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What Real Estate Photographers Need To Know About QR Codes

Published: 23/10/2009
By: larry

Whoa! Did I get an education today! A couple of my Kiwi readers (Neville and Martin) put me on to the subject of QR (quick response) codes. This is some of the coolest stuff I've run into in a long time. It all came out of my post yesterday about mobile phones being important in real estate marketing.

First of all Neville pointed out in a comment on yesterdays post that in NZ is starting to implement QR codes on their yard signs. I didn't even pick-up on the reference to QR codes until Martin in Auckland pointed out that QR codes are a big deal related to accessing websites quickly and directly from mobile devices and I should do an article on the subject. Frankly, I'd never heard of QR codes so I scrambled and did some research.

The concept of QR code is simple. It goes like this:

  1. The weird image on the right is a QR code. What it is, is a 2D encoding of the URL of this blog post.
  2. I created it at by simply entering the URL for this blog post.
  3. To translate this QR code to a URL you need a application that converts the image into a URL. If you are a iPhone user you can download the free application "QR App". There are QR code readers for most other mobile camera phones. Just Google "QR code reader your device".
  4. The way a QR code reader app works is simple, you just snap a photo of the QR code to the right, immediately scans the QR code, converts it to a URL, and loads the URL in to the browser and bam this blog post comes up in the mobile browser. All with the push of one button (the button to take the photo).

Do you see the implications? Incase you don't, let me explain. All you need to have on the for sale sign or rider is an QR code image like the one above (print it like a label on a laser printer and put it on a rider). To view a tour and more info on the listing all a potential buyer has to do take a photo of this QR code with his mobile phone that has a camera. That is, they push one button and it takes them to the tour. Oh yea, I should mention if you didn't catch it in Neville's reference above, real estate photography franchises starting using this technology in NZ in July of 2009 so you can expect to see it on signs in AU, CA and US soon. If you are in any of the locations that have Open2view franchises you will be competing against this technology very soon.

I think Martin is right, this technology is hot and going to be used extensively any place you want to quickly and easily provide a customer with more information on a product or service.

Thanks to Neville and Martin for educating me on this subject!

23 comments on “What Real Estate Photographers Need To Know About QR Codes”

  1. Sorry but I really can't see the advantage of this for URL decoding.. why?
    Launching an app to snap a picture and launch the browser with the decoded URL?
    What's wrong with launching the browser and type the URL?
    Just need to be smart setting up URI's for your tours on your website, eg. (here date of the shoot)
    Sort of like a tinyurl that get's you to your SEO-ed eg.
    Mod-rewrite voodoo helps a lot here.

  2. For some reason, this technology really took off in the Asia-Pacific region and never got any traction here in the States. In Japan it's called I-Mode and has been around since at least 2005.

    This would also go great on flyers.

  3. @Anton- The example QR code in this post encodes a 98 character URL I would rather launch an app and snap a photo (2 clicks on my iPhone). Even if you were to spend the time and money to design and build your own tour site and managed to create tours with small concise URLs or if you used some site like a site like you couldn't get the URL to 2 characters.

    Of course this technology is useless in areas where it doesn't get traction with users.

  4. We knew that some people would prefer to type in the URL instead of scanning the QR Codes or Datamatrix barcodes. As a result, each of the generated barcodes are labeled with a numeric ID which can be easily typed on a mobile handset. You only have to show the URL somewhere on your graphics. Upon visiting this URL, the user will be prompted to enter the numeric ID consequently taking them to the intended destination.

  5. Oh, cool:) The realestate agencies i work with have had those for some years already in Finland. But i think no one has used them much until now. And I guess(have not even tried yet) they only give you additional information with text(for now)

  6. Larry, the potential use in the print media is also a biggy - window cards, newspapers, magazines that allow people to go online when out and about to see further information about the property - or more importantly for us - additional photos.

    When you use your mobile to browse property pages you will soon find out those companies that have put some effort in getting the mobile experience usable, especially around viewing the images. The difference in using a mobile to view property pages on two of Australia's biggest RE sites is marked. And the biggest one has some catching up to do to when looking at when viewing photos on mobile viewed property pages. No point getting to the property on your mobile easily if it takes a few minutes to navigate the content.

    The QR Code technology is great, the implementation for the purpose and the application being accessed at the other end is key if people are to take this up.

    Put a QR Code on your business card which contains all your information - people can scan and save to contacts - no typing..

  7. I have to add that while I get it, I have to agree with the more negative side here. It's a -neat- concept, but in all practicality that's about it. The average shopper (and by average, I'd say currently that's about 90-95%!) will have NO CLUE what they're seeing if there's some pixel rendered icon that looks more like a printing mistake then anything. I could understand a little more if they used a UPC instead with a quick instruction, but this more than likely won't work in this country. Like I said, I get it, but I'm going all-in that it flops (2 poker analogies in 1 sentence!).

  8. Newspapers in Australia have been using these codes for a while now - - albeit aimed at different audiences. However I can see a Newspapers perspective here. It certainly would allow their readers to cross that divide to digital easier, and its perfect for competitions like mentioned, and real estate - - (jump includes Cairns Company showcasing their entry back in March 09.) They are quite popular in Japan and have been for some years, however that could also have something to do with the fact that the Japanese enjoy some of the fastest mobile broadband rates in the world.

  9. I think that the general public won't know what it's about. But if you're actively house-hunting, and your RE agent tells you about it, then of course you'll download the app and use it. Makes total sense.

    This is the kind of thing that catches on early in urban areas. For Muskogee Oklahoma, it'll take a while. 😉

  10. I was experimenting with this about 3 months ago and printed an 8.5x11 sheet with a QR code with the web address of one of my listings. I would love to hang it on a rider, but what I found is that at 8.5" square, you have to be within about 8 feet to take a photo of it so the camera will read the code. Can other people verify this? This is what it took on my G1 phone. Maybe it's my phone, maybe it's my app.
    If this is the case, then the sign rider idea is hard. People driving by will need to get out of their cars and walk up to the sign to snap a photo. Or we will need to make the size of the QR code larger.

    Any thoughts?

  11. @Steve- While researching this post I used Qr app, that I mentioned in the post, on my iPhone (original model that has a much weaker camera than the current 3Gs) I shot the QR code in the post and it worked the first try.

    After your question, I tried out some other situations. I can't get my iPhone to scan a QR code that is printed or to read it off my laptop. It will work intermittently off my 24" monitor when the brightness is turned up.

    How ever, not being able to scan barcodes is a well know problem with the old iPhone. My guess is that the current 3Gs will scan it with no problems.

  12. QR codes are all over Japanese websites. This leads me to believe that it's very possible to read the code off a monitor with a phone.

    (Before anyone proclaims the lunacy of using a QR code on a website, it makes perfect sense for sites that people will want to access at another time from their phone. Especially in the case of websites that have parallel versions optimized for cell phones. Consider it an extension of the "bookmark this site" link.)

    Those who are dismissing this as a fad or a gimmick most likely felt the same way about cell phones and the internet when they were first available. The fact is, regular cell phones are getting smarter, and smart phones are becoming more popular by the day. Within a year or two, we're going to see QR codes everywhere.

  13. I tried QR in printed form and off the website on my iPhone 3G and it works like a charm. The app I used is called QuickMark. I'll definitely use the QR codes on the riders that I'm going to get for my business.

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