We all know about barcode and Quick Response - QR code. We see them on processed foods and goods - packages. We see them get scanned at checkouts in supermarkets and department stores. In many countries, even individual apples, mangoes, ... fruits have tiny tags with a barcode or QR code on them. QR code is a very popular way to to publicize url (for websites) and extra information. QR codes come in black and white as well as colors. We can see these scripts but they are not meant for us to read directly. These are scripts for machines (scanners), to communicate with other machines.
Can we learn to read barcodes or QR codes?
We can do that if we have time and patience with a lot of repetitive training (in the same way machines learn to read these codes; but once a machine has mastered the reading, the ability can be loaded to millions other machines in seconds - [don't we wish, we could have 16 years of learning uploaded, so we could get a degree whenever we want?). But why do we want to read the codes ourselves? Our modern mobile phones can read them for us.
For Android phone users, Google 'Lens' is usually pre-installed. We just launch it, then point our phone at the code, so that the whole code pattern is inside the view finder (white square on the screen), after a second or so the result will appear on the screen with options on what we can do next. (I don't own an iPhone, so I can't tell if iOS comes with a scanner.)
You can try it on the barcode or the QR code below:
Can we make our own barcode and QR code?
Yes! There are many free code generators available online on the Internet. Offline, LibreOffice and Microsoft Excel can also generate the code for you. I you have a [label] printer, you can print the code and stick on something to impress your friends and customers. [Added 23/6/66: for those using Linux, a command line utility “qrencode” is available from your distro's repository - free of course.]
What do we do with barcode and QR code?
Currently, barcodes (there are several 'systems of codes for examples: UPC/UPC-E - used in US, Canada, Thailand; EAN - used in EU countries and worldwide) are used primarily for product/inventory tracking. QR codes are used to code url, email address, and some profile information.
These codes come in 2 modes (numeric or numbers only) and alphanumeric (numbers and letters). Barcodes can be used for short (25 characters) messages (generally structured product codes which contain number code for origin, number code for product class or category, number code for other description and so on and a check-digit for error correction). QR code has more capacity upto 4k alphanumerics or 7k numerics.
What other uses of these codes?
There are a lot of potentials for use of codes in service of mankind. At one time a system of barcode (KarTrak, invented back in the 1940s) was used to tracked railcars (passenger carriages) and rollingstocks (wagons for cargo/goods) in trains (presently rfid based systems are used). Ships and containers are barcoded to track their movements. Barcode is King in inventory tracking.
QR code (invented by Masahiro Hara for labeling auto parts from insights gained from Go board game) a two dimension barcode, offers much higher data capacity and error correction (more accurate identification). QR code is also used for tracking and locating objects and to encode access to a network, WiFi and specific facilities (as a key to gain access or as a confirmation that access is granted), on menus for customers' order (direct to the kitchen), as gift vouchers, to provide specific information for specific items in art galleries and museums, to provide cashless charges and payments services, for recipes, invitations and replies,...
Can we use barcode and QR code in schools, hospitals, hotels, meetings, conferences, ticketing,...?
To track movements, class attendances, marking and grading, learning stages, progress of medical treatments, patient records, appointments and prescriptions,...
Just for fun, try giving homework or message in qr code and ask for answers in qr code too. This can stir ideas on new use of qr code ;-)
It's time for us to imagine what we can use this technology to save time, cost, and raise efficiency or convenience for businesses, organizations and ourselves.
[Added 18/6/66 : ความร่วมมือระหว่าง ธนาคารแห่งประเทศไทย (ธปท.) และ ธนาคารกลางกัมพูชา (National Bank of Cambodia) ในโครงการบริการชำระสินค้าด้วยระบบคิวอาร์โค้ด (Interoperable QR Code) https://www.thaipost.net/economy-news/398997/ - buyers can pay in THB baht or KHR riel]