Friday, 24 February 2017

Odd use of QR code

I was rather puzzled by an item in the post today (for someone else in the house) that had this on it...

It has a Royal Mail 4 state barcode for the postcode and delivery point suffix (the bit below the QR code). However, it is a lot smaller than the required size from the RM spec (as I recall) so is probably not actually doing any good.

But as it also had a QR code I was curious what that said - are RM using QR codes for postcodes now I wondered... That would not be a daft idea, to be honest.

Well, for start, the QR code is "bad". It does not have the required 3 units white border (quiet zone), though a lot of people seem to ignore that and it would usually read without. It also seems to have been truncated at the bottom by almost one unit, which is messy and could make it hard to read. That say, QR codes have a lot of built in error correction, so a good chance it reads on most readers.

What seems particularly special is the content of the QR code. It is the word "Scanned". That is it!

Seriously, WTF is the point of that?


  1. Maybe it is as horrible as the app on some sort of handheld device that they use just types the contents of the QR code into a text field and presses save...

  2. Still seems rather pointless from a data entry and ink usage prospective...

    e.g. if it had a unique ID for the item, then you tap status or had a sheet (like in a supermarket) of statuses, fair enough... but, I fail to see the point of just a single word that doesn't really tie it with anything.

    At best, you would have to scan an ID of a unique item, then scan this...

    Maybe... all I can think of is automated sorters/security that place this after doing a step... then, if it goes in to the same machine and sees this, it bypasses something.

    Even in the above, I guess at the rate of mail that RM get through a SQL query for a unique ID may add too much overhead.

    Maybe I'm overthinking this... but so interesting to me!

  3. It could be a test phase of some form of future development. Rather than write the code to generate QR codes and track stuff, they're just going to see if all of the items expected (as a quantity) get "scanned" successfully. Then they can work on the rest of the system later.

  4. Interesting comment I received somewhat indirectly...

    "Sorting Offices regularly find items with unofficial barcodes added stating 'secure tracking' or similar. They are nothing to do with Royal Mail and are simply ignored. No doubt it's just a cheap way of making one's parcels look like they're being tracked, without actually paying for that service."

    And the conclusion from a friend seems apt:

    "Your envelope sounds like a firm selling you a £10 “tracked delivery” service, whacking on a fake tracking sticker and then paying RM only £1.50 for bog-standard second class mail !"

    1. Its this, some companies are going a step further. They have bulk royal mail collections and stick valid self printed labels on some packets, and fake ones on others. My contact at royal mail told me that they know this happens, but at present its cheaper to deliver the fraudulently labelled items.