by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 21 March 2012
From large mall promotions to private parties, all you have to do is flash your smartphone and you are in.
I am, of course, referring to Quick Response or QR codes as they are popularly known. While they are extremely popular with large corporations, QR codes have yet to gain traction with small businesses. That's a pity since they can be pretty useful for small businesses.
This week we will review MapYourTag: an inventory management application that makes QR codes accessible to small businesses. We will look at its interface, features and see how it can be of use to you.
For the uninitiated, QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that enable users to track and identify objects. Originally developed at the Toyota manufacturing facility to track inventory, QR code usage has exploded in recent times, thanks to smart phones. As I mentioned earlier, they are used for a variety of activities from tracking inventory and objects to designing private party invitations.
Most people confuse QR codes with bar codes. But, there is an important difference. Although they work on the same principle, bar code applications are expensive on-premise applications. QR codes, however, can be generated from anywhere and have utilities that go beyond traditional inventory tracking.
One such use led MapYourTag's founder Laurent Magniez to develop the application. Magniez's friends found it difficult to manage and track medical beds in hospitals. This was because they used "cumbersome" spreadsheets as databases. In addition to being a time-consuming exercise, the process was also highly inefficient.So, Magniez developed a QR code system for them that enabled workers to simply swipe their smartphones and track their medical inventory.
Because it is a novel application, MapYourTag's utility might throw small businesses off-track. The interesting thing about this application is that it has several uses besides logistics. For example, you can use it to run promotions at your small business. Or, you can use it to ensure efficient delivery and tracking of customer orders.
Besides making QR codes accessible to small businesses, MapYourTag offers three benefits, according to Magniez.
Tagging With QR Codes
The key concept in MapYourTag is resource.
"Basically, a resource is anything you want to track or stick a QR code on," says Magniez. Because of its broad definition, a resource can be anything from an asset to a device to people to an animal. Although the concept of QR codes sounds technical, it is fairly easy to create a new one using MapYourTag.
First, you need to define your resource (or the object that needs to be tracked). In the second step, you add details about the resource. Finally, you print the system-generated QR code and scan it with your mobile.
Simple enough, right?
Wait. There's more.
You can also add details about your resource using custom forms such as type of resource and whether it is required or not. In addition, you can organize resources with similar characteristics and assign them to Google maps. The application then transforms into a geo-location feature enabling you to track your resource as it moves through a business cycle. Users configure statuses for your resource at each location. Thus, your smartphone- or mobile phone- field user can update statuses using the scanned QR code application.
The premise is interesting and cheap. However, the solution could do with integrations at the back end; this is because most businesses tend to work with third-party enterprise planning systems and customer relationship management applications. MapYourTag can make your system more efficient. Data gleaned and available from MapYourTag could be integrated with such applications for a comprehensive snapshot of the business. Similarly, it might be an idea for the application's developers to include reporting capability for analyzing system data.
Because it is fairly simple to use, the system has only two roles:
The resource owner manages and sets application parameters, the field user simply updates resource status. Magniez tells me that the solution will soon have a major upgrade. This upgrade will include features such as email triggers during a QR code scan to alert resource owners, filtering options, and a search engine.
The Basics: What Does The Interface Look Like?
The interface is in a state of rapid evolution. When I checked last week, the interface was mainly a scroll-down web page. Because the screen was text-based, it was difficult to conceptualize or create resources using the system.
One week later, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Lugubrious text had been replaced with a DIY wizard that led users through the resource creation and user configuration process. Magniez told me their team had reworked the interface, based on extensive feedback from customers.
"Our aim is to improve and make our application simple and easy-to-use," he says. With their current evolution, reaching that goal should not be too difficult.
The interface is a simple, horizontal panel that displays main tasks in a tabbed manner. Each task can be performed specifically under a single tab.
Considering that the application is fairly simple and easy-to-use, support needs are minimal or reduced. However, the solution offers contextual support as well as email support. Magniez says their general response time is within 1-2 working days.
Is It For You?
I thought the concept and execution of MapYourTag was unique and interesting. Because this is such a new technology, QR codes useage and growth will be organic. This means that, as a small business, you can find your own use for it. The good part is that the solution is cheap; thus, returns on investment are almost assured. I definitely recommend MapYourTag, if only to discover its uses for your small business.