Madison Heights implements QR codes

Scan allows quick download of permits and documents

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 16, 2012

 Linda Williams, economic development coordinator for the city of Madison Heights, spearheaded the implementation of QR codes for quick and efficient access to important city documents like this zoning map. The codes are now in use at the city’s Community Development Department.

Linda Williams, economic development coordinator for the city of Madison Heights, spearheaded the implementation of QR codes for quick and efficient access to important city documents like this zoning map. The codes are now in use at the city’s Community Development Department.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MADISON HEIGHTS — To the human eye, a QR code is indecipherable, a checkered mass of black-and-white squares. Scan it with a smartphone, though, and what looks like senseless TV static becomes a link to a website — no typing necessary.

Originally used in the auto industry to track vehicles during the manufacturing process, “quick reference” codes are growing in popularity thanks to the rise of smartphones, which effectively double as barcode readers.

Now QR codes are seen everywhere, from trade shows where they provide supplementary information in the palm of your hand, to magazine ads, billboards and even the sides of transport trucks, where they link to a product’s website with the click of a button.

Recognizing their ease of use, the city of Madison Heights has started using QR codes in the Community Development Department.

Say you’re a contractor and you need to carry some important documentation with you in the field. Now you can stop by the CDC and check out the 11-inch-by-17-inch sheet displaying QR codes for all of the major permits, handouts, ordinances, maps, forms and more. A quick click will upload a copy to your smartphone.

Where forms are concerned, you can now digitally fill them out on your phone before printing them for submittal. The new fill-able forms are also available at the city’s website, www.madison-heights.org, for those who don’t have smartphones.

Eventually, the city hopes to add the ability to submit the filled-out forms electronically, but for now, the QR codes and fill-able forms are a cutting-edge way to sort through the clutter and increase efficiency.

“It gives people more guidance,” said Jim Schafer, community development director. “You scan it, it brings the documents up on your smartphone. You have it with you, and you can reference it or print it with a wireless printer. For our contractors, this will give them very quick access to the kinds of documents and applications they use in the field on a daily basis.”

From a procedural standpoint, the setup is simple: A web URL is encoded as a barcode that is then decoded by the smartphone, and the link points the phone back to its web destination, without the need to type the underlying address in a browser.

“I think it’s pretty slick,” Schafer said. “I’ve observed more and more folks utilizing their smartphones for pretty much everything these days. It’s just another way we can hopefully make it more convenient for our customers to access our information.”

The use of QR codes in the CDC was first suggested by Linda Williams, the city’s economic development coordinator.

“We have never heard of this in any other community, so we’re hoping this will set a best practice standard,” Williams said. “There are a couple reasons for doing this. First, it’s easy access — a lot of contractors are working off their smartphones; it’s nearly replaced the laptop or standard computer desktop. With that wireless capability, they can even print in their own work truck or van.

“But the other advantage is you can have quick access to all our forms, take it home and review it, and cut back on some of the paper,” she said. “We want to reduce paperwork and eventually phase out to a paper-less operation, to cut down on the cost.

“A lot of these QR codes are also used by some of the younger generation, the busy professionals looking for more efficient ways of getting things,” Williams added. “We are offering this as a service for our counter, so when you come to our counter, you will use your time efficiently. This is a way for us to reach out to the tech-savvy generation.”

The Community Development Department is located at 300 W. 13 Mile and can be reached by calling (248) 583-0831.

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