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Squaringly obvious: QR codes

PMLiVE tells you about QR codes - barcodes to access online information with your smartphone

A QR codeYou may have started to notice strange small images that are collections of squares within squares within a larger square (or QR codes as they are known) as you go about your everyday life. If you have not seen any yet, you will certainly start to spot them from now on...

What are QR codes?
QR stands for Quick Response and relates to a square code that follows a similar structure to a bar code. The key principle behind a QR code is that it is designed to be read by portable devices such as mobile phones. QR codes can be configured for a variety of uses, including sending users to a specific website URL, providing electronic business card details, sending an SMS message or just displaying text.

QR codes are a particularly useful way of directing users of handheld devices to specific web pages without asking them to type in a long web address on a small keyboard or even just a phone key pad.

How do they work?
Your mobile device will need a QR reader installed before you can begin experimenting with these square codes. This software may be on the phone already, or may need to be downloaded from the phone's app store or from the software manufacturer's website.

There are many free QR readers available on the market. To get you started, here are a few that we have tested on various handsets:
iPhone – Optiscan, I-Nigma
Blackberry – I-Nigma
Android  – Quickmark, Google Zxing
Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola – Snapmaze.

To use a QR code, first open the QR reader on your mobile device. This will activate the camera, allowing you to line up the code within the viewfinder and click as though taking a photo. The reader will then decode the image and direct your phone straight to the destination website/information.

Where are they used?

There are a few QR codes used in the March issue of Pharmaceutical Market Europe (PME), which will guide you to supplementary content, such as video from the interview with the CEO of UCB, Roch Doliveux, that cannot always be displayed effectively in print. 

QR codes are increasingly being used in the consumer world. Look out for them when shopping, not only in newspapers and magazines, but also on food and drink packaging, where they are used to offer extra information about the products. If you are attending a conference this year, do not be surprised if your attendee badge contains one of these squares.

If you become a real fan of this technology, you can have your own custom code turned into a T-shirt or other item of clothing and people can scan you to become your friend on Facebook! The possibilities are endless. As yet, we haven't seen this technology being used by pharma, but if you come across any examples, do please let us know.


Your responses

Paul Farrow, PhD, communications consultant at Oxford PharmaGenesis: In response to your request for more examples of how this technology is being used, I am pleased to inform you that Oxford PharmaGenesis has been working in collaboration with Shire Pharmaceuticals on a pilot project to incorporate QR codes into scientific congress posters.  

The project was launched at ISMPP's 7th Annual Meeting in Arlington, VA, and is currently being used in the 'real world' on various posters across several brands - it was recently used on 5 posters at the World Congress of Nephrology in Vancouver, Canada (8–12 April 2011). Initially the QR code technology is being used to provide a convenient electronic copy of a poster to the interested delegate (direct to phone or by email) as an alternative to a paper copy.  

Use of 'SMART' technology in this way, promotes a paperless culture, allowing companies to act responsibly by reducing waste, costs and carbon footprints. We would be more than happy to submit an article for inclusion in a future issue of Pharmaceutical Market Europe. 

If you'd like to know more about Oxford PharmaGenesis, please scan the code below. 


Decode the mystery  

QR Code from Oxford PharmaGenesisGive it a go yourself and see the benefits of QR technology in action! Scan the code below and visit our new website. Upon entry of the password 'oxford', you'll be able to download an article listing our core services and discover the key factors we believe to be at the heart of a successful client–agency partnership. 

9th March 2011


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