Originally published in Interiors & Sources

09/09/2011

QR Codes Give Signage Extra Punch

Add value and functionality to signs with smartphone-friendly QR codes

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A free app will transform your camera phone into a scanner whenever you take a photo of a QR code. Scan this example to check out free webinars from BUILDINGS.

A free tool, a few clicks of a mouse, and an idea are all you need to start incorporating QR codes into your facility’s signage. The 17-year-old technology, which is finally catching on in North America, presents a simple way to add value to any sign with little effort.

What Is It, Anyway?
QR (Quick Response) codes act like 2-dimensional barcodes. The monochromatic squares dotted with seemingly random pixels can be created for free online and added to your facility’s signage (or anywhere else). When people scan your QR code using their smartphone's camera and a free scanning app, the code will trigger whatever action you linked the code to, such as:

  • Directing users to a website
  • Adding your company’s contact information to the user’s address book
  • Awarding a scannable coupon
  • Playing a video
  • Displaying a photo or message
  • Leading users on a virtual tour of your property

How Do I Do It?
Creating a QR code is easy. Sites like qrcode.kaywa.com and beqrious.com offer free generators, though you will have to pay to add tracking analytics or order a custom design, which can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on your needs.

Codes generally aren’t the dominant element on a sign, but they can be sized as big or small as you want, says Jeff Hawthorne, co-owner of custom code designer BeQRious.

“You want to be able to read it,” Hawthorne adds. “If you want to determine where the most traffic is coming from, go where the traffic is and test it yourself. I don’t like to make it any smaller than the back of a business card, but you can. Think about how to take advantage of that geographical space.”

In addition to size, also consider the best place to post a code-bearing sign. Billboards make little sense – no one in traffic will be able to scan the code, and the sign will be much too high for foot traffic. Window and monument signs in pedestrian areas and tabletop displays are great fits, however. Some types of highway signs can work depending on their unique location, adds Mary Beth Mesi, co-owner and manager of sign designer Sign-A-Rama.

“Most people are looking for something on a major highway where people are going by quickly, but there are also people walking up to it,” Mesi says. “For people going by quickly, you have your message. Then, for the walk-bys, there’s this other code you can scan at any time, and it will give more information about your place.”

How Does This Benefit Facilities Management?
This technology is far from being the sole property of marketing and advertising departments. Signs with QR codes have much to offer FMs too.

For example, your portfolio may include restaurants, which are subject to regular health inspections. If you already have to display your inspection grade prominently, then why not add a QR code to show off the reasons why you earned that rating? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced plans to roll out such a system, allowing diners to read detailed evaluations and learn about any health violations before choosing where to eat.

“That’s a great concept,” says Gus Velissarios, founder of mobiconsultant.com, a mobile marketing and web development firm. “If you take pride in your business, let people know. We look at reviews before we buy a product, so why not go to your reviews?”

Internally, signage inside your building could feature a code that links to your email address or a job request form, letting other building occupants contact you instantly when there is a problem. You could pair these signs with a second set of codes for the FM staff’s use – for example, a code that notifies the rest of the FM team when a job is complete.

You could even affix stickers with codes to each asset or piece of equipment. Link the code to a record of the item’s vendor, manufacturer, warranty information, and parts dealers to save your staff time when maintenance is needed.

“Every business is different,” Hawthorne says. “For an insurance agency, it might be an online order form. A car dealership might want to prompt you to come in. The QR code is just as creative as you make it.”

 

Janelle Penny (janelle.penny@buildings.com) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

 

 

 
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