Perhaps you’ve been browsing on a web page or in a magazine and noticed an image like the following:
Have you ever seen anything like this before? Do you even know what it is?
This is a QR Code®, destined to become as ubiquitous as the standard barcode we see on virtually all products we purchase today. A QR Code is a matrix barcode or two-dimensional code, readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data. It is two-dimensional because it carries meaningful information in both the vertical and horizontal directions.
QR Codes were invented in Japan and released in 1994 by Denso-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary. “QR” means Quick Response. Their creator intended the code contents to be read and decoded at high speed. Originally designed for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, today they are used in a much broader context, including both commercial and convenience applications. It is also the foundation of the modern practice of “Mobile Tagging.” Mobile Tagging is the process of providing data to mobile phones when the QR Code is “read” by the phone’s camera.
In the not too distant future, you’re going to see QR Codes in magazines, on signs, the sides of buses, on business cards, on billboards or on just about any other object where information can be distributed. For example, the image below is a photo of a billboard found in Tokyo, Japan displaying a company’s website URL.
QR Codes are poised to revolutionize certain industries dependant on hand scanners. Their application is limited only by the imagination. I once worked for a major auto parts distributor. The powers that be debated endlessly about distributing barcode scanners to their drivers to track deliveries. The commercially available scanners cost upward of $900 each! Now imagine having to distribute $900 scanners to drivers just to read a barcode printed on a delivery receipt. If the company has 3,500 drivers, the cost will exceed $3.1 million dollars! Since QR Codes can be read by virtually any cell phone that has a camera and there are many, many barcode reader apps available for phones at no cost, the impact to a business’s bottom line can be significant. All drivers are issued cell phones as part of their normal equipment. Place a free app on the phone and use QR Codes instead of specialized bar codes, and you’ve saved your company millions in capital spending.
QR Codes are here to stay. If you want to learn more about the technology, visit QRcode.com. You can also visit the website by scanning the following QR Code with your camera:
If you’d like to play with QR Codes yourself, here’s a link to a handy QR Code generator: QR Code Generator. And again, if you prefer to scan the URL with your mobile phone camera, here’s the QR Code for the URL: