You’ve probably seen QR (Quick Response) codes on magazine ads and elsewhere. Essentially a square barcode composed of varying sizes of black squares, QR codes were originally developed for the automotive industry, but have become increasingly popular for in-store and print advertising, commercial tracking, and ticketing. QR codes are a great way to get URLs, text, or contact information on to a cell phone in seconds.

Many smartphones are now equipped with QR code scanning software, but if yours isn’t, you can easily download the necessary app.  In order to find a QR scanner for your phone, Google “QR reader” along with  the model of your cell phone. On my BlackBerry Tour, I’m using QR Code Scanner Pro, which was free.

You can use this technology to tag your key ring, phone, or other item. Your custom QR code can contain your contact information, making it easy for someone who finds your item or device to contact you. If you prefer, the QR code can trigger a text message to your phone, thereby identifying (via their phone number) whoever found your item (of course this isn’t the approach you’d use for your phone!).

Creating your QR code is simple. There are a number of sites which enable you to do so; I’ve been using

Once you’ve created your code, it’s simply a matter of printing it and attaching it to your phone or other device; simply taping it onto the back of your phone with clear tape is inelegant, but effective. With my key ring, I used a laminator and hole punched the laminated QR code so I could attach it to the split ring.

Perhaps this is stating something that you might have intuitively sensed, but the more elaborate your message, the more complicated the QR code’s pattern; keep it simple. I opted for a simple text message along the lines of “Call XXX-XXX-XXXX REWARD.”  (Try scanning the code at the top of this article.) What you opt for is your choice.

If you haven’t investigated QR codes, give it a shot. If you use them in the manner described here, there’s certainly no guarantee you’ll get your lost item back, but it should improve your chances.

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5 Comments on Use a custom QR code to get your lost keys or phone back

  1. Matt says:

    This has geek appeal, but if you just want your keys back, wouldn’t a simple “If found, call 212-555-1212” in plain text reach more people than a QR code?


    Kevin Reply:

    But of course, but where’s the geeky fun in that? ;-) Actually, my phone has both an “ICE” and a “Me” entry, with full contact info. As for my keys, a phone # on the back of the QR tag makes sense.


  2. K-eM says:

    The only problem with this would be that only about 35% of people in the US have smart phones and only some of those have learned about QR codes (although that’s changing). It’s certainly better than nothing, but something to keep in mind.

    However, if you’re traveling in Asia using a QR code is a snap since they’re on the verge of replacing bar codes in many areas. Especially Japan and South Korea.


  3. Robert says:

    I liked this idea, except for the manner of attaching it to keys. So I found the following mini-photo keychain online:


  4. Adriano says:

    On a recent event I had finished my business cards, so I opted for an improvised QR code straight on the screen of my phone… And at least one person got it!


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