IBM i Server Gets Hip to QR Codes
Corrected: August 22 2011
by Alex Woodie
Quick Response (QR) barcodes have taken the consumer world by storm. The stamp-sized barcodes--commonly used to transmit a website address to a smartphone through its camera--are being affixed to all kinds of things, including magazine ads, Web pages, storefront displays, and even tattoos. And now they're becoming popular on the IBM i server through the work of vendors like ACOM Solutions, which recently announced support for generating QR codes.
The QR barcode was created in 1994 to assist in tracking parts in the automotive supply chain. Consumers in Japan and South Korea have been using it to share information on the mobile Internet for the past several years. Only in the last few months have consumers in North America really started to adopt the technology. But the adoption curve--as evidenced by the number of people inking QR codes onto their skin--has been steep.
QR codes are easy to use, and the geek-factor makes it appealing. All that a user needs to start using QR codes is a camera-equipped smartphone loaded with a QR-scanning application, which is often pre-loaded onto the device. The user simply takes a picture of a QR code, which can be loaded with up to 7,089 alphanumeric characters, but is usually a much shorter website address, or Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The QR-scanning app decodes the barcode, and performs an action, which is often loading a specific Web page, but could be other actions.
QR codes are becoming increasingly popular in consumer and business cultures. ACOM Solutions is the first IBM i document management software vendor to support the generation of QR codes.
Marketers in all types of industries have begun using QR codes. They're being applied to business cards, movie posters, new car stickers, human flesh, and even headstones (as a way for visitors to be more engaged with the deceased, according to a Seattle Times report).
Given the rapid rise in use of QR codes by the general public and the businesses that want to reach out to them, it's not surprising that some businesses would be interested in applying QR codes to their correspondence with customer and partners.
This is the thinking behind ACOM Solution's decision to support the generation of custom QR codes with the latest release of its IBM i output management software, EZeDocs/400 version 8.5.02. Released in late July, the new software enables organizations to apply QR codes to any invoice, purchase order, work order, statement, packing slip, bill of lading, fax, or report that EZeDocs/400 generates from IBM i data.
"In order for our clients to stay on top of marketing trends, we have included the ability to print QR barcodes with the EZeDocs/400 software," Angela Doolittle, ACOM's channel product manager, says in a press release.
ACOM wasn't the first to generate QR codes. The Danish companyInterform A/S has generated QR codes since 2007, and the German company Meinikat informationssysteme GmbH has generated them since 2007. Other comanies will be supporting QR codes soon, too. For instance, Krengel Technology has plans to support the generation of QR codes with its IBM i software, says Aaron Bartell, a developer with Krengel.
Krengel's sales and marketing director Jeff Skistad recently blogged about some of the ways that QR codes could be used in a business context. Some of the interesting ideas that Skistad had include putting QR codes on T-shirts, using QR codes to make a phone call, or using QR codes to accomplish IT tasks, such as re-ordering printer toner.
QR codes might be a trendy flash-in-the pan among the geek set today. But the rapid adoption signals that consumers are trained and ready to begin using the kind of technical symbology that was the exclusive domain of the warehouse just a few years ago. Whether the QR standard survives doesn't really matter to the business user. But finding a new way to interact with customers definitely does.
This article was corrected. ACOM Solutions wasn't the first IBM i forms vendor to support QR codes. InterForm A/S has generated QR codes since 2007, and Meinikat informationssysteme GmbH has generated them since 2010. IT Jungle regrets the error.
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