Tuesday, September 6, 2011
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They're popping up everywhere - but they're not new. You've likely already seen a code similar to the one displayed here in advertisements, on business cards, signs or almost any object which might provide user information.
It's called a QR (Quick Response) code. It was created by a subsidiary of Toyota in 1994 as a means of decoding content at high speed. They're used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing, and in practice by Japan and South Korea extensively for over a decade now.
While the patent is owned by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave, the firm has chosen not to exercise them. Use of QR codes is free of any license restrictions.
This has allowed the two-dimensional code to be used in a much broader context. The code can contain a URL, such as the one that appears in this article. Scan it with your smartphone for quick access to our website at GCFBank.com.
QR codes could contain text. I scanned the one embedded in my DirecTV statement to learn of a promotion they're offering on one of their satellite TV packages. Find schedule information, nutritional information or contact information by scanning codes provided by vendors.
Help your best friend find their way home by attaching a QR code to your pet's collar. You can include anything pertinent such as their name, phone, address, vet's name or medical records.
Virtually any information you want to convey can be embedded in a QR code. They're designed to be read by any smartphone device with a camera. Expect to see them everywhere soon as marketers create promotions geared towards mobile consumers.
According to Nielsen, there are more than 64 million mobile users in the U.S. alone, and they often turn to their devices to buy goods and services. They use them for banking, travel, shopping, using social media and much more. Some even use them to make or receive phone calls.
The marketing potential is explosive. Folks are always connected to their mobile device. Establish a presence right in the palm of their hand!
Target your campaigns to match those most likely to use your product. For instance, stores can text a one-use coupon to a customer who is within 100 feet of their establishment. Their phone beeps to display your coupon. They look up to see your storefront within walking distance. They're walking through your door. You've got them hooked.
Decoding the black and white dots is as simple as downloading a reader app, aiming at the square, and watching for the corresponding data to appear in the palm of your hand. The phone will vibrate slightly when properly capturing the image.
Most apps are free, but use caution when downloading any app onto your mobile device. There is risk involved with any download. And users aren't quite as savvy about avoiding fraud on their phones yet, making them a haven for scammers who have more time than scruples.
I use Jared's QR Code Scanner Pro on my Blackberry. The download was quick and simple. The app launches and functions just as easily. Choose from one of two options: either scan a QR code or choose one from your scan history. It can't get any easier than that.
Those of you with an iPhone might try Redlaser. It's simple to remember and automatically recognizes QR codes. You can find a good review of iPhone scanner apps at this site.
Have an Android phone? Try Google Goggles. The next update of Windows Phone 7 will allow code scanning through their Bing search app.
Anyone can create a QR code of their own. A quick web search will offer several sites that offer the service.
If you want to capture a website, use Google's URL shortening service at Goo.gl, then click on 'Details' to see your customized code. Save the image to use wherever you please.
Create code with a URL, text, phone number or SMS text message at kaywa.com. This one is easy to use but for personal use only. Commercial use is prohibited.
As there is no standard reader, a certain level of error resolution is necessary for each to properly decipher a QR code. No matter how much control is built-in, the possibility of error remains. Some codes may not work with a certain device or software version.
If our QR code does not work for you, send an email to email@example.com along with device specifics. We'll do our best to give you quick, easy and reliable access to GCFBank.com.
The Search Continues
We all have our favorite search engines. I've used Google since it first launched. It was sleek, quick, and delivered results without all the superfluous text and ad downloads earlier offerings littered across my screen.
I was certain Google wouldn't survive for long. How could they, without all that ad revenue? I thought the site would only appeal to a select niche, those who didn't need their hand held, walking them through every step of the search process as was common in those early days. Just goes to show how much I really know.
Google became the standard from which every other engine has since been built. But that may not be the case much longer.
Google, Yahoo and others like it use what is termed in the industry as a horizontal search method. They crawl the world wide web, cataloging pages to add to their network. They rank pages by number of hits it gets, the number of high-quality sites that link to the page and how many times the keyword(s) used appear on the page.
