With the Mobile internet revolution just around the corner Joomla and QR codes can play a big part in merging these three technologies.
I've been in IT for over 20 years developing everything from large mail order systems to barcode based web picking systems for some large multi nationals and, at my age (children either working full time or off to Uni), I needed a hobby to keep me occupied. After a few hours trawling on the net for ideas I came across Joomla! content management system.
Being intrigued I downloaded, installed and began to play with around with it. After a few extension downloads from extensions.joomla.org I had my first social network up and running within a couple of weeks. Boredom set in again and I came across QR codes in an article on sky news website. England's latest Umbro shirts had a QR code label on the inside of the neck which directed football fans to a secret website when the QR code was scanned. What a fantastic idea!
After Googling QR Codes I managed to find a GNU QR Code generator and had my next idea in the pipeline. www.qrme.co.uk (Joomla 1.5.x) was soon born and the website is doubling its visitors month on month.
The waiting game
QR Codes are not yet mainstream because of two factors. Firstly there's the waiting game. The big players won't spend the time or money investing in QR code advertising because the technology has not taken off yet and the manufacturers are waiting to see if companies are willing to use them. The second factor is charging. With the credit crunch and fears of a possible recession people are looking for ways to cut down on spending and the last thing they want to do is be confronted with a hefty mobile phone bill for internet charges.
Update 27/02: Times are changing. QR codes are gaining interest in both the USA and Europe and competition is hotting up. With predictions pointing towards 80-90% of mobile phones using up internet connecticity by 2015 major mobile service providers are starting to look at reducing data plan pricing to keep their share of the mobile market.
Never say never ..
There are signs that this status quo is changing. Harrods recently used QR codes in one of their advertising campaigns to appeal to a more tech-savvy market and the film 28 weeks later has a large QR code billboard in London advertising the film and Nokia are now including a QR Code scanner with their latest mobile phones. Mobile phone operators are also starting to think about including internet browsing in their monthly bundled packages which will remove the biggest barrier to m-commerce (Mobile commerce). The mobile phone will revolutionise the internet over the next few years. There's already been a lot of legal wrangling in the background about the patent surrounding the actual scanning of QR Codes (EFF’s mutiple requests for the reexamination of NeoMedia's patent #6,199,048 that is alleged to threaten mobile information access ended up with the American patent office upholding NeoMedias patent)*. When the lawyers get involved you know it's not just about patents but big bucks are at stake.
*Update: Since this article was written the US patent office has reexamined this patent (for a third time) after the Electronic Frontier Foundation presented new evidence of prior art and all 95 claims were temporarily rejected (http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/07/u-s-patent-office-rejects-all-ninety-five-neomedia)
*Update 26/02. The US patent office recently announced that it intends to reissue 89 out of the original 95 claims (some clams have been amended). NeoMedia now holds the patent in the US for scanning a UPC / EAN / ISBN / ISSN based barcodes which then uses a remote server to retrieve a URL. If your based in the USA and provide this type of service it may be wise to check with Neomedia to make sure you're not infringing their patent. Now, that the US patent issues have been finally concluded, it's time to move on, respect NeoMedias determination, put the saga behind and (Neo licence permitting) come up with some great innovative ideas to move barcode based internet centric services forward and show how modern technology can benefit consumers.
QR Codes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code) are simply Denso Waves version of 2d-codes. The technical specification states that up to around 7k can be stored in a QR code (http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/aboutqr-e.html).
QR codes can store URL's, telephone numbers, text messages and images. The biggest challenge facing QR codes is standardization and Google has attempted to set that standards early in the game (http://code.google.com/p/zxing/wiki/BarcodeContents).
With the mega pixels in mobile phone cameras increasing year on year it won't be long before most phones will be able to scan a QR Code containing a complicated image.
If you're interested in developing a QR code reader Goolge's Zxing project (http://code.google.com/p/zxing/w/list) should start you off in the right direction.
Read about QRMe Dynamic QR Code Tracking
Read about the background to QR codes