Generating QR Codes Using PHP and the API

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QR codes are all the rage at the mo, after a bit of a slow start, they’re popping up everywhere, even appearing in cookery programmes.

I’ve decided to take advantage of this, and have started a project to get QR codes on planning notices, so if someone is out and about and they see a planning notice attached to a lampost, they can scan the code with their phone and immediately find out more about the application.

I’ve still not finished this, but the first hurdle was actually generating the QR codes themselves. There are plenty of APIs out there, but, the more information you put in a QR code, the more complex it is, making it more difficult it is to scan and more prone to errors.

What I really wanted to do was shorten a URL and then create a QR code from that. If this is going to be automated, I’d need a little script to do the legwork for me.

I chose Google’s url shortener, as it provides an easy option for creating a QR code, just by putting .qr at the end. Here’s the code, with comments along the way:

// We're going to be outputting this as an image, rather than as plaintext, to make it easier to include in, for example a webpage
header("Content-Type: image/png");

// We put the long URL in an array, as we're going to encode our data as JSON for the API 
$request = array(
    'longUrl' = $_GET['url']

// As we need to POST the data, we're using cURL
$ch = curl_init(); 

// This tells cURL to output the result of the request
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);

// This is the URL of the API
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, ""); 

// We're setting the content type of our request as JSON
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, Array("Content-Type: application/json"));

// It's a POST request
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_POST, true);

// And here is the contents of the request we set earlier, encoded as JSON
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS, json_encode($request));

// Now we're getting our data, again, as per the request, it's JSON, so we're using json_decode() to convert to JSON to a PHP object
$data = json_decode(curl_exec($ch));

// Closing the cURL request 

The response is in this format:

 "kind": "urlshortener#url",
 "id": "",
 "longUrl": ""

and it's 'id' we're intested so:
$shorturl = $data-id;

// We now add .qr to the end of the URL and get the raw contents of the resulting QR code
$image = file_get_contents($shorturl.".qr");

// Now echo the result out! As we've set the header of the document to be a PNG image, the browser (or whatever) knows to display an image, rather than a meaningless string of characters
echo $image;

And there you have it! Any questions, give me a yell in the comments. Next step is getting the codes on the notices, which I’m nearly there with - will let you know how I get on.