QR Codes in Nature

With the rise of smart phones and camera phone technology, quick response or QR codes are popping up everywhere from display ads to building permits to trail markers.

A QR code is a type of bar code consisting of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, a URL, or other data. Marketers are using QR codes to link back to specific offers or provide additional information. In a recent blog post, marketer Heidi Cohen identifies 12 places to use QR codes for marketing.

There are other, very interesting uses of QR codes.

Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that QR codes will be on all Department of Buildings permits. Imagine a permit card hanging on a construction site. Pedestrians can use their smart phone to access building permit history, retrieve information about planned changes, or find out who to contact to ask questions. Stories about New York’s program also cite uses such as retrieving info about renting an apartment or lodging a complaint.

An equally interesting use of QR codes is for interpretive purposes. The city of Port Townsend, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula is using the codes on hand-drawn pictorial maps to link to events, local businesses, and sponsored YouTube videos. The code itself doesn’t change but the associated content can be modified or updated as needed.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District (south of Chicago) has begun using QR codes throughout its forest preserves. Hikers can use their smart phone to link to online maps. Staffers simply create QR codes on stickers and then affix them to signage around the preserve. Other uses include accessing historic information and upcoming nature programs. Imagine self-guided nature walks with QR codes identifying tree species or geologic features.

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area in Georgia is also using QR codes to link visitors with specially created mobile web pages. The Augusta Canal was built in 1845 as a source of power, water, and transportation, and is currently the only intact industrial canal in the American South still in use. Although man-made, many areas along its bank have returned to a more natural state and boast an urban wildlife refuge home to varied flora and fauna.

Interpretive staff have placed small signs at half mile intervals along the Augusta Canal DigiTrail at historic sites and natural features. Hikers can pull up written info, photos, maps, and more, making it a truly interactive experience.

If you know about other uses of QR codes in natural settings, leave a comment or link below.

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