On Tuesday, The New York Times published an article about a QR code test campaign that is currently taking place in Albany, New York's transit system. The test is being conducted for the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) by Lamar Advertising Company, one of the country's largest outdoor advertising businesses. The goal of the test is to determine the visibility and effectiveness of 2D codes in the transit system.
Billboards are being displayed throughout the system (on board buses, in rail and bus stations), and featured on the billboard is a large QR code and website URL address. The website URL address, QRiousAlbany.com, is the same website to which the code resolves.
When a passenger scans the QR code or goes to the website, they can read about the campaign and what QR codes are, but due to the very tongue and cheek way in which the code is described, I am not sure passengers will fully grasp what the technology is all about and how it can be of use and benefit. Additionally, the website offers passengers an opportunity to fill in an entry form/survey to win a new iPad or CDTA transit passes. I believe I read somewhere that the test will be on going for the next few weeks.
It's great to see that an organization wants to test the feasibility of 2D technology before going all in, but I have some questions/reservations about the test in and of itself.
Of the pictures that I have been able to find for the test campaign, it does not appear as though there is any call to action, nor any reference to the iPad giveaway. To me this does not seem like a real test case scenario in that most any organization is going to/should use a call to action or promotional offer to draw people into scanning the code. Here it seems as though the agency and transit system are relying purely on passenger curiosity. It seems a little apples and oranges versus reality.
Also, there does not appear to be any set of instructions on how to scan the code or where to locate and download a QR code reader app. So, what is really being tested here, a passenger's ability to "figure it out" or which is the easier path to take (i.e., figure it out and scan the code or type in the URL)? It is worth noting that there is a question on the survey, which asks, "How did you get to this site?"
Regardless of whether or not passengers figure it out or type in the address, another red flag can be raised about the survey. How does the agency and transit system know for certain that the person filling out the entry form/survey is really a passenger? Anyone that comes across this article and realizes that a free iPad is at stake can go to the website and enter to win. Even though there is a question on the survey which asks, "How did you hear about this site?" Saw a QR code/From a friend/Social Media," there is no other apparent method being used to verify true passenger status.
Although I do not know the specifics of the test campaign, what I have been able to learn in the public domain gives me pause about the potential findings of the research. To me, it seems as though the test is too vague and I am not really certain what, in fact, is being tested. I believe there could have been a number of other ways of conducting this type of test, ways which could lead to more concrete answers and possible solutions and or opportunities.
Overall, as I have written in recent posts, news such as this is all well and good in that it raises the awareness and hopefully the comfort level of consumers in relation to the technology, but if tests as well as campaigns are not executed as best as possible then this could slow adoption in the U.S. that much more.
I have an email into Lamar asking to talk about the test campaign. Any further news I hope to share.