Cracking the QR Code

The explosive proliferation of smartphones gives people access to a wealth of information from nearly anywhere they may be. Couple this with quick response codes, and the only limit is your imagination. North Carolina's Catawba County seeks to capitalize on the QR trend to better serve our citizens and employees, and other communities should do the same.

To get started using QR codes, the Catawba County Technology Department took advantage of existing SAP Crystal Reports Server software and reports, adding only QR code software. We also used web-based QR code generators to create several static QR codes, which include links to specific websites and various videos.

Permit, Please

Many contractors in the county own or plan to purchase smartphones. They also need information in a timely manner. Toting around reams of paper or tracking someone down by phone is not usually the best or quickest way to get an answer. Earlier this year, Catawba County added QR codes to the Building Services permit placards posted at job sites to quickly deliver the required data. The placard shows two QR codes: One links to GIS information for the parcel of the building site, and the other links to full permit information on the web.

When a user scans the QR code for a GIS map, it directs him or her to the Catawba County GIS site. The site displays a diagram of the parcel and includes other information such as the school district, fire district, tax data and so forth. The user can also see all permits that have been issued for that parcel.

Scanning the QR code for permit information displays all current information about that permit, including all scheduled inspections, their status and related inspector notes, if completed. The user also has access to the available plan review notes and other related permits. All data is live and dynamic.

Mixed-Use Development

Catawba County is extending the use of QR codes to other areas. Business cards contain contact information and links to websites. Human resources job postings contain links to the HR website as well as a promotional video. Newsletters contain QR codes to link readers to important information, related websites or videos.

We're looking to expand the county's use of QR codes as opportunities arise. Just imagine the kinds of information local governments could provide to citizens using QR codes -- public meeting agendas, library books with codes for reviews and comments, and codes in parks that give operating hours and describe the flora and fauna. The possibilities are endless.

QR Codes Explained

A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that features a pattern of light and dark squares containing up to 512 characters. By contrast, a standard barcode can only handle up to 16 characters easily. Data stored in a QR code can range from simple text to a URL to contact information or sometimes a combination of all three. To read the code, users must have a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device with reader software installed.

Jun 24 2011