Barcodes of the next generation: London takes QR technology to the streets

Hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society

The QR Code Garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show in London. (Getty)

June 27, 2012 — London is implementing the first stages of a pilot program that will bring QR codes to sidewalks all over the city.  The codes will scan to sites with information on sidewalk closings for repair, much like parts of the current repair awareness system employed by the Manhattan Transit Authority.

Up by 1200 percent in the second half of 2010, QR barcode scanning has emerged as one of the go-to method for information sharing. Where a traditional, 1D barcode stores up to 30 numbers on the label, a QR code (also known as a 2D code) can store up to 7,089 characters, as well as text, hyperlink, calendar and contact entries (called vCards), and even prompts to email or text.

London Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown, next to a new QR-adorned sidewalk sign (Derek Ruttan, The London Free Press)

The London program hopes to incorporate these on a large scale throughout the city.  Spearheaded by Matt Brown, the councillor (or chancellor, for New Yorkers) of Ward 7, the project aims to further communication between city and residents at low cost to both.  With only a QR scanning app, any resident with a Smartphone can take a picture of the code which will open a browser to a site with more information.  “I was looking for a no-cost, or low cost, option that could link city residents with staff in a quick and efficient way,” Brown tells the London Free Press. “More and more Londoners are able to access the Internet remotely and the city’s communications need to keep up with that.”

BikeGuard creates a bicycle registry with QR codes on asset tagsA new bicycle registry called BikeGuard tracks bikes through unique QR codes. (

With more and more communication happening on the web, it’s only natural that mobile-based communication will take that route as well.  QR codes are being used to protect and track assets, and to help police stations keep track of bicycles.  The potential for 2D, QR codes is only just begun to be investigated, to some exciting results.

– R. Fogel