A couple of weeks ago, Charles brought up the subject of QR codes, an increasingly popular topic for remote workers and general purpose mobile Internet users alike. That got me thinking about how I use QR codes, and how I might be able to use them to greater effect in a collaborative working environment.
A QR code is basically a real-world link to a virtual destination. It takes the manual entry aspect of URLs out of printed website addresses, by allowing people interacting with a printed document or graphic display to simply scan a barcode with a mobile device, leading them to the desired web page. Other info can also be conveyed via QR codes, including contact information and map locations.
Creating and using QR codes is so easy, it struck me that they could also be incredibly useful for enterprise deployment, especially if you or your office still uses paper for a portion of your record-keeping or communication purposes. Here are some sample applications of the kinds of implementations that I’m now using to help make the process of going from paper information to digital destination as painless as possible.
An Appendix of Links
When preparing a printed document for review by a coworker or collaborator, I’m now including an appendix of links as QR codes, with coordinating in-text citations. It’s much better for the reader, since they aren’t interrupted by lengthy URLs that, even if they were actually going to manually enter them as they read, would be a huge pain to input. Instead, with an appendix of QR codes, if a reader finds that they really need to check one of the included contextual links to access the background info for a particular passage, all they have to do is snap it with their mobile to be taken to the article or document in question. This is especially convenient if the person you’re preparing the document for does a lot of work while travelling, but there are even desktop readers, like the multi-platform Adobe AIR app QReader that can use your computer’s webcam to capture and interpret QR codes.
Many organizations still keep paper files, even when much of their business and bookkeeping has gone digital. If you want tighter integration between what you have in print and what you keep digitally, QR codes are a great way to make the link. You can even encode QR symbols with ftp:// or file:// links if your records are stored locally or on an intranet server, and then read these using a webcam and a program like QReader, mentioned above. Contact information can be saved entirely as QR codes, in case you find yourself needing to get in touch with a former employee or coworker who is long gone from the active duty roster.
Inter-office Memos and Posted Bulletins
Some offices still circulate printed memos and post printed bulletins. QR codes are perfect for this type of communication. Phone numbers for RSVP requests and map locations for events or meetings can be included as QR codes for easy retrieval using cellphone cameras and apps.
In fact, even if you’re sending out an event notice by email instead of print, including a QR code with map coordinates might be a good idea, since recipients can just snap a photo of their screen before leaving the office and instantly have directions to the right location in Google Maps (s goog), leaving out the possibility of human error that comes along with manual entry of such information.
1,000 Other Possibilities
The way I see it, if you’re still using paper for whatever reason, there’s no reason that paper shouldn’t also include QR codes. Even if there’s just one, and it links directly to a digital version of the very same document it appears on, that would be a huge boon to most workers, who in most cases have to follow through with at least one digital action as a result of any paper-based request or imperative. If you’re a part of a larger organization, you can even try implementing a customized organization-wide QR-based app that lets you do whatever you need to with the technology, since the type of info it can store is virtually limitless (it can hold over 7,000 numeric characters).
The paperless office may still be a dream for many, but with QR codes, you can make sure that even with one foot in the papered past, and one in the digital future, as little information as possible is lost in the gap between the two.