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Discussion: QR code orienteering

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 12, 2016 12:54 PM # 
I saw JimBaker mention QR codes versus permanent courses. I would like a thread where we could discuss experiences on QR code orienteering as a possible alternative to permanent courses, successes, pitfalls, etc.

Last year I mapped the little park near my house for MNOC's Adventure race, a small stop for the adventure challenge task and for a small orienteering course. The park also has a "reading trail" and other things for kids, so the park manager and I decided that orienteering might be a nice addition. We did not go the permanent course route precisely because of the trails that form, and the park has areas where they want to restore the prairie, and also does not want a lot of people going off trail.

I printed iOrienteering QR codes, laminated them and attached them with zip ties. Cheap and easily replaceable. We did it this summer and monitored it. Unless the QR codes were along the trails, at intersections, in high traffic areas (though not where one has to mow) stakes were fine, but should not be too tall. If they were hung in areas visible kind of visible from the trails, they were supposed to be not too obtrusive. So there were parameters I had to work around. We also played with the size, how big should the marker be.

Then summer came and I took notes to tweak things for the other two parks I have everything lined up for and the one for which an iOrienteering course is planned. There are many controls which have to be moved for next year because the vegetation growth over the summer and the given parameters of unobtrusiveness did not jive. I am also checking how they hold up if exposed to the sun.

Initially the park printed and laminated the QR codes for me. I had to redo them, as hot laminating works far better than cold laminating. Second lesson learned is: cut a corner off the paper before laminating, and leave a 1 cm edge at top and bottom of laminate without paper. If attaching by zip tie, punch a whole in the corner without paper. If attaching by staples to a wooden stake, put staples through edges without paper. Otherwise moisture will get in to the paper through the tiny punch holes. A "duh" moment after the heavy rain days in spring.

Eager to learn from anyone else who has gone this direction. Also in terms of advertising it, getting out the word, etc., whatever else useful in this topic.
Oct 12, 2016 2:01 PM # 
DVOA hasn't implemented one yet but I did a QR course near Plano, TX while I was on a work trip. It was nice that I could access from my phone and not have to go to a park office.

Unfortunately I hit a glitch when one of the controls was missing, and it wouldn't let me skip. It was also a little tricky to read the map and use the QR reader at the same time, but that might be due to my phone settings. The course has a bunch of controls and randomly picks 10 which makes it new each time. More info in the links
Oct 12, 2016 2:11 PM # 
Laminating tips: you definitely need to leave a plastic border around the edge to get a good seal. And Amy hole punched need to be through just plastic border, at least a couple mm from any paper. If heat laminating, make sure the laminator is fully warmed up to the correct temperature for the thickness of the laminate you are using (thicker sheets are stiffer and may hold up better for outdoor use), but require a little higher temperature for a good seal. If you're not sure that you got a good seal, it doesn't hurt to run the laminate through the machine a second time.

Expect that laminates left outdoors year round will need to be replaced from time to time; they will deteriorate more quickly if they get a lot of direct sunlight.

As to QR codes, it's nice if each one has a traditional letter or number as well so that you can still do the course without a phone or QR app.
Oct 12, 2016 5:54 PM # 
Mike's last comment raises a key point in my mind:
Just what is the reason for using QR codes (which, I, personally have never used for anything, since they appear to only be an obtuse way to link to a website that could easily be found with a search engine), instead of a simple alphanumeric code? It seems to me that the laminated tag itself would address the flexibility / overuse issue...
Oct 12, 2016 6:50 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Just what is the reason for using QR codes?

For one, orienteering apps already exist that use QR code functionality as a means for punching. You don't have to reinvent the wheel by creating an app where you type in an alphanumeric code.

Also, QR codes are more specific than a search engine. CascadeOC has the most permanent courses of any club, and we're now putting on QR codes on the laminated caps which point directly to the page on our website where you can download maps. If someone finds one of our markers and wonders what it is, there's a QR code (and web address) that points directly to where the map is and how people can get involved.
Oct 12, 2016 7:46 PM # 
@Pink Socks: are you thus using 2 QR codes per marker, one to point to the website and one as CP for the timing App?
Oct 12, 2016 7:52 PM # 
For the course that I set, the QR code is the same as the alphanumeric control code (printed on each face of the marker), plus the name of the course. I used the MOBO app. One person did the course using the app, others can do it just using a printed map and ignoring the QR code and NFC tag. (The NFC tag is yet another thing that contains just the control code and the name of the course, for use by the app. With some phones, it can be easier to "tap" than to use a QR reader, depending in part on light conditions and wind. QR code and NFC are two options for doing the course using an app.)
Oct 12, 2016 7:53 PM # 
By the way, beacons might be a yet easier way to punch using an app. Dunno whether any app currently supports them.
Oct 12, 2016 8:15 PM # 
Pink Socks:
We just have one (pointing to the website page about permanent courses and map downloads).

It'd be fun to have them all hooked up to one of the mobile apps, but it's not something we've done yet, and not something on my personal to-do list (e-punch programming and permanent courses are two important things that I've personally decided to not focus on; I'd rather be useful elsewhere).
Oct 12, 2016 8:15 PM # 
@pink: Thank you for that explanation! I can definitely now see the utility of QR codes on permanent courses as not just for "punching", but for promotion/information.

Now, I just need to figure out how to read them with my phone (Samsung S6 active)...
Oct 12, 2016 8:22 PM # 
Guy - I'm pretty happy with this QR app. Haven't used it for O type stuff though
Oct 12, 2016 8:55 PM # 
Thanks, Clint! Just tried it...
Oct 12, 2016 8:56 PM # 
Until now I have only put the CP QR on the markers, and the course QR on the maps posted in the park, with a link to the maps on my page
But @pink's way of using QRs opens up new possibilities, as it is the advertising and promoting that I struggle with most
Oct 12, 2016 11:44 PM # 
While the QR code may be cool and efficient, it's a great idea to have the website printed on the tag above or below the code. Not everybody is able to read QR codes, not everybody carries a phone when they happen to walk by the marker. I'm not saying that having QR codes isn't a great idea, but like any technology, some percentage of people won't use it. For starters, if I see a random QR code with no explanation, how do I know it won't take me to a porn site or drop adware or spyware on me? Stating the purpose on the marker gives it legitimacy.
Oct 12, 2016 11:58 PM # 
For starters, if I see a random QR code with no explanation, how do I know it won't take me to a porn site or drop adware or spyware on me? Stating the purpose on the marker gives it legitimacy.

Somewhat. Our state public transport agency stopped putting QR codes on their advertising posters on trains because some smartass started sticking new codes over the top which redirected to porn sites.
Oct 13, 2016 1:05 AM # 
The QR reader cmorse suggested, and I installed, shows you the url, and gives you the option of copying it, going there, or cancelling.
Oct 13, 2016 10:05 PM # 
What are the orienteering apps that use QR codes? Are any better than the others? (not being able to skip controls, for example, seems like a bit of a problem)
Oct 13, 2016 10:36 PM # 
MOBO is one such app. It's intended for permanent courses that can be done in any order. Results are published online by the app writer, who charges for including a course in the app apparently to cover server costs. The app can also use NFC tags.
Oct 14, 2016 11:07 AM # 
iOrienteering is the one I use. Author willing to make adjustments.

This discussion thread is closed.