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Antwerp becomes smart city as QR codes offer info to travelers

The Belgian city of Antwerp is poised to lead the pack of ?smart? cities as it leverages public QR codes posted in shops and stations to disperse travel information to smartphone users.

The city has seen success after implementing generated QR codes in Belgian transit systems for riders to scan for arrival and departure information, among other travel features. With nearly 10,900 scans tracked this past July, other cities are taking notice of the mobile functionality and are approaching parent company Mobile Leaves to leverage the technology on their own streets.

?In the first couple of weeks, over 5,000 travelers used the QR codes created by De Lijn, using our QR code generator,? said Diego Gopen, founder of parent company Mobile Leaves, Miami, Fla. ?Today?s numbers got multiplied by 10 times! It?s really satisfying to see how passengers find QR codes useful for retrieving information about the mobility in their city, especially in rush hours.?

Relevant features
Travelers that use their mobile device to scan one of the city?s QR codes can access a plethora of relevant information, including up-to-the-minute transportation schedules. The codes were designed to save money on city equipment and outdated tracking methods. believes that the codes will transform how transportation companies communicate real-time information to customers.

?Leveraging mobile in dispersing travel information is very important and efficient in this day and age as it is cost-effective and since those traveling almost always have their mobile device within arm?s reach,? said Bill Aurnhammer, CEO of Aurnhammer, New York.

?I think that De Lijn?s main goals were, for starters, to facilitate transport information to Antwerp?s citizens in real time, and secondly, as QR codes are computer driven and have minimal operating costs, they are a great alternative to other systems that rely on expensive electronic displays that must be maintained to ensure their functionality, along with support staff,? Mr. Gopen said. ?In the case of QR codes, each consumer is responsible for his or her own display (aka their mobile devices).?

Antwerp was able to save considerable amounts of capital by not purchasing and maintaining more electronic boards. In the initial test, 350 QR codes were installed in shops and stations across the province.

The codes can be scanned with any generic QR code reader designed for mobile devices.

Smart cities
The QR codes were scanned 3,510 times in May, with the number increasing by 41 percent in June. The growing adoption rate has prompted other Belgian provinces, including Flanders, to roll out the technology to citizens.

QR codes could have a significant effect on city finances if the technology continues to be successful. For travelers, the ability to scan a code and receive an updated list of train and bus times on a smartphone is a convenience that is sure to resonate strongly with the general public.

?I think that once the word gets around and other city officials realize how ?smart? cities like Antwerp and Abu Dhabi are offering public QR codes to smartphone users for quick information in order to cut spending and simplify the process of traveling, they will do the same,? Mr. Aurnhammer said.

?Other mobile technology that city officials can use in order to be more accessible to the public and its needs are Beacons and Near-Field Communication (NFC),? he said. ?For instance, Boston?s Logan Airport could install Beacons in each terminal, which in turn would send out notifications to passengers waiting in the gate for a delayed flight.

?Companies like Panasonic Avionics are already using NFC in-flight for duty-free and beverage purchases that can be done on a smart-phone.?

?At we think it?s time for cities to get smarter; by improving the quality of life of its inhabitants, but also by being budget wiser (and not only in crisis times),?'s Mr. Gopen said. ?QR codes can certainly check both points. From our Antwerp and other cities experience, we can confirm that consumers are ready for this upgrade in their public transportation.?