Recently, to celebrate Internet Week 2010, the City of New York outfitted Times Square with giant QR codes.

Times Square visitors could use their smartphone cameras to photograph and scan the QR codes — which were featured in an animated sequence on the Thomson Reuters building in Times Square. Each code allowed the curious crowds to pull up information relating to specific events and agencies being featured.

What are QR codes?

They look like this:

They come to us from Japan where they are very common. QR is short for Quick Response. They are used to take a piece of information and put it in to your cell phone. You may soon see QR Codes on business cards, in a brochure, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to visit that companies website, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

The reason why they are more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store much more data, including url links, your contact information, and text. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan them, most modern cell phones can scan them.

How could you use a QR code?

Your business, no matter how small or large, could use QR codes in a number of ways. You might place one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, the number to call and the URL link to the page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so its easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print advertising, flyers, posters, invites, etc containing:

  • product details
  • contact details
  • offer details
  • event details
  • a coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, MySpace IDs
  • “find me” maps
  • directing people to your mobile site and/or storefront
  • promoting an event or concert on flyers/postcards
  • conference badges connected to profiles
  • business cards connected to company sites
  • a link to your YouTube video

Will your customers use them?

Today, right now, few may use them, those that do will certainly appreciate your tech knowledge, those that don’t will certainly be inquisitive which may open the door for conversation and a potential sale.

(1) Get a QR reader. (my Blackberry likes the ScanLife reader)

(2) How to do it. (generate your own QR code)

(3) It’s coming fast, don’t let it run over you. (Full NYC story)