Google have come up with another cool tool, this time a service that can turn a URL into a chart for you.  The Google Chart API can generate a variety of charts (pie, bar, line etc) that are returned as a .PNG file, ready to be embedded into a web page.

The one that caught my attention though is the option to generate a QR Code.  If you haven't come across these before, these are 2-dimensional bar codes, which can carry more than just a short numeric sequence like traditional barcodes.  QR Codes can contain ASCII or ISO text, or Internet URLs.  In Japan they are used for carrying Kanji messages, i.e. in traditional Japanese alphabet.  Using the Google site, I can generate a QR Code for the Dialogic DEN site like this:

Which looks like this:

But what makes QR Codes really interesting is that many mobile phone handsets these days can read them, or will do when a suitable application is loaded.  QR readers are available for all the common mobile phone OSes including Java ME, Symbian, iPhone and even now Android.  So using a mobile phone, you can wave the camera over a QR Code, and the information is instantly scanned and retrieved inside the handset.  For example my Nokia phone can read the QR codes from the Google site simply by facing the camera towards the screen of my computer within about half a metre.  It picks up the information in one second without any special attempt to align the QR Code in the camera display.  This is a powerful way to store information quickly in the phone; you could have these printed on a poster to advertise and event or promotion of some kind, or even a URL link that the phone browser could follow for more information. 

Some handsets are being fitted today with RFID chips so that they can be used as part of contactless information transfer, but using QR Codes and the Internet (or even SMS) seems a much better solution, since most handsets these days already have some kind of camera built in.