Technology for 2014

We still have a month before Thanksgiving, but already the Christmas countdown posters are busy. I admit it, I did copy a posting onto Facebook about how many days until Christmas just to piss my friends off! 

Apple’s next event is this week and the rumor mill is geared up trying to parse the invite text for clues to what is coming. Not sure why people can’t just wait until the event – you just look silly predicting stuff that isn’t true year after year.

Anyway, all this got me thinking about next year – what do I hope to see with tech in 2014? 
I think there are 4 main areas that will have increasing breakthroughs:

    Mobile
    Wearable tech
    Cloud integration
    Auto tech

Mobile

I am actually surprised by some of the surveys that show how many people in the US still don’t have smartphones yet.  This Mashable survey showed the US is beaten in penetration by 12 other countries! mashable.com/2013/08/27/global-smartphone-penetration

Part of the problem is the carrier restrictions here, I know in the UK pay-as-you-go is a much more easily adopted option than a 2 year contract. Also, personally I have found people have a lot of confusion about how to add a smartphone – cost of phone + plan? which carrier plan? What does a gig of data really mean? Big disconnect between people who get it and people skimming the edges not quite sure. The carriers need to do a better job of clearly explaining it – Apple ads would be a good template instead of showing robots and lightening bolts!

So assuming the penetration increases and your Mother, Aunts and Great Uncles all get smartphones – what now? For starters texting and calling (audio or video) need to be platform agnostic. Apple could do us a favor and allow FaceTime to work to any device. Same with iMessage.

Mobile payment is just about to burst wide open – even the banks have finally woken up. PayPal has a good head start, but Amazon and Google are looking to get into the mobile payment arena too. Amazon has a built in user base and the trust of those users, so it really could Amazonize the mobile payment space! These work with your smartphone and don’t require any new hardware, unlike NFC does which requires retails to invest in new hardware.

People want their phones to become smarter – don’t just remind me I have an appointment, act more like a real personal assistant and schedule things for me. Don’t interrupt me while I am in a meeting, but if I am sitting at my desk go ahead. Understand what I am interested in and automatically alert me when those things get coverage. Let me know I should leave the office now because the traffic is backing up or the snow storm has suddenly arrived early!

Wearable Tech
This year I have had a Jawbone Up bracelet constantly attached to my wrist. It monitors my steps and my sleep, and will buzz me if I have been sitting around too long. I really like it, but I want more – and developers think other people do too! 

There are developments in the fashion industry to create clothes that light up at night, or heat up when it is cold. There are temporary tattoos that can monitor skin perspiration and even bloody sugar. Some newer fit bands can monitor heart rate, blood pressure, etc. The encryption band that means you don’t need to remember passwords, just wear it and all your tech unlocks. I also saw a band that can unlock your car.

So now we want something that ties it all together – smart clothes that heat or cool to keep your body temp optimal, body monitoring tools that proactively monitor do I need to drink more water? Am I exercising outside of my target heart rate? Do I have a health condition that should be followed up by a Doctor? Did I already take my vitamins or did I forget? Charge my smartphone when I walk in the sun, or just by swinging my arms as I walk.

I wait with great anticipation for the long rumored Apple iWatch. It is going to be tough to keep up with the latest developments and still make a package that looks sleek, sexy and still functional, but if anyone can do it, Apple can! A point for designers to note, women don’t want to walk around with a brick on our wrists! And nobody wants 10 different devices on each arm either.

Cloud Integration

The internet of things is about to really take off, with devices around the home hooking up to the internet for control and reporting. The Nest thermostat is proving popular and they now have the smart smoke alarm. There are devices to make keyless home entry from your smartphone allowing you to set temporary pass codes for cleaners or the dog walker. No need to worry if you forgot to lock up the house. Put motion detectors and cameras around the yard to check for unusual activity and get an alert directly on your phone no matter where you are in the world. 

New technology is coming out of development that creates wifi networks from light bulbs – which are faster then your current router! Turn on your refridgerator and never run out of milk again. Hook this into an app on your phone and get an alert as you get close to the supermarket with reminders of what needs to be replenished.

