I currently have the pleasure of spending the week in Paris, visiting a family member who is here for the year. As always, I paid attention to the technology in use, looking for things that were new, innovative, cutting edge, unique or unusual. Sad to say, I saw almost nothing of the kind as it relates to bar codes or QR codes.
What did I find? QR codes are barely in use. I saw only one store window that had a code and only two magazine or newspaper ads that had a code. I did see a QR code taped to the sidewalk several times, but it was not scannable.
The presence of point of sale systems however, was notable, with most shops having a basic POS system, and mobile credit card scanning and receipt printing was actually the norm. The most common device I saw (and perhaps this was because I spent a lot of time at outdoor bistros enjoying beverages) was a handheld card reader that accepted the smart chip/pin cards at it's base, accepted magnetic stripe cards through a slot along the side, and printed a receipt on thermal paper about the width of a traditional cash register tape. I am pleased to say that I saw a genuine economy of receipt paper - unlike the United States, where a retailer like Target might use two feet of receipt paper to print not only a receipt, but a variety of coupons, and where Panera uses six inches of three inch wide thermal paper to create a receipt for a single cup of coffee. But the Parisians are far more frugal. Interestingly enough, my American Express card was not welcome - I could have left home without it. Most merchants did not accept it. My son told me that he was essentially unable to use the American Express card I had given him when he left for college. I commiserated with those challenges and he did not appear to notice the fleeting look of delight that had crossed my face. I cannot even begin to imagine how money much I saved by this stroke of luck.
One of the unusual and interesting applications I say was a self-contained POS kiosk that rented bicycles.
All over Paris are bicycle rental and return locations - dozens of them. Control is handled by a kiosk and an electronic tracking system that knows if and when the bike you have rented has been returned. Very easy to use, by virtue of a touch screen interface and credit card reader, you can rent bikes by the day, week or prepaid membership card. The terminal charged me a few euros for the day, and I was able to rent a bike and return it to another kiosk location several miles away. There are numerous rental and return locations in common public places throughout the city.
This is a wonderfully green application that I'd like to see elsewhere.
All other things aside, QR codes or not, Paris has been a delight and I look forward to another visit.
Written by Craig Aberle
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