QR-Codes: How small town Manor, Texas is changing government with barcodes

By / Sep 18, 2009

City of Manor, TexasQuick Response Codes, or QR-codes for short, may seem like just another barcode to blanket products and aid in inventory systems management, but in Manor, Texas, they are much more.

QR-codes are two dimensional barcodes that can be generated for free and subsequently decoded for free on most newer model camera phones. When I first learned of QR-codes I quickly realized the amazing potential they had, however, I was unaware of the significant impact they would have on my own organization.

The immediate application I saw for QR-codes was a method of document management for smaller agencies. Since my department’s budget is less than $100,000 a year, I did not have the funds to purchase an industry-standard document management system. Instead, I identified QR-codes as a great way to “tag” boxes with information that could be decoded with a cell phone, instead of purchasing expensive software and an industry-grade barcode scanner. After working on a document management system, the City Manager and I quickly realized that the QR-code model could be applied to just about every aspect of local government operations, including economic development. As a result, on March 29, 2008, we launched our first public QR-code campaign that consisted of 15 fixed-mounted QR-code signs placed throughout our community.

These signs were placed in front of city buildings, historic structures and other sites of interest throughout our community. Instead of embedding information in each barcode sign, I embedded hyperlinks to websites that contained the information. For example, if you scan the 4’ x 4’ QR-code hung outside City Hall, your mobile phone browser will be redirected to a website specific to City Hall and its history. Even though each QR-code may look the same, they each link to a unique website address.

QR-codes have not only increased tourism in our small community, they have increased transparency. By placing QR-code signs at each of our construction projects, we can provide the taxpayer real-time information about that project. For example, if they scanned the QR-code at our most recent bond project, they would receive information about how much they project costs, when it was scheduled to be completed, etc. When there were costs or timeframe changes in the bond project, we would only have to update the information on the website because the QR-code hyperlink remained the same.

We have also deployed QR-codes on our city vehicles, which we hope to eventually tie our work order system into each QR-code.

Instead of bombarding our residents with information they don’t want through traditional means of communication, we have created a model of information dissemination that puts them in the driver’s seat and engages them to get involved. Manor currently has 24 fixed mounted QR-codes, 15 of which are also equipped with RFID for NFC phones, that provide real-time information to our residents.

For more information on Manor’s QR-code campaign, e-mail innovations@cityofmanor.org.

Dustin Haisler is Director of Government Innovation at Spigit. He can be reached at dhaisler@spigit.com or on Twitter at @dustinhaisler.

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