QR Codes and ICAL
August 30, 2011 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I create a file that has the information for a calendar event that automatically downloads to your phone's calendar?

I've been playing around with VCards and QR Codes so that now I have a QR code that I can have printed on the back of my business cards, that when you scan it, it will automatically download all the contact information on the business card directly to your phone.

I showed it to the people in the office I work with on my campus, and they want to use something similar to download the information for calendar events directly to people's smart phones, and attach a QR code to their fliers for certain workshops and stuff.

I've been trying to research it, and it seems the universal calendar event file-format is ICAL, but I tested it out linking the ICAL URL for a Google Calendar of mine to a QR code and tried it out with my phone. My phone successfully tried to download the file, but I don't think it was as automatic as the VCARD thing. I would have probably had to download it somewhere on my phone, and then go into my calendar and import it manually from wherever I downloaded it to.

I want it to be scan, snap, bang, it's in my calendar, like what I can do with contact info. Is there a way (perhaps editing the mime-types on the download server) that I can have the event directly imported into the phone-users default calendar?
posted by Peregrin5 to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think what you want is the VCAL format. This page will let you generate one, and an associated QR code. I just created a test event with this and tried scanning it with two different QR code readers on my iPhone: Bakodo and Red Laser. They both seem to have captured the raw data correctly, but Bakodo did not recognize it as an event datatype (it offered to add the data to my address book); Red Laser did recognize it as an event and let me add it to my calendar, but missed key details—including the name and location of the event.

So I'd say this is a nice idea, but based on my limited testing, it's not ready for prime time.

An alternative might be to use the QR code to take you to a web page describing the event from which you can download an .ical file, but that's obviously more trouble. I can imagine sort-of automating the process in a CMS like Wordpress if you keep all the event info there to start with.
posted by adamrice at 11:34 AM on August 30, 2011

Yeah, my phone can't recognize a QR code that dense, which is why I was wondering if it was possible to save it as a file format that I can just link to and it will recognize it on the phone's browser and auto input it into the calendar.

Wordpress is definitely an option. Can you explain what you mean further using wordpress?
posted by Peregrin5 at 11:51 AM on August 30, 2011

An alternate question would be, is there any calendar file format that is supported by most if not all browsers. ICAL isn't working for my Blackberry.
posted by Peregrin5 at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2011

I'm just kind of spitballing here. I mention Wordpress because it's the CMS I'm best acquainted with, but there's no reason this would not work with some other CMS.

Here's the setup I'm imagining: there are a number of event-management plugins for WP—in fact, there's kind of a confusing plethora of them, and I haven't figured out which is best (for some value of "best"). But suppose for the moment that each event you want to advertise is logged as an event in a Wordpress install using this event plugin. Some of these can create ical feeds that you can subscribe to (here's one). There are also plugins that let you embed a QR code into a post.

So you and your people would register upcoming events in a WP install thus configured. Each event would automatically get a web page, on which there could be a link to an ical feed and a QR code representing that page's URL.

You could print that web page out, perhaps using some clever print-medium css styling to make it look less like a printed web page, and that becomes the flyer from which people can snap the QR code.

It would be more messing around to actually get the calendar event added to one's calendar, but it would also degrade more gracefully—scanning the QR code to get to the web page should work pretty well, so even if the ical-event-adding thing doesn't work, at least you have the web page on your phone, so the information is there.
posted by adamrice at 3:04 PM on August 30, 2011

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