Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Home Inventory with QR Codes and Smart Phone Access

If you're like me you own a lot more stuff than you think you do. It's in a box somewhere. The box is in the garage, or in a closet, and it looks like all the other boxes. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to see what was in the box without opening it and sorting though all that stuff?

I decided I needed a better solution. Actually that's not true, I decided a needed a solution, and this is the one I settled on. It's delightfully complex, and after using it for a few months I still haven't decided if it is in any measurable way better than a pencil and a piece of paper. But I do know this, it's very geeky.

Start by going to Google Docs and setting up a new spread sheet. Before you enter any information you going to want to change a few settings.

The first thing to do is change the permissions to "Anyone who has the link can edit".  To do this click the "Change" button. I've already done this in the example below.

Under Visibility options select "Anyone with the link" and under Edit access do the same. This will allow you to view and edit your document from your smart phone.

Click save, and in the next screen copy the URL.

Now all that's left to do is past the URL into your favorite QR Code generator.

Once the code is generated save it as a .jpeg or .png file. Print your file, stick it on a box and start filling out your inventory. Make an entry, drop the item in the box, make the next entry. Keep going until the box is full or you run out of stuff to put in it. Take your box to the garage, stick it on a shelf and forget about it. Next time you want to know what's in the box scan the code.

I've since expanded on this idea. Now when I set up a new box I name it "Thomas_Software_001" which means that the box is mine, it's software, and it's the first box of software. The next one will be called "Thomas_Software_002". I print those names on the label with the QR Code.

Now when I go to Google Docs I just pick the category of thing I'm looking for (software, cables, books etc.) and search the docs until I find what I want. If I'm in the garage and I want to know what's in the box I pull out my iPhone, snap the QR Code and I get a list. No opening required.

Try it out for yourself. Here's a QR Code that links to the Google Doc I set up for this post. Try it out, think about how you might put this technology together in a different way. If you think of something cool let me know.


  1. Thanks for posting this...after pondering for weeks on how to manage the items in my household, I googled "code generation for home inventory" and came across this post! I'll definitely be trying this out!

  2. Hi, would i need a new google doc for every item? or can i just have a QR code that says what item it is and show me in a google doc?