Then there is the dream of the smart menu – what’s for dinner tonight? An app can suggest based on what is in the house and what could be made by picking up a few other items. If you scan your receipt (or ideally, use your supermarket smart cart) everything you have bought will be tracked. Or maybe you are already at the supermarket and stuck for ideas – scan some products on your phone, like chicken, and get menu suggestions with a shopping list right in your hand.

Mobile coupons are another opportunity waiting to be exploited more fully. Get pop-up coupons on your phone as you pass stores. Those reward card accounts you have – stores are tracking them and can tell how valuable a customer you are and customize coupons based on this. 

In the enterprise zone, more companies are realizing that developing a light front end app rather than an installable program is more cost effective and makes for quicker and easier updates and changes. SalesForce.com has really taken a lead in the arena and are showing other companies how this technology can be exploited. Enterprise buyers are more influenced by consumer technology now and are quite comfortable with adding apps to larger applications to solve different problems. Why buy a large manufacting software package if you can just add an app into your SF.com implementation that enables shipment tracking and receipts?

Auto Tech

Car manufactures have been feeling the pressure from consumers to make the car more integrated with smart devices and safety functions. Googles driverless car is going to be a major change for society with both positive and some negative implication – depending in which side of the equation you fall. Self driving cars will open the world for disabled and impaired drivers – especially with people living longer, with mobility needs, but maybe not quite the same unimpaired faculties as when they were younger. This will make the roads safer for everyone.If however, you make a living as a taxi driver or trucker then you might not be so happy about this change! 

Zip car allows people to hire a car only when they need it, but imagine if you have driverless cars available at your beck and call … why even buy a car of your own if there are fleets around just waiting for the next request? No need to worry about mandatory rest breaks or shift switches when there is a computer in charge.

And as the car gets smarter it will be able to monitor its own health. Get a reminder on your phone when the oil needs to be changed or if something else is needed. Safety features are becoming increasingly common and not just in the high end models. Automatic breaking in anticipation of an accident! I have to say my rebel side thinks it would be funny to prank these cars by blowing through a red light as everyone else automatically breaks… but I digress!

I saw a steering wheel cover that can monitor your heart rate and play soothing music as you get more likely to engage in some road rage! While we are waiting for the driverless car, diver monitoring systems would help everyone – too tired? Bit drunk? Not paying attention? Alert the driver or at least alert the drivers around them!

Conclusion

These are some of the major areas of tech that I am both looking forward to and excited about. Maybe not all will be quite possible in 2014, but as someone pointed out – marketing has changed more in the last 2 years then the last 30 years! Technology innovation is increasing as we all live in a more connected world where your idea can be shared among unbelievable amounts of people with one click of a button. The synergy of a connected world leads to faster and better innovation.

What are you looking forward to? Are you worried about anything?

Online bookmarking app Pocket

Do you ever find yourself scanning quickly through email or Twitter and seeing links to articles that interest you, but you don’t have time to read right now? In an effort to keep your mailbox under control you delete the email, maybe you favorite the tweet. There is a much better way to stay on top of all of this though – using an online bookmarking app like Pocket.

Whats so great about Pocket? You can bookmark any web page or tweet, tag it and then read it on another device when you have the time. I spend a lot of time saving interesting articles during the day and then use the Pocket app on my iPad in the evening to go through those articles. After you have read it you can mark it as read and it goes away or keep it or make it available offline by making it a favorite.

The desktop app installs as a bookmarklet button on your browser toolbar – this is Chrome:

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If you are using your phone to browse Twitter and see a tweet you want to read later – just side swipe the tweet, select the ‘…’ and select Read Later.

