By NICK BILTON
Google is tagging thousands of real-world businesses with QR Codes, similar to product bar codes, to make it easier for mobile-phone users to look up additional information about those places.
A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The "QR" is derived from "Quick Response", as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.
Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR Codes are now used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging).
QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that users might need information about. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the QR Code causing the phone's browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.
Users can also generate and print their own QR Code for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR Code generating sites.
There are several standards documents covering the physical encoding of QR Code:
- October 1997 — AIM International
- January 1999 — JIS X 0510
- June 2000 — ISO/IEC 18004:2000 Information technology — Automatic identification and data capture techniques — Bar code symbology — QR Code (now withdrawn)
Defines QR Code Model 1 and QR Code Model 2 symbols.
- 1 September 2006 — ISO/IEC 18004:2006 Information technology — Automatic identification and data capture techniques — QR Code 2005 bar code symbology specification
Defines QR Code 2005 symbols, an extension of QR Code Model 2. Does not specify how to read QR Code Model 1 symbols, or require this for compliance.
At the application layer, there is some variation between implementations. NTT docomo has established de facto standards for the encoding of URLs, contact information, and several other data types. The open-source "zxing" project maintains a list of QR Code data types.