Skip to content

NFC or QR on your campus?

Most of us know now what QR (quick response) codes are — those mysterious square “barcodes” that geeks scan with their smartphones to do interesting stuff, like go to a web page.

QR code in blue and gold, with the letters URI in the centerYou can do lots of fun stuff with QR codes! Show off your mobile-fu. You can even edit your codes, if you’re careful, to use your school colors, or put letters in it, as we did at URI! And you can scan it from far away, if it’s big enough. Which, well, it usually isn’t.

But yeah, we know that most people don’t really scan them. Look at your phone, find your barcode scanning app, launch it, line it up, line it up again, line it up again…BEEP! Wait. Oh, look, an online version of the poster I’m looking at right here. (Or, to be fair, watch the video about the next stop on your campus tour…nice idea, huh?)

But have you tried NFC stickers? NFC is Near Field Communication, and it’s some new-fangled technology that is only present in a few devices so far. New Android phones from Samsung, Google, and HTC contain NFC chips, as do the newest Android tablets. iPhones, iPods, and iPads don’t have them yet, but it’s rumored there may be support for NFC in newer iOS devices to come. If you have a new credit card, it’s likely there’s an NFC chip in your card.

NFC works like the SpeedPass at the Mobil gas station, that little black bat they gave you for your keychain. Just tap your little black bat (or cell phone) to the red flying horse on the gas pump (or NFC sticker), and stuff starts to happen! Some progressive retailers in big cities are testing NFC for payment now, using Google Wallet on Android devices.

As long as your phone is on, just tap it to the sticker, and BEEP! There’s the…online version of the poster you’re looking at right there. But that’s where the similarity to QR codes ends. What if you could go to someone’s office, and — tap — download her vCard to your contacts by tapping the business card on her office door, whether she’s there or not? Or — tap — connect to a WiFi network (even a protected one, without having to enter a password)? Or — tap — set your phone to vibrate as you walk into the classroom? Or — tap — check in on social media? (Or watch the video about the next stop on your campus tour!)

Places such as Tagstand sell programmable stickers (called tags) at a great price. You can get big stickers and small stickers, stickers that hold lots of data or just a a little, even stickers printed with your custom graphics. There’s stickers for outdoors, or indoors, even stickers with enough space on them to print (gasp!) a QR code, for those unlucky folks without NFC. Tagstand also has a free Android app that allows you to create instruction sets and program new tags instantly.

Since I’ve been playing with NFC, I have decided that QR isn’t worth spending much more time on. QR tags are easy to create, sure, but there’s so much more value added with NFC, that seems worth evangelizing now! I’m going to create a tag for our building, which will take you to the online campus map, with the building selected, which will show all the departments contained within the building…I’ll let you know how it goes!