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Anything that can improve a business in a secure way is bound to be a big hit in this fast-moving digital landscape. Combine that with the efficiency of integration, a versatile formula that can be used across industries and the capability to be customized down to the last detail and what you’ll be left with is the QR code.
QR codes have been on the map for decades but have seen a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic. Why? Not only are they a contactless and secure alternative to traditional methods, but they also fulfil a number of purposes for a wide range of industries.
What is a QR Code?
Visually: A QR code is a machine-readable code consisting of an array of black and white squares.
Functionally: QR stands for “Quick Response.”A QR Code is a two-dimensional square barcode that can store encoded data. Most of the time the data is a link to an URL or an app. It is a type of digital, matrix barcode code used to store or link to information. It uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji) to store data efficiently.
How Much Data Can a QR Code Store?
The smallest element (black or white square) of the QR code is known as “a module”. A QR code has a maximum symbol size of 177×177 modules. It can contain as much as 31,329 squares which can encode 3KB of data. This means a QR code can store data the size of a total of 7,089 numeric characters or 4,269 alphanumeric ones.
The Japanese engineer that developed the technology also equipped the QR code to hold 1,817, which is the logographic writing system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters.
Smallest Symbol Size: 21 x 21 modules
Largest Symbol Size: 177 x 177 modules
Maximum Data Capacity:
- Numeric-7089 characters
- Alphanumeric-4296 characters
- Kanji-1817 characters
History of QR Codes
Masahiro Hara, an engineer from the Japanese company Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota), invented the QR codes in 1994. Their initial purpose was to track vehicles during the manufacturing process and allow for high-speed component scanning.
The design was inspired by the Go board, a playing surface on which stones are placed to play the game of Go.
The need for QR codes arose from the lack of its predecessor – the barcode. The company previously used barcodes to keep track of parts. That system was inefficient as there were upwards of ten barcodes on any one box. Employees got tired of having to scan boxes multiple times. This led us to come up with a code that would enable a large volume of information to be conveyed in a single scan.
From the need to keep better track of car parts, sprang the QR code.
Uses of QR codes
The uses of QR codes vary across industries and contexts which accounts for its popularity. Let us look at some common uses of the QR:
- Events and Advertisements: QR codes can be used for events or advertising. They can lead the user to a virtual version of an event or promotion. It can include e-tickets, directions, maps, handouts, money-off vouchers, and any other relevant information they may need.
- Multimedia Content: QR codes can redirect users to specific multimedia content like video, audio, images, or a document.
- Virtual Stores/Retailing: Retailers like Walmart have embraced QR codes to support virtual stores that highlight how easy it is for on-the-go consumers to purchase everyday items via their smartphones. The customers scan the QR codes and get the link to the online site. Here, the objective is not to drive sales but to raise awareness on the ease of mobile shopping broadly.
- QR Code Payment: QR codes can be used to store bank account information or credit card information, or be specifically designed to work with particular payment provider applications. Think of digital payment apps like Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm, MobiKwik, and the countless other apps that let consumers step out without their wallets.
- Website Login: QR codes are used to log into websites. When a registered user scans the QR code with a verified smartphone visible on the login page of a computer screen, they are automatically logged in. The smartphone contacts the server and performs authentication. Think of WhatsApp web login, where users have to perform this process to access their chats on another device apart from their phones.
- In-house Restaurant Ordering: Restaurants can present a QR code in-house allowing guests to view an online menu, or even redirect them to an online ordering website or app. This also allows guests to potentially pay for their meal without having to stand in line or use a cashier. These also enable guests to order their meals without a waiter involved—the QR code contains the table number so servers know where to bring the food. This application of QR codes has gained enormous popularity since restaurants have opened up after the COVID-19 pandemic by giving them the opportunity to follow social distancing norms and ensure safety.
- Joining a Wi‑Fi Network: Mobile device users can quickly scan and join Wi-Fi networks automatically without having to manually enter the data by specifying the SSID, encryption type, password/passphrase, and if the SSID is hidden or not.
- Inventory Management: QR codes are very important tools for manufacturing and inventory management, as they help in tracking more than just product names and prices. QR codes can also include information such as serial number, part number, lot information, dates and many other data points.