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Depending on which Twitter client you are using you will need to adjust its settings so that it knows what app to associate with the Read Later button. For instance in Hootsuite click on the Settings gear icon, select Read Later and then set up your account for Pocket:

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To save a Hootsuite tweet to pocket, click on the tweet and then the ‘…’ button (next to Favorite). If you have added Pocket through your settings you should now see a button that says Send to Pocket:

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As you add articles you have an opportunity to add a tag to it – this gives you another way to keep your clips sorted – other than by just date. You can add multiple tags to an article – side swipe an article to get the tag button and then select or create a new tag for the article:

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To quickly find articles with the same tag you can filter them using the tag button next to the search bar – pull down on screen slightly to see the search bar:

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I have used Pocket while researching vacation spots and saved maps as favorites so that I could refer to them even when there was no signal around. It is also great for homework projects where you can save all the reference pages with the same tag for easy use later. If you save a tweet to Pocket you will not just see the article from the tweet, but also have an opportunity to retweet or favorite the original tweet.

Pocket just recently announced some new features including quick sharing with people – email sharing is still the most popular share method. People you share with frequently are now 1 button click away. All in all, a very useful app for anyone who uses the web for research and needs easy access to that information from any platform.

Apps are available for iPad, iPhone, Android and Kindle for free.

Fitness gadget – the Jawbone Up

Recently there has been a flurry of activity in the tech world with get fit gadgets. I say anything that can help me get healthy is in my toy box for a test! Being a gadget geek has some advantages – I feel no guilt buying my toys. How else am I going to give my considered opinion to you, my dear audience?

I did a bunch of research online about the leading products Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone Up and Fitbit tracker. They each had pros and cons – I like the Fuel Band because it tells the time and uses Bluetooth to sync to app, but it didn’t track your sleep which I was interested in. The Fitbit tracks sleep and activity and had Bluetooth sync, but it is a clip on device instead of a band and there were plenty of reports of people putting them through the laundry. The Jawbone Up doesn’t have Bluetooth sync or tell the time, but it does track sleep and activity and is a bangle form. All are in the $100 – $150 range – the Jawbone UP is $129.99.

Here is the official website where you can check out the different colors of bands: https://jawbone.com/up

FitBit looks to be releasing a bangle style version later this year which may be worth taking a look at. Of course, if Apple does release the long rumoured iWatch then all bets will be off the table!!

So off I went to the Apple store to buy one and saw this other device I had never heard of – Lark Life. In the store I was googling it and talking to the Apple guy who was very helpful. In the end though, the Lark was just too big on my wrist – and a really bright blue! I ended up getting a nice mint green Jawbone instead.

This is what my band looks like and this is how I wear it:

band wrist

You can see why it would be nice if it told the time so I could actually lose the watch – no I don’t get the whole ‘pull you phone out your pocket to tell the time’ business!

You wear the band day and night – it is water resistant so you can wear it in the shower, but I see no reason to do this! It automatically tracks the steps you take – you can manually calibrate your stride if you are very serious – and why not, it was easy to do. The band can stay charged for 10 days although I find it is closer to 8 days – it takes about 45 mins to charge up. One end of the band has a cap that you pull off to reveal a headphone plug – stick it into you iPhone and the band syncs to the app. You initially set up goals for daily steps and nightly sleep time. You can manually track food through the app. You can also track your mood during the day by clicking on the smiley face on the app.

Here is the daily summary screen showing how much of the sleep, and step goals have been achieved and what your food diary is looking like:

summary

If you tap on the purple sleep bar it opens up to show the details of how well you slept:

sleep
There are alarms that can be set that will make the bracelet vibrate to wake you up – they can be set to wake you during a light sleep cycle a half hour around the time you set, or wake you at the exact time set. You set the alarms via the app and then sync the UP via the headphone jack. An update has just come out that lets you set multiple alarms for different times on different days.

Clicking on the orange steps bar takes you to a screen that shows your activity during the day:

steps

The deeper red a bar is the more quickly or intense your steps were.

A cool feature that I have found really helps me is setting the idle alarm. If I sit for more than an hour the UP will buzz me to remind me to get up and go for a walk. You can decide what interval you want to be buzzed on and between what hours – so you sleep peacefully!

You can track your mood throughout the day as well by clicking on the smiley face and sliding your finger up or down the face to show you are feeling happy or sad, energetic or dragging! You can also add a comment or change the description words to detail how or why you are feeling a certain way:

mood

Add food by tapping the food icon on the other side from the smiley face. UP has a very extensive food dictionary or you can scan the barcode of an item to put it in.

food
Not sure of the nutritional information accuracy – it says it is based on USDA guidelines. I generally just use it as a vague guide to how I am doing during the day.

