Up until today I was unaware what this was until I realized that I’ve been seeing this for quite some time now, but didn’t know what is was.

Mobile codes or QR (Quick Response) codes works like traditional bar codes except they are not bars, they look like a bunch of squares put together to form a mosaic-looking box, more like a 2-D bar code.  See the sample below:

A major telecom company here in the Philippines is promoting it by putting up posters with large-size QR codes in front of their stores.  They’re urging camera phone users to take a picture of the code and see what the “secret” message is.  I haven’t tried it yet (since I only realized recently what it was) and I’ll update this blog when I have the chance.

For some reason Nokia is using the term mobile codes while the developer of this code, Denso-Wave, refer to it as QR codes.  One thing I also noticed is that the code maker in Nokia’s site creates codes that differ from the code maker of Kaywa, the company that distributes QR code reader to consumers’ mobile phones.

What’s it good for?

You may be wondering what’s the use of another code when products already use bar codes.  Well according to Wikipedia a single QR code can store up to a maximum of 7,089 characters for numeric data.  Creating a 100-digit bar code would be impractical (or silly?) since a QR code can store so much more with a lot less space.  Beside that it can also store alphanumeric characters, Kanji and Kana (Japanese characters, since it originated in Japan), and binary digits.  But wait!  There’s more! If you notice in any of the code generators you’re asked which type your code would be: a website link (a.k.a URL), normal text (as mentioned earlier, with support for Kanji / Kana), phone number (to quickly dial a number), or an SMS (it can send text messages too!).

Today it is widely used in Japan and most likely that if your mobile phone came from Japan it has a built-in QR reader.  For the rest of us Earthlings, be not afraid!  If you have a camera phone (obviously), and it can run mobile Java applications (still with me?), chances are your phone can support then mobile QR code reader (the Kaywa Reader).

The Goodies

To download the Kaywa Reader for your mobile phone go to http://reader.kaywa.com/.  There you’ll find all the resources you need, but you have to register though to download the software (which is free!).  The site also provides the list of supported phones so you may try checking first if your phone is supported.  I currently have this installed in my Nokia 6233 (Series 40) phone.  Most new phones are likely to be supported, but to be specific, smart phones running on Series 60 (Symbian) and Windows Mobile are supported.

The links

Wikipedia article on QR codes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code
QR code (Kaywa) reader: http://reader.kaywa.com/
Kaywa QR code generator: http://qrcode.kaywa.com/