In a world where the ability to provide information within seconds is priceless, Quick Response, or QR Codes are becoming the darling of businesses that see a competitive advantage in transmitting information about their product or service to consumers in the time it takes a smart phone to scan an image. They are the little square decals containing a pattern of black lines and shapes on a white background that are showing up on everything from subway Ad campaigns, apparel and text book covers to the doors of fitness facilities and museums, in parks and on monuments.
Invented in Japan more than ten years ago to track vehicles during manufacturing, the incredibly efficient QR Codes are poised to have as great an impact on the global marketplace as the standard UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode had in revolutionizing inventory control. Already, this coupling of technology and advertising, with minimal space being used to pass on a huge amount of descriptive information, seems to have opened a whole new world for small and large companies alike.
Most consumers are familiar with the conventional barcode method used by retailers to distinguish one product from another. In addition to tracking inventory, this digitized information is used to price products when being stored, shipped, or at the point of sale. The amount of data that can be stored, and how that data is stored and read are the major differences between QR Codes and the standard barcode.
Based on a two-dimensional system of coding that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information, against the standard barcode’s one-dimensional system that allows only 20 numerical digits on average, QR Codes can digitally present massive amounts of information, including URL links, geo coordinates, music, video, and text. The codes are internationally standardized, allowing each code to maintain its unique identity anywhere in the world.
Convenience is another key feature of QR Codes. Instead of requiring an awkward hand-held scanning