo's N Building in Dubai

The recent production by Cirque du Soleil of ‘Love’, a tribute to the music of The Beatles, features an iTunes app that is accompanied by a QR code for the 5th anniversary of the production. The user could unlock extra content within the app that includes music, video and still images of the show. The QR code also allows the user to enter a competition to win DVDs and music. Overall, the use of QR codes in publication and publicity has assisted in the expansion of multimedia and cross-platform content. The logical extension of the use of QR codes is as an added dimension to print publications, particularly in relation to subjects dealing with digital and multimedia production. In any use of QR codes there are three rules to observe:

1) Mobilize the landing page: the site the QR decodes to should be active and even live, with regular updates and a community aspect to it. If the QR Code you have made resolves to a url make sure the page is optimized for display on a mobile device. An easy way round this issue it to make sure the landing page is equipped with agent switching. If the site is not under your control then you can use Google’s mobilizer by adding the url to this string: If you are mobilizing your own site such as your blog then there is an even better option which will mobilize your site, generate a QR Code for the mobilized url and keep usage statistics, it’s called Delivr. Another possibility to consider is Mippin, which has an option to include advertising but you must have an RSS feed for it to work. Whatever you end up doing make sure the user of your QR Code sees content optimized for mobile devices because 99.9% of the time they will be using a camera phone.
2) The second rule of QR Codes is to make sure the url is as short as possible. Many mobile devices and reader software have difficulty with a QR Code matrix greater than 33×33 and some even falter with those dimensions. This means you should aim for a small matrix rather than a large matrix. In QR Code encoding the number of bytes at a given Error Correction Level (ECL) will determine the matrix size (see chart below) therefore a shorter url can mean a dimensionally smaller matrix. Dependence upon a third-party to decode and direct traffic is dangerous. The content, decoding and url/server provision should be handled by the publisher under contract or within the domain of the publication itself.
3) The third rule of QR Codes is, if the QR Code you have made resolves to a url, the online content must add tangible and significant value to any offline content. In terms of promotion added tangible and significant value includes prizes, limited access materials (special remixes or editions of recordings, limited edition T-shirts and so on) or discounts or coupons.
The method of delivery in relation to QR codes must be carefully considered. Malicious QR codes combined with a permissive reader can put a computer's contents and user's privacy at risk. Dependence upon a third-party to decode and direct traffic is dangerous. The content, decoding and url/server provision should be handled by the publisher under contract or within the domain of the publication itself. They are easily created and may be affixed over legitimate QR codes. On a smartphone, the reader's many permissions may allow use of the camera, full Internet access, read/write contact data, GPS, browser history, read/write local storage, and global system changes. Risks include linking to dangerous websites with browser exploits, enabling the microphone/camera/GPS and then streaming those feeds to a remote server, analysis of sensitive data (passwords, files, contacts, transactions), and sending email/SMS/IM messages or DDOS packets as part of a botnet, corrupting privacy settings, stealing identity, and even containing malicious logic themselves such as JavaScript, or a virus. These actions may occur in the background while the user only sees the reader opening a seemingly harmless webpage. Intricate, artist-created QR codes that are part of larger posters, or online in spcific websites are ways of lessening the risks for hacking with QR codes.

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