Here at Plants Map we have over 160 universities, botanical gardens and other users scanning QR codes every day on tens of thousands of plants around the world.
A QR code is simply an image of a block of text and in our case, that block of text is a URL to a page we host for a specific plant.
There is no magic to a QR code. The beauty of the technology is that the codes can be read with any one of hundreds of free or paid apps available for multiple mobile devices and operating systems.
There is a great book called “QR Codes Kills Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground” and it gives hundreds of examples of why QR Codes have a bad reputation.
We see these bad use cases all of the time and many of us are just so used to QR Codes being used incorrectly that we don’t even think about scanning one anymore. Codes on moving vehicles, billboards and in places where they are impossible to scan because something is blocking part of the code. Most of the bad QR Codes were just poor decisions taken by the marketing department that decided to use them in the first place.
Millions of QR codes are used in manufacturing every day. There is a real utility behind the code where it is used to identify a part or count items as they ship. You get the idea. I don’t need to explain how that could be useful.
One of the biggest problems I see with QR codes generally is that the content that you view after you scan a code is either not worth seeing in the first place or in the case of a web page, the site you land on is not mobile friendly. Once you experience that a couple of times, why would you scan another one?
Our tags are used to quickly get to a web page for a specific plant on a mobile-friendly website where the user then can add notes and photos in one or two clicks to keep their records. In an urban forestry environment, where there might be 60,000 trees and 12,500 of them are Acer rubrum, what other solution is out there to quickly find the exact Acer rubrum you are measuring, pruning, watering, observing, photographing or documenting?
We are working with a farm that grows several thousand trees – all of the same genus and species. They will scan a QR code, unique to each tree to identify the exact tree they are picking and using the mobile website to track fruit yield on each tree.
If the QR Code goes to a page that has a useful function, QR Codes are very helpful.
We are experimenting with other types of sensor technology for large indoor growing operations and possibly for Plants Map signs and tagging in the future, but those tech solutions require special equipment not available to most consumers.
In 2012, Comscore found that 97% of smartphone owners didn’t even know what a QR Code was so you think they know the meaning of NFC, BLE or RFID or Beacons? Apps are out of the question as the latest research shows that outside of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest the rest get no usage after only a couple of days. (Not to mention the continual cost of updating them for every operating device as they update their operating systems.)
We decided on a mobile-friendly website and QR Codes are just one way to access the deep-linked plant pages while out in the landscape.
QR Codes are open source and nothing special is needed to create them and the programming to build a reader is available for free.
Here is an offer. Sign up and add a plant to PlantsMap.com and then visit the “tag” page and request a free sample tag for the plant you just created. We’ll send you one in a couple of days. When you get it, scan that QR Code and take a look at the mobile-friendly website and all of the options to add notes, information and photos or to quickly share that plant on social media.
Our goal here at Plants Map is not to be a “tag” company but to connect people with plants in any way we can. If you have other ideas that we can build into our free site, please share and we’ll see what we can do.