Innovative Uses of QR Codes by the AEC Industry

Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry professionals have found innovative uses of QR (Quick Reference) codes in their daily work. Architects, engineers, contractors, building owners, developers and municipalities are all using them to improve productivity and gain a marketing edge.

They have found practical applications of QR codes and are not using them simply because it is the mobile marketing tactic du jour.

What are QR codes?

The technology for QR codes was first created by Denso-Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1994 and has been used extensively for tracking parts in automobile manufacturing. They are now used for a variety of applications and are extremely popular, especially in B2C and retail marketing.

Scanning a QR code with a smartphone has become so commonplace that to most people, it feels as natural as clicking on a link in a Web page.

Practical uses of QR codes in the AEC industry

In my last post, I had briefly mentioned how manufacturers can use QR codes to link printed collateral to their online content. Here are some ways that AEC companies are using them for marketing and to do their daily jobs more efficiently.

  • QR codes on building materials and components: Codes placed on packaging of building materials and components can link to more detailed instructions for installation and assembly. The field crew rarely has access to the Internet at the job site but a smartphone or a mobile phone with a camera is now a standard issue, allowing them instant access to “how-to” videos and installation guides.
  • Product comparisons: Consumers often use side-by-side comparisons of multiple products before making a purchase decision. The same idea has been carried over with QR codes to help Architects compare building products sitting in a warehouse somewhere to what they see at a job site. By accessing detailed product specs, they can make and modify product decisions while at the construction site.
  • Construction signage: Signage at job sites is a great place to put a QR code which can include full contact information and meet safety regulations by auto-dialing emergency phone numbers. Links can lead to safety and first aid videos.
  • Addressing community concerns: New commercial construction projects usually face some amount of backlash from the community, especially in historical neighborhoods. Architects and developers are addressing these community concerns by putting QR codes on their signage at the proposed construction site. The codes link to Web pages or blog posts where concerned citizens can read details about the proposed project, traffic control issues, planned street and sidewalk improvements, interactive 3D renditions of the project once completed and even post their concerns and complaints.

Municipalities and local governments are using QR codes

Small and large municipalities and local governments are using QR codes to better serve their citizens while dealing with shrinking budgets.

  • Catawba County, N.C., began using the bar-code technology to help contractors and government workers access information on buildings. With the new QR-coded building permits, two sets of information can be accessed on smartphones from the county’s building services permit center. One QR code on the permit generates a GIS map of the parcel that relates to the permit and the other QR code links the user to the permit detail report website.
  • New York City uses QR codes on all Department of Buildings permits, providing New Yorkers with instant access to information related to buildings and construction sites throughout city. Citizens can instantly get details such as the approved scope of work, identity of the property owner, other approved projects associated with the permit, any violations related to the location and they can initiate a phone call to 311 to make a complaint.
  • Manor, a small city of 5,000 people and located just east of Austin Texas uses QR codes to streamline its infrastructure on a shoestring budget. The city installed bar codes in various locales to create a virtual walking tour of the city. They transformed their major park into a “smart park.” A large QR code was posted at the entrance to Jennie Lane Park that directs mobile phones to a Web site. There, visitors can get information about the park, such as who it’s named after and what wildlife can be spotted on the hiking trail. In addition to the walking tour, the city uses the codes to label construction projects and city buildings and vehicles.

QR codes for the dearly departed: This is not an application for the AEC industry but QR code technology has caught up with burying the dead and the human desire for remembrance. A Seattle-based company is creating burial markers that include a QR code placed on tombstones. Visitors to the cemetery can learn more about the dearly departed, leave messages for their loved ones, and record stories for others who may visit. I first heard about this QR application from Rick Short (@RickShort21) of Indium Corporation and here’s the full story from NPR.

How are you using QR codes as an Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry professional?

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