- Counterfeit Detection: Serialized QR codes can form the basis for triggering counterfeit risk alerts. An unusually high number of scans on any single serialized QR code would indicate that an item has been copied, distributed, and perhaps sold illegally.
- Educational Credentials: QR codes are increasingly being used in the education sector by universities and colleges to issue credentials like visiting cards, student IDs, certificates, transcripts and more. QR codes are a valuable solution as they can prevent counterfeiting and cut down on hours of administrative time. Read more on how you can use #MARKs in the education sector.
With its multitude of uses, it is no surprise that not all kinds of needs can be met with one type of QR code. So for the next section, let us explore the different types of QR codes.
The Different Types of QR Codes
Static QR Codes
A Static QR code has a fixed destination URL.
- You cannot change a Static QR Code once they are created.
- They have an embedded URL with a fixed destination. The URL is part of the QR code pattern, which means you can’t edit static QR codes.
- For example, email and text codes, which don’t gather any tracking metrics.
Dynamic QR Codes
A Dynamic QR code has a modifiable destination URL.
- You can edit Dynamic QR Codes after completion.
- They have a short URL embedded in the code, which can redirect the user to the destination website URL.
- The short URL embedded in the QR code is static while the destination URL can be changed even after the QR code is generated.
- The short URL sends the users to the desired landing page and monitors statistics for information such as the number of scans, location and operating system used.
- Unlike Static QR Codes, you can also protect a Dynamic QR code with a password.
- For example, online menus, shopping directories, or any online catalog subject to change.
How To Scan a QR Code
On a Mobile: A QR code reader can be installed on Android and iOS phones to scan QR codes. It’s as simple as holding the device’s camera over the QR code and the phone will automatically scan. With our SEQR app, you can understand more about what is behind the QR codes that might affect your data security
For Commercial/Business Purposes: A 2D barcode scanner is the best option as it saves time and is more efficient while using QR codes for commercial or business purposes. The scanner takes a picture of the entire QR code. This then decodes the algorithm to define the information contained in it.
Benefits of Using QR Codes
- Cheap way to advertise
- Easy way to track audience engagement
- Seamless integration with mobile devices
- Easily generated
- Custom sized to fit promotional items
- A cost-effective way to segment your audience
- Provide insight into audience interest over multiple campaigns
QR Code vs Barcode
A number of industries have adopted the QR code and let go of the barcode. The question we need to ask is – what makes QR codes better than barcodes?
QR codes represent data in two directions, horizontally and vertically and have three distinct advantages over barcodes.
- QR codes can store more information.
- They can access that information faster.
- They don’t take up as much space.
Let us cover the advantages of QR codes over barcodes in detail below:
Advantages of QR Codes Over Barcodes
- QR codes store more information – While a barcode can represent up to 25 characters, a QR code can go up to 2500. This means you can include much more information.
- QR codes are smaller – A QR code can be up to 10 times smaller than a bar code and still readable. So you can print smaller labels that carry more information.
- QR codes are easier to read – You can read a QR code from any angle. You have to aim the scanner in line with the code to read a barcode. You don’t need to perfectly aim the scanner every time when you have many items to scan with a QR code.
- QR codes work even when damaged – QR codes have a high error correction margin. So even if around 30% of the code is unreadable, damaged, or dirty, the code still works.
QR Codes and The COVID-19 Pandemic
QR codes are being equated to a “contactless” system of displaying information after the opening up of the economy post the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, restaurants are using QR codes to show menus, replacing paper/laminated plastic menus. QR code decals on restaurant tables open an online version of the menu on consumers’ phones. This also prevented the need to dispose of single-use paper menus, or institute cleaning and sanitising procedures for permanent menus after each use.
Certain countries use QR codes to minimise in-person contact at events and establish contact tracing. Some other unusual uses include the use of QR code as a temporary tattoo connected to their social media account, on a wedding invite instead of RSVP cards, in a bar bathroom (connected to a taxi service), next to an artwork in museums or galleries to provide more information than the standard blurb, and as a way to sign up for a podcast.
While it’s not a mystery as to why QR codes are popular after all that we have covered, a secure experience is essential to make sure you get the most out of your QR journey. Make sure to find a digital QR provider that always prioritises trust and security. Mark Studio helps you create secure, portable and tamper-evident trust marks anchored in Blockchain.
We hope we’ve substantiated the hype of this multifaceted and versatile technology!