The Checkup: Can QR Codes Curb Bike Theft?

The $15 solution could make it easier to track a stolen bike

I’m happy to report I’ve never had a bike get stolen—anyone have a piece of wood to knock on?—but I’ve got plenty of friends who have. And we’ve all seen those YouTube videos, where a person hacksaws a U-lock in plain daylight and the pedestrians walking by do nothing to stop it. Sigh.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia brings news of a $15 fix that might make it easier to find your bike if it gets stolen: QR codes. It works like this: Bike owners can buy the tamper-proof codes with unique ID numbers and stick them on their bike. If the bike gets stolen, the owner can register it as such in the system. Then—and here’s the rub—it’s up to to other smartphone users to scan the code if they see a “suspicious” bike on the street. A scanned bike that comes up as stolen would alert the owner, the police, area bike shops and other vigilantes in the area.

I’m skeptical. I mean, it’s a good idea in theory, but at the end of the day, the system is built on the hope that a Good Samaritan would see something and take action—which kinda takes us back to the YouTube videos we started with. What do you think? Could it work?

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  • QR-Reactor

    Over 70% of QR Code scanning is worthless!
    Sometimes business owners can be their own worst enemies. They come across a new marketing strategy and dive head first into it. You only have to see the daily examples of bad QR Code usage to understand exactly what I’m going on about.
    QR Codes have recently received much publicity and are appearing everywhere from billboards to haircuts, in magazines on business cards and even on TV screens. There have been some really worthwhile and engaging QR Code marketing campaigns especially the trial by Tesco in the South Korean subways, with their virtual supermarket.
    QR Codes and the emerging Near Field Communication are merely ways in which brands and companies can connect with mobile users. What many of the early adopters of QR Codes have failed to realise is that the connection is only the beginning of the engagement between the brand or business and the consumer. Under a third of mobile users who have used QR Codes say that the reward they receive is worth the effort. If that is the case then we can safely assume that 70% of brands or businesses are using QR Codes ineffectively. For those like me who are involved in the QR Code industry these statistics could be frightening. I say could be frightening because I sincerely believe that QR Codes can be an effective marketing tool if they are used correctly. They act as bridge between the offline and online worlds. Once marketers have got the consumer to cross that bridge they must realise that this is only the beginning of the engagement cycle. The consumer has gone through multiple steps to make the connection and cross the bridge and the marketing companies must do similar if the connection is to be rewarding for both parties.
    In a recently released white paper “The QR Question” from research firm Russell Herder nearly half those interviewed felt the exchange was unfair.
    In my mind many businesses think that by using QR Codes they will be regarded as ‘Cutting edge’ as early adopters of new technology. They go on-line find a free QR Code, slap in on some printed material and hey presto their cool!
    Like any marketing initiative the use of QR Codes should be well thought out, goals set and ways to achieve these goals carefully planned out. QR Code Marketers should be looking at ways of rewarding customers, building loyalty and helping them market the business through referrals, word-of-mouth and social networking.
    QR codes present remarkable opportunities to connect with the right consumers at exactly the right time. Imagine a customer walking into your store he or she scans a QR Code and you deliver something of real value direct to the mobile device. You should research what motivates your customers and the reward you deliver should be appropriate.
    Another major pitfall in QR Code Marketing is that businesses fails to track and trace the QR Code usage so they have very little idea of what is working and what is not. The are some great QR Code generating platforms out there now that will allow you to generate unique QR Codes and track and trace their usage. If marketing companies and businesses have no idea when and where the QR Codes are being scanned how can they improve their marketing?

  • Skylar

    I see one major weakness here… duct tape.