Crowdsourcing where to put QR codes in NYC

This February, New York City adopted QR codes in a significant way. “QR” stands for “quick response” codes. QR codes enable somebody with the appropriate software and hardware to quickly scan a code for information from any direction. As TechCrunch reported, NYC will put QR codes on all of its building permits.

The QR codes will link users to a mobile version of the Department of Buildings Information System, and will give them the option to click a link that will initiate a phone call to the city’s 311 phone service, where they can register a complaint about noise, safety or other concerns.

As permits at 975,000 building and construction sites that already have them are replaced, they will have QR codes added; all New York City permits are expected to have QR codes by roughly 2013.

QR Code on Love ArtPhoto illustration by Zachary M. Seward based on a photo by Chris Goldberg

QR codes can be scanned by smartphones equipped with relevant software in much the same way that a handheld scanner can scan the more familiar horizontal barcodes used globally in shipping and retail industries. Their use is hardly limited to building permits, however, as Zach Seward pointed out at the Wall Street Journal:

In 2011, you’re likely to see more QR codes on billboards, print publications, museum placards — anywhere with limited space and lots of information to convey. On city building permits, scanning the QR code will direct you to a website with more information about the construction project, if you’re into that.

But the New Yorkers who responded to Sterne are more excited about the prospect of applying QR codes to the city’s public-transit system. One  common suggestion: place them at bus stops, where schedules aren’t always displayed and are often out of date.

So where should New York City place QR codes? As Seward reported, New York City’s chief digital officer, Rachel Sterne, is looking for ideas. Seward captured her questions and the responses of citizens (including this correspondent) using Storify:

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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