Another feature that prompted me to quit eating chocolate (yes me, really!) was the food word cloud – so the more you eat something the bigger the word shows – my biggest word was consistently CHOCOLATE!!! The only issue with it is that it maps the word, not by item. So you could eat raisin oatmeal and maple sugar oatmeal and both maple, sugar, raisin and oatmeal will be added:

food cloud
Note that this is a word cloud for the last 7 days.

You can switch to the lifeline screen and view your daily activity, meals and sleep in real time:

lifeline

There are also trend screens that you can check and change the options you use to track – like calories consumed, steps, deep sleep, saturated fat, etc.  You can also trend by days, weeks or months:

trends

There is a teams option where you can check each others stats and cheer one another on, but I don’t know anyone else who has an UP so I have no team 😦

When I initially started researching these devices, I have to admit I was some what sceptical that it would do more that inspire me for a few days and then I would get bored and go back to normal. However, the opposite has happened. I was inspired to quit the junk and hit my 10,000 steps a day goal (5 miles) and in the last week I have lost 5lbs!!! I don’t think I have actually lost weight in a few years – even going to the gym. I love the goal tracking – it has inspired me to keep at it and even try harder.

Amazon is messing with my head!

The holiday season has passed once again and a collective sigh of relief is heard around the Western world! Well, my sigh of relief would have been heard too, but I have been trying to figure Amazon this season. As the, or at least one of the, largest online retailers in the world you would have  the issue I have run into would have been found long ago and resolved by now. Nope, still seems all confusing to me the consumer.

What is this complicated problem I have? Quite simply, I want to purchase items from the UK or US store for delivery in the same UK or US country. Specifically, eBooks  Ah-ha, digital content! Yes, copyrights and blah blah are different between the countries, but that shouldn’t be a problem because I want to by an eBook in the UK Amazon store and gift it to a UK Kindle reader. That would be my Mum, to be precise. She would like to do the same thing for me, but using the US store as I am a US Kindle reader.

It used to work not too bad – my Mum could order things for me through the US store. This Christmas though I gave her a Kindle Fire and so her Amazon account now has a country associated with it. This it would appear is the crux of the problem.

I can’t order eBooks for her and she can’t order them for me – I even emailed Amazon support to see if I was missing some obvious hidden button, but they agreed that it is not possible to do this. The suggestion was to use gift certificates – not as personable, but better than nothing I guess.

So while I was with Mum I sat down at her computer, logged into her Amazon account and ordered a gift certificate for myself – trust me, it is just easier if I do it! All cool, come Christmas day I get the email notification that I have a gift certificate waiting to be redeemed. By now I am back in the US and avidly waiting on my gift certificate so I can order these eBooks that have been on my wish list for a few months now.

Click on the “Click here to redeem” button on the email and wham bam I have got £25 to spend in the UK Amazon store – nooooooo!

I want to buy eBooks and I can’t from the UK store so this is a waste of time. I did contact Amazon support again and they agreed to refund the cardholder (ie Mum) the money. Thanks – thanks for nothing amazon!

I don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept. Mum can order a paper book from the US store and have it delivered to me so why not an eBook? Now I don’t know if I want our and bought one of those prepaid Amazon gift cards that hand at every gas station – would Mum not be able to use it at the UK store?

 

My app suggestions

‘Tis the time of year when everyone is making lists – top good things to happen in 2011, top bad things, top resolutions for 2012, top predictions for technology/social media/the world in 2012. I have decided to humbly provide a list of iPad apps I have been using and find useful, fun or ideally both.

Scrabble iTunes Link
This one just popped up on my radar a few days ago when I read it was on sale from $4.99 to 99c. I like when apps go on sale AND already have good reviews. I am already addicted to the darn game now – how often can you play a single word and get 99 points!

It has some sharing features like friends on Facebook and local network, but I haven’t really had time to figure out if they work well. I did play with a friend using the play and pass feature and that was fine. Play against the computer and lose chunks of your life!!!

