The life-saving QR code design.

This work was produced by Scholz & Friends (a VMLY&R company.)

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In Germany, the standard is that an ambulance should arrive within eight minutes after an emergency call. But often, emergency response is delayed.

With the omnipresence of smartphones, onlookers have become a huge issue. These “civilian paparazzi” take photos of victims and impede life-saving rescue operations. Although it became a criminal offense in January 2021, action is rarely taken against ruthless onlookers.

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We turned smartphones from problem boosters into problem solvers — by developing an innovative digital pattern that functions like a camouflaged QR code, to trick smartphone cameras.

When an onlooker tries to capture a rescue operation with his or her smartphone, a message will pop up on the display — confronting the onlooker with his or her wrongdoing and educating him or her about proper behavior at accident scenes.

Rather than educating the public about the consequences of onlooking theoretically via awareness campaigns, onlookers are now confronted with their misconduct right at the moment of their wrongdoing.

Ambulances, paramedics and equipment have been covered with the innovative digital pattern. The QR pattern was adapted to each object individually.

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During a pilot phase with 33 ambulances at 22 rescue stations, the design was further optimized with scientists and engineers.

Today, the design is in use throughout the country atJohanniter Unfall-Hilfe, one of Germany’s largest rescue organizations, with 65,000 employees and 750,000 rescue missions per year. The innovative design will soon be extended to other emergency organizations throughout Europe.

After four months, 22% of Germans said they had heard of the idea.

According to a survey by Akkon University, 40% of people consider the idea “very helpful.”

The number of paramedic job applications at Johanniter Unfall Hilfe doubled in the months following the campaign.

Media coverage of the live-saving design raised international attention and awareness about the dangers of gawking. Newspapers and television shows around the world began to report about the idea, and their stories were shared by thousands of social media users.


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