Results are almost instantaneous. They're almost insurmountable too, as you'll get far too many to sift through. It can take effort to weed out those that are not relevant.
New search engines appear from time to time. More recently, the trend has shifted towards a vertical search method. Not only do they catalog pages to refer, but they also customize by location, topic or industry. Rather than return a thousand links, vertical search engines deliver results more relevant to the user.
These, too, have their downside. Since their results are more targeted, these sites can charge more for display ads as they're reaching their specific audience. Results may be prejudiced.
Sometimes we just don't know exactly what we're searching for. You saw a breathtaking image of rugged mountains piercing an azure sky. You want to see them in person. But where are they? Drag the image into Google's Image search box to identify.
Conduct a specialized search within Google. Find your favorite blog topics, search for U.S. Patents or a scholarly paper.
Would you prefer results presented in spreadsheet style? Enter a category into Google Squared. The engine extracts data from web pages and displays the results in rows and columns.
When I have more time to play around, I'll use Bing. Their landing page features images of places or environments most of us will never see. Slide your mouse around for informational tidbits about the day's presentation.
Subtopics to the left offer ideas for shopping, finding a flight or the latest business news. Click the 'More' tab on the results page to view Bing at a glance. From there you can choose by topic. Looking for a lasagna recipe? Need math help? Check traffic? All a mere click away.
While most of us turn to our search engine of choice instinctively, there are literally thousands available that may be more geared toward our specific topic, discipline, timeline, perspective or even age level. Point your browser here for a comprehensive list of where to search for those details you just can't find anywhere else.
Empirical data is now confirming what some analysts have been saying since the spring. The U.S. economy has stalled. The August jobs report showed a net gain of zero for new jobs in the US. This should be cause for alarm for Washington policy makers. Clearly the current polices have not, as of yet, had the intended effect. This is substantiated by virtually all recently released government economic data which confirms: GDP growth is very low and the unemployment rate remains very high.
The bleak unemployment situation is really a function of what has been one of the weakest recoveries in U.S. history. The current "recovery" has been anemic from the beginning, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, although positive, nowhere near robust enough to reduce the persistently high unemployment rate. In truth, to refer to the current pace of economic output as a "recovery" is perhaps misleading. By definition, as long as GDP does not dip negative for more than one quarter, the economy remains technically in a state that economists refer to as "recovery." Yet the very low rates of growth that the U.S. economy has been experiencing have no chance of reducing the unemployment rate. As a benchmark, it takes about a 2 percent GDP growth rate to keep the unemployment rate at the current level. Stated differently, if the U.S. economy cannot muster at least a 2 percent growth rate, the unemployment rate could actually push higher. Therefore, it is easy to deduce that the unemployment rate could stay high, and even rise further, during a period of recovery. Such a dismal situation was once considered highly unlikely. It now seems possible.
So why can an economy actually grow without adding more labor inputs (jobs)? The answer is related to productivity gains. Companies become more efficient over time and manage to produce the same output with fewer workers, or higher output with the same number of workers. This phenomena is generally positive and indeed necessary for standards of living to rise over time. But that is academic and of no consolation to those willing, yet unable to find work. And living standards would rise at an even faster pace if the same productivity gains were experienced while closer to what is considered "full employment" (about 5 percent unemployment).
Next week we'll discuss why a 5 percent unemployment rates is considered "full employment." And actually desirable.
GCFlash is a weekly e-mail sent only to its listed customers and associates free of charge. GCFlash informs customers of special product offerings which may be of interest, current interest rates on both deposit and loan products, selected financial news and other financial tidbits. GCFlash is intended to supplement the more comprehensive information listed on the GCF Web site at http://www.gcfbank.com.
For more comprehensive information, visit our Web site at http://www.gcfbank.com or call (856) 589-6600 Ext: 337 (Timothy P. Hand)GCFLASH PRIVACY STATEMENT
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