Zite iTunes link
This is your online magazine that is customizable to your interests. You can hook in your Twitter news-feed, Google Reader, Delicious or Read It Later accounts and then choose subject areas from a list that will interest you. The great thing about this app is each time you open an article to read you can rate whether you liked it and it will use this to give you more stories like it in the future. Bit like Netflix recommendation engine, but in the background.

Stories are sharable on social media, email the article or even save it to your favorite offline reading service like Evernote, Instapaper or one of the accounts you already linked. As the iPad is an ideal content consuming gadget, these kind of apps are going to become more popular as everyone tries to find more ways to deal with social media overload.

Pulse iTunes link
I like to stay up to date on what the current happenings are in tech, social media, politics, news in general and some entertainment fun. Pulse is the app that helps me with this. Create pages with different feeds from the content areas you like best. You can choose feeds individually or pick a generic bundle for a general category – like sport.

You can arrange the feeds how you want and have as many or as few on a page as you want. Slide along a feed to see picture and headline, tap on the story that interests you and you get the details. Depending on the origin of the feed you will get the entire story or a link to the original article.

Stories can be favorited and saved in your account. Again you can link in your social media accounts so you can share stories with 1 click or email them. Great source for content curation for your own Twitter feed too.

Solar Walk iTunes link
This was one of those apps that was featured in an Apple commercial – how often can you say you actually pay enough attention to a commercial these days to remember to look for something online featured in it? I am no Apple fangirl, but credit due to them for really clear, informative and useful commercials!

Anyway, Solar Walk is just a fun app that shows the solar system and the planets (and moon’s and asteroids and space junk) and you can timeline where everything was or will be. The graphics really show of the iPad display and it gets kinda mesmerizing! The really cool things are the included movies that educate on how the tides are influenced by the sun and moon, or how the seasons work depending on your location to the equator. All things you probably vaguely remember from school, but this app makes it much more visually fun!

Planetary iTunes link
If Solar Walk has you hooked then how about an app that visualizes your music collection as a solar system? Sounds a bit strange, but the visuals and uniqueness make it worth playing with.

BikeBrain – iPhone app – iTunes link
So with it being New Year and all, that means the resolutions come out and get dusted of once again. Yes, exercise more. My long time mantra since moving to America over 10 years ago! I need some motivation for this kind of thing and if there is app for that then all the better.

BikeBrain, naturally enough, is marketed to the cyclist, but I have found it is equally suitable for the dog walker or jogger. Start the app at the beginning of your outing and it will keep track of your route, speed, distance and calories. When done you hit the finish button and it lets you name your outing and save details so you can see how well-intentioned everything started out!

The downside is you suddenly realize the walk you have been taking the dog on was not a mile long, more like a 1/3 of that – oops! No wonder the little brat is still so full of beanz all evening.

Heart Rate – iPhone app – iTunes link
Now that you are busy walking the dog, or heaven forbid jogging, wouldn’t it be nice to know if you are giving your heart a workout too? Heart Rate is an app that uses your iPhone camera to sense your heart beat. No idea if it is really accurate, but it is kinda fun to show your friends how light through your finger can be used to detect a pulse!

Those are a run down of the apps I have been playing with lately. I haven’t covered any of the ones I talked about in earlier blogs – like Evernote, Flipboard and Dropbox because, well, I already talked about them.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year

Fiona

Cord-cutters unite…

Recently I sold my house and moved to a condo.  Said condo has basic cable only. Moving in there I did manage to get the internet changed from 0.24mbs Verizon to >10mbs Comcast. I wasn’t sure if I could live with just basic cable – which means you have about 7 non-Spanish, viewable channels!

The very thought of being limited like this made me break out in a cold sweat. You have to understand I was leaving a 250+ channel satellite setup with multiple dual tuner HD DVR’s, internet connected HDTV and set top boxes, internet viewable DVR iPad app  option and wicked home theater surround sound gig. I even had a bluetooth connector for my receiver so I could listen to iPad streamed music.

Yes, I was very proud of my geeked out den setup. Having at least 25 hours of recorded TV shows at any time I rarely watched live TV. I was rarely bored with TV because they were all shows I chose to record because I liked them!

