Everyone knows the ubiquitous bar coding — though reading it might be another matter. But I for one wasn’t acquainted with it’s potential replacement, QR Code — QR for “quick response” apparently. What you see below is a large version of a QR Code symbol that contains the first 250 characters of the “About Slaw” page.
(I imagine, but don’t know, that the object could be shrunk considerably, the only limit being its readability by a scanner.) By comparison, a bar code can only contain 20 digits.
Invented in Japan in 1994, QR Code is gradually spreading throughout the world. Apart from the fact that it can contain upwards of a hundred times more information than a bar code because it’s 2D, a QR Code has the merit of being readable from any angle, because the figures in the corners of the symbol provide an orientation message to the reader. As well a symbol is able to sustain a fair bit of degradation and still convey significant information, because of the way the data is encoded.
The most significant takeup for QR Code and its 2D competitors is in the area of marketing through the use of mobile phones, explained in this IHT article. The code data is taken in by snapping a picture; and then the phone, understanding what to do with it, delivers the message or information provided by the symbol maker. Old hat in Japan, like so much else techie, but making its way here eventually.
So look for these pixelled squares on the spines of your library books — and just about everywhere else.