As I was out walking the dog today, I noticed that the "For Sale" sign in front of the house a few doors down had acquired a new and unusual enhancement: a huge Rorschach inkblot-looking thingamajig. It took me a moment to realize that what appeared to be "artwork" was, in fact, a QR, or "quick response," code.
QR codes - codes that cell phones outfitted with QR code readers can read - let you quickly scan and store rich information. In this case, the code was for a URL containing information about the home's square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, asking price, indoor and outdoor photos and so forth. It basically replaced those hard-copy fact sheets in the plastic box outside the residence.
We usually hear about QR codes and/or NFC (near-field communications, which uses embedded chips instead of codes) being used by retailers. One incentive is to deter shoppers from coming into a store, viewing, handling and testing comparative products and then ordering the one they want at the best price they can find on the Web. Rather, a user who "checks in" to a store via cell phone might get some promotional benefit such as a discount for buying then and there.
NFC is just as likely to be used and is being embraced by Google and chipmaker Broadcom, which acquired NFC company Innovision Research & Technology last year. And Juniper Research forecasts that one in every six mobile users worldwide will have an NFC-enabled phone by 2014, when it expects NFC to be a $633 billion market.