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Questions often arise on the use of barcode scanning to save time typing a number for assets and supplies. Recently, there has been discussion about “QR Codes” that can do more than just capture a long identification number. This is a big discussion with many factors to consider. Let’s break down the good, the bad and the ugly in the educational operations world for using this technology and the tools to consider.
The Good:Barcodes and QR codes give your fingers a serious rest. Both types of codes can enter text in one click, yet QR codes can be scanned to visit web pages, access online maps, send text messages or call someone.
There are several online tools such as QRStuff, Google, Unitag and more that can allow you to create these codes. If you are creating one QR code at a time, these sites let you do it for free.
Example: if you wanted to have a QR code that points your requesters to your MySchoolBuilding portal, it’s a great concept. Your building occupants could open a scanning app on their phone to read a QR code that takes them to a portal to submit a work order or other type of request.
The Bad:Many of these “QR generators” generate much of their revenue from some level of advertising or printing services, so they love you testing their sites. However, if you need a variety or series of QR codes, you will either have to spend time making each one, or you must purchase a subscription to make multiple codes (some QR sites have import capabilities for paying subscribers).
If you make a variety of QR codes, be sure that you know what those codes are! If the result does not have a description, you just created a series of codes that you may not know what to do with them.
Mobile apps that read QR code work great as long as you are doing something simple such as visiting a website, and mobile apps that read barcodes are great for shopping to compare prices. However, for purposes such as data entry and some data searching (outside of Google), the overwhelming majority of apps typically fall flat.
The Ugly:At the moment, many smartphones and tablets require you to download barcode or QR code reading apps, but you cannot use just any software app. Again, they are great at simple things such as opening a webpage or map or even dialing a phone number…but even then, it’s tough. Most QR and barcode apps on mobile devices are geared toward retail and shopping, most often for price comparisons. The overwhelming majority of QR apps on the market are not geared toward data entry and are basically one-trick ponies (e.g., do a Google search on price comparisons).
If an app performs an upgrade, it may no longer work as before. iCody is an example that worked with my initial tests, but enhancements to the app no longer functioned for web pages as they did before.
The camera on your mobile device may not be able to scan codes except in a well-lit area. The camera’s ability to focus can often take up too much time to be worth the trouble.
If you create a QR code for a web address and that web address changes, it will no longer function as intended.
In my testings, I found that I had to download and test several applications before I found that RedLaser can open web pages in my iPhone’s Safari web browser. Sounds minor, but it gets extremely irritating. This meant that in other scanning apps, I constantly had to re-type my user name and password. In web products that require a security login, that gets very old, very fast. Even though RedLaser is great from a work standpoint for opening web pages and it has the ability to create some basic QR codes, that’s pretty much it as I cannot use QR codes to enter or search data It’s not a negative, it is just the reality of what those apps are focused upon: consumer needs, not business or operational needs.
Back to The Good:I've tested a small, handheld scanner produced by Socket that is compatible with my iPad, but also works with other mobile devices. It does not need an app and it functions similarly to having a keyboard connected to your mobile device. The scanner came with QR codes to program the scanner in one click according to my device type and it connected via Bluetooth on my tablet. With this Socket scanner, I was able to: