Rio de Janeiro is
adding something new into its trademark black-and-white mosaic pavements: QR codes. By mixing technology with tradition,
the Brazilian city is hoping to bring its tourism sector into the 21st
or QR, codes are a type of barcode loaded with information that, when scanned
with a phone or other device, can open a web page, social media site or video (users
first need to download an app, available for iPhone,
iPad and Android).
Press, Brazil plans to install about 30 QR codes at beaches, vistas and
historic sites across the city, enabling Rio’s roughly two million foreign
visitors each year to learn about the city as they stroll around. When they
scan the codes, they’ll access a website with information about the site,
including maps, history and highlights in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
The first QR
code was installed on 25 January at Arpoador, the massive
boulder anchoring the end of Ipanema beach. When scanned, the black-and-white
QR code – embedded into the already existing mosaics of waves, fish and plants
– gives the user information about the beach and rock. Did you know that the
boulder is named for the fishermen who once harpooned whales there (arpoador is Portuguese for harpoon-thrower),
or that the beach is a favourite surfing spot due to its perfect waves, hence
its nickname, “Praia do Diablo”, or Devil’s Beach.
Of course, this is just one of the many ways the travel industry has begun to employ
the QR code to make travel sites and services more tech-friendly. Hotels,
airlines, and tourism boards have all attempted to incorporate the codes into
their offerings, with creative results.
Hotel de Londres in San Sebastian, Spain,
the Signature Hotels in Jeddah
and Medina, Saudi Arabia, and HTEL
Serviced Apartments in Amsterdam are among the growing number of hotels currently
posting QR codes at concierge desks, in lifts and on hotel room information
cards to assist guests with tips on where to dine or what to do during their
carrier CityJet made the QR craze into a game in 2012 by
hiding 18 codes in airports across its network (in London City Airport, Milan Linate
and Paris Orly, among others) and encouraging
travellers to find and scan them for a chance to win a range of prizes,
including a trip to Dublin to test the airline’s full-motion flight simulator.
topped it all when it organised 1,369 locals outside Taipei City Hall on 2
December 2012 to form the
world’s biggest human QR code. The event was designed to promote tourism to
Taiwan and encourage would-be visitors to check out the Taiwan tourism website.
creative use of QR codes, however, it’s not clear whether the codes are
catching on. For starters, tourists simply may not know what QR codes are or that
they are meant to be scanned with smartphones. Furthermore, many foreign travellers
will not have data coverage overseas – and then of course, there are those
tourists who simply don’t own smartphones.
smartphone users, data shows that QR code usage is low. According
to comScore, which conducts research on the digital world, only 6.2% of the
US mobile audience scanned QR codes in June 2011, which suggests that the
general public is not yet aware of, or interested in, QR codes.
Which is why, said
Tnooz travel tech blogger Nick Vivion, “at the moment… there is simply just
not much evidence of widespread consumer acceptance of [QR codes] to justify
its integration so visibly in a city like Rio”.
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