Interactive barcodes that link to additional content when photographed by a smartphone are to be launched in Ireland by advertising company Digital Reach Group (DRG) next week.
The technology is being provided by US company ScanBuy and will be used first by freesheet Metro Herald to offer readers links to more information on its articles and adverts.
Quick Response (QR) codes are small, pixelated cubes that can hold more information than traditional barcodes and which have already proved popular in Asian countries and many parts of western Europe.
For them to work, the camera of a compatible smartphone is pointed at a QR code. It decrypts it and loads specific information for the user. All major mobile operating systems are compatible, although most will first require a free application download to work.
Metro Herald will use the codes from next week on some of its articles, providing links to related videos and extra content.
The codes will also be available to advertisers and Colm Grealy, DRG’s chief executive officer, believes they will prove attractive as they make it easier for customers to act on the adverts they see.
“The fewer steps a person has to take to actually get access to information, the more likely they are to do that,” Grealy says.
“We think this technology bridges a very important gap between the offline world and the online world, particularly where people are out and about.” The number of users can also be tracked, making it easier for companies to measure the effectiveness of specific print and outdoor adverts.
QR codes can, for example, add contact details to a person’s phone book, send them to a relevant website or download a multimedia file such as a movie trailer.
However, the codes are not just for advertisers; in some countries they have also been used by local authorities to give people location-based information such as bus arrival times or guides to the area.
Google’s failed attempt to sell print adverts in US newspapers also included QR codes, however Grealy feels Ireland is reaching a tipping point that will make them successful here.
“One-third of the population change their phone every year and these people are upgrading to smartphones,” says Mr Grealy.
“With the number of these devices and mobile internet use increasing, integrating traditional media with on-demand online information will become very important.”
This article originally appeared in The Irish Times on 9th April 2010.