QR code scan Aarhus District09 QR code toolkit open source

City of Aarhus in Denmark reuses open source technology by District09

District09 developed a useful QR Code Toolkit. Thanks to open source development, Denmark's Aarhus is now also putting it to good use.

By: Tim Van Achte, Digital Innovation Project Manager at District09

Open source technology and international cooperation makes digital innovation faster and less expensive. That's why District09 likes to join forces with other cities and governments. An example: the QR Code Toolkit, an open source tool that facilitates the use of QR codes in public services. Thanks to the use of open source technology, the City of Aarhus in Denmark was able to use the tool as well.

This exciting collaboration with Aarhus could be set up thanks to Ghent's participation in the EU project SCORE (Smart Cities + open data REuse). It's a great example of how European grants encourage international cooperation. At OASC's (Open & Agile Smart Cities) CITYxCITY festival in 2022, several European cities explained how they improve public services with the use of digital solutions. During the session "Open Source solutions for Smart Communities" Kim Søvsø of the City of Aarhus explained the reuse of the QR Code toolkit.

QR codes in the city

The QR code opens up opportunities for better public services in cities. Kim cites some good examples:

  • Digital interface for physical objects or places, city infrastructure, cultural sites, everyday objects in the city,...
  • Digital registry to keep track of maintenance tasks
  • Allowing citizens to report or give feedback
  • Collect useful data related to QR code usage (with user consent)

Some drawbacks

Like Ghent, Aarhus ran into the limitations of using QR codes. Sometimes they can only be used in a specific application. Or the exact destination is "hardcoded", so the underlying location cannot be changed. The QR Code Toolkit eliminates those problems.

Enter the QR Toolkit

To meet the specific needs of the City of Aarhus, some modifications to the tool were required. The flexible open source base components District09 developed, made that possible, and allowed Aarhus to immediately develop three use cases for the tool:

First, Aarhus aims to overcome QR code fragmentation. The digital landscape for using, generating and managing QR codes is growing, with different applications specific to each vendor. The QR Code Toolkit provides uniformity, flexibility and usability for both administrators and end users.

Second, Aarhus wants to integrate QR codes into a labelling system for the city's technological objects in the public domain, such as IoT sensors. With a multipurpose QR code placed on these sensors, city staff as well as citizens can quickly view the sensor's data, or consult information about the data processing.

And finally, Aarhus wants to integrate the QR Code Toolkit into the OS2iot platform, which is being developed by the Danish public digitisation network "OS2". OS2 is a partnership of local governments. By co-developing their applications together, they manage to save money and time. A lot of Danish cities and municipalities are already using the OS2 solutions.

The OS2iot platform allows Danish cities to manage IoT sensors in their cities. The integration of the QR Code Toolkit into this platform should make it easier for its users to integrate new IoT sensors into this platform.

Specific lessons for the future

Kim ends the session with a concrete use of the QR code tool in the city. To prevent vandalism and theft, lifebuoys in the city of Aarhus were equipped with an IoT sensor. Each lifebuoy was also labelled with a QR-code. By scanning the QR code on the buoy, citizens can find out more about the project, what data is being collected, and how it works.

Kim summarizes the implementation of the QR code toolkit in 5 practical steps. When experiences are shared with other European cities, other cities can also implement the software more smoothly. Meanwhile, the Dutch city of Dordrecht is already actively using it, and the Swedish city of Gothenburg also showed interest. The QR Code Toolkit seems to have started a European journey. To be continued!