JAGTAGs, QR Codes and Apps - Oh, My!

Mobile technologies such as JAGTAGS, QR codes and apps deliver information and functionality at your fingertips.

Okay, I admit it – if you had asked me six months ago what a JAGTAG or QR code is, I wouldn't have been able to give you an intelligent answer. But I'm learning fast and finding out that these odd little boxes popping up everywhere have some nifty benefits once you know how to use them.

JAGTAGs (named for the company that developed them) are a proprietary form of 2D bar code technology containing embedded information. They can be used by anyone with a mobile phone and unlimited text messaging capability; no special apps, downloads or mobile web access are required. Simply take a picture of the JAGTAG box (see an example in the Bobcat ad on page ??) and text it to the JAGTAG server at 524824 or email it to a specified email address. In return, you receive the stated content (in this example, a video) via a text message response.

Quick Response (QR) codes are another form of advanced 2D barcode technology that work on the same principle as a JAGTAG. However, they are targeted specifically to users of smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.). In this case, the QR code (see example in the Wacker Neuson ad on page ??) is read by the phone's built-in QR reader or via a downloadable app. Simply point the phone's lens at the QR code box, and the reader will either recognize the code or prompt you to take a picture of the image. You will then be taken directly to a site to view the specified content (e.g., special promotions/discounts, specs, manuals, videos, contests, coupons, etc.).

For the uninitiated, "apps" (short for applications) such as a QR reader are essentially shortcuts to software programs that let you perform specified tasks. These programs are accessible via a computer, smartphone or other electronic device.

To get a better idea of how they work, here are a few examples of construction-related apps cited in the article "The Best Construction Management Apps for the iPhone and iPad", written by Houston Neal, director of marketing at Software Advice (www.softwareadvice.com):

• SmartBidNet — lets SmartBid users track bid and project information, and subcontractor and vendor interactions;

• goBIM — lets you to view BIM models from your mobile device;

• Concretulator or Concrete Calculator — both apps help you calculate how much concrete is required for a project;

• BuildCalc — allows you to perform many different types of project estimates and calculations.

• Procore — lets users of Procore construction software create, manage and share project data.

Of course, construction publications are getting in on the app action, as well. Take the Sustainable Construction iPad app recently introduced by Cygnus Business Media. Once downloaded, it lets you interactively view articles and additional content from the publication and website, plus sends out alerts as new content is loaded onto the home site. (Watch for similar apps coming your way in the near future.)

As a contractor, you may be asking what any of this has to do with you and your business. Essentially, such technology is designed to deliver information and functionality at your fingertips, 24/7. This immediate feedback means you devote less time and energy searching for the materials or tools you need to run your business. And who knows? There may be ways you can use this technology to enhance interactions with your own customers and prospects — delivering information they need in a unique, easily accessible, manner.