How was I going to cope with a move to basic cable? It almost kept me awake at night considering the implications…

Now I have been on basic cable for a month and can’t say I really miss my original setup. I have been trying to figure out why this transition has actually been quite calming. I almost felt bound to watch the shows I had recorded before so that space could be freed up on the DVR for more episodes. Now if I miss an episode – oh well, too bad. It isn’t the end of the world! Who knew.

So I still have Roku with Netflix and I did purchase a subscription to Hulu+ so I can get some ‘DVR like’ functionality for a few shows. The Closer is one of my faves and is not on Hulu+, I can get some recordings on the TNT website or I could buy the episodes from iTunes, but really I have little interest.

Having super fast internet speeds gives me more than enough entertainment on my iPad now. My Kindle app had more money spent on ebooks last month than I normally spend in a year! Sure, I actually have to sit through commercial breaks now but it’s amazing what a high score you can get on Bejewelled in a few minutes!

Before I had Dish Network and I have to say I liked them. Customer service was always good and I didn’t think they were too much of a rip off. I always figured when I bought another house I would resume with Dish or a cable provider again. Now though, I don’t think I will. It almost feels like a great ball and chain has been released from my leg – I don’t have to sit and watch 4 hours of House just to get through the season. A new season of Rizolli and Isles – great, can’t see it but I can buy an episode if I absolutely can’t live without it!

Admittedly, I would not have given up my setup for basic cable if I had not been forced to make a choice. I had expected that after a few weeks I would be so aggravated I would offer to pay the extra money for the ‘real’ TV package!

Course then I surfed over to the Comcast website and started looking at the options. You want HOW MUCH for some channels? Oh, that is just the introductory price. Hmmm, so when the 2 years is up, what will this triple play $99 change to? Oh, a heck of a lot more – right. What if I only need it for a few months – oh that package is available but it will cost more to give you the right to cancel – okay dokey.

Forget it – if I find I am not using Hulu+ much I just click the cancel button and it is gone – no late fees, no cancellation fees, no equipment return fees.

The only show I have a slight pang for is kind of embarrassing to admit. I could have said Criminal Minds, or CSI or even The Closer, but no. The show that makes me wonder how they are doing is …. Operation Repo!

QR Codes: What they are and what they mean…

My current fascination is with all things QR code related. I think they are such a great mobile tool and let’s face it, mobile is where we are all going! When I am busy showing someone a new trick I just found out can be done with a code, I am always surprised by 2 things:

  • They don’t really understand that much about what a QR code can do and
  • I always get this “WOW” from them when I show them!

So this blog is my dedication to the QR code and what, so far, I have seen it do.

What is a QR Code?

QR stands for Quick Response and the square two-dimensional code can be decoded by using a QR code reader on your smartphone. Simple answer is they are those square barcode looking things you see around, however they can hold more information and hence do more than a simple barcode.

How does it work?

To be able to process a QR code you will need a smartphone with a camera , internet access and a QR code reader. Many smartphones come preloaded with a reader app.  Wayne Sutton has a great blog posting covering reader apps for all different phones: QR Readers

Once you have a reader on your phone, start it up and take a picture of a QR code. Try to keep your hand steady! Depending on both the software and the QR code contents, after scanning it can take up to 30 seconds to decode the code.

This is one of my QR codes that takes you to my social aggregator site ItsMyURLs.com

QR Code for Fiona

QR Code for Fiona

What can QR codes do?

Unlike a simple barcode, the QR code is able to contain far more information. This means that there are all sorts of ways to use a code and make it do more for you. For instance, you can have a QR code that takes you to a website, creates contact information, open a YouTube video and more. It seems like every week there is another service or option added for the codes. Here is a list I have seen for a few now:

  • Calendar event,
  • Contact information,
  • Email address,
  • Geo location,
  • Phone number,
  • SMS,
  • Text,
  • URL,
  • WiFi network.

Did you notice that last one – WiFi? I hadn’t come across this before and tried it out – I was able to create a QR code that when scanned with connect you to my secure WiFi network – without me having to share the password with anyone! So maybe you have a store and want people to have internet access – secure internet access: Create a QR code for your network that people can scan to connect to your WiFi.

You want your own QR code now?

Come on, stop pretending you don’t want to have your very own QR code! Great thing is, they are free to read and free to create! There a heaps of sites out there offering all sorts of free QR codes. These sites can generate codes that will open a map of your restaurant location, send an SMS or set up a predefined tweet.

I’m all for not reinventing the wheel if I don’t have to, so I am going to direct you to some sites I have found useful:

Why QR code popularity?

Or why is the QR code market expanding so rapidly?

  • More and more people are equipped with a smartphone
  • More people are accessing the web from their mobile devices
  • Marketers are discovering it is a simple tool that can be tracked easily
  • Consumers like the ease of mobile surfing via the QR code – take me to your website!
  • Put it on your business card and share contact details easily at networking events

I was at Home Depot last week and noticed they have QR codes on the plastic tags on each planter. I, being excited by such things, whipped out my phone and did the scan dance. Up popped a website that told me all about the growing needs and habitat of the plant I was looking at! How many times do you throw the little tabbies away when you plant everything and then don’t know if you should cut it back in Spring or Fall? Now I could use the QR code to go to the website, email that link and hey presto, best gardener EVER!

Some of the things people are doing with QR codes are really exciting. There is a restaurant in Boston that is using squid ink to make QR codes that go on the dinner plates. When you scan it you will go to a website with recipes and ingredients. Some can even source the boat the fish you are eating was caught by!

Mobile website considerations

An important point to remember about QR codes is that any URL you  point to is likely going to be accessed via a mobile device – make sure the site is mobile optimized!

This became apparent to me after I had added a QR code to my business cards. I was using an aggregator site to link to all my social media accounts. Site is very pretty, but was a hog to load on my smartphone and way too small to read without a lot of pinch and zooming! Not exactly that first impression you want to give people.

At one of my visits to Mass Innovations nights I saw the real deal: ItsMyURLs

A social media aggregator site that doesn’t do just social media accounts, but any URL you want – and it is optimized for mobile use! It is free to create an advertising supported account or a small yearly fee for an ad free site. For any sites you add, you can see how many times someone clicked on the link. Oh, and did I mention, they will generate a QR code for you!!!

Dynamic QR codes and analytics

Most of the sites I have been talking about to generate a QR code will make a static code: if your website changes, so to will your QR code need to be updated. Bit inconvenient if you have taken the time to print up or advertise specific codes all over your literature! The solution to this is using a dynamic QR code.

There is a free site out there called BWscan.com that allows you to generate QR codes and then assign websites to them. Which means you can keep the same QR code, but change where it will take people –  on the fly. What they really excel at though is for campaign management. For each QR code you set up , you can assign campaign start and end dates and get real time stats on how often the code is scanned, how many unique users and map their location. Their website has a very good page on case studies highlighting some examples of the different ways QR codes can be used.

Custom QR codes

So for you now experienced and seasoned QR coders, the next step is to create a custom QR code. Once you see one, you want it too! Here is my new custom QR code:

Custom QR Code

Fiona’s custom QR code

Snazzy huh?

How much did this puppy cost me? $0

Yup, you can even get these for free! Here is the magic website:

BeQRrius

Click on the tab Graphical and you can upload an image to be added to your QR code.

While you are on the site though, take a look at what else you can do – create a QR code to map to an address, send a text message, etc.

Summary

Got a feeling this is one of my longer posting, but that is because there are so many little things to get in there and show you. I am able to use my dynamic QR codes to switch between a website about me, downloading contact information or joining my WiFi network – all depending on where I am going to be.

You could be using a QR code with a coupon for discounts on your products or services – then track how many times that code is being scanned. Or you could use it like Best Buy and Home Depot to provide consumers instant access to more detailed product information and reviews in store.

I have a feeling that the QR code function is only going to grow as more genius people come up with ever greater ways to apply them to the world around us. Have you seen any other examples of QR code magic around?

Got a QR code reader/generator you want to talk up – put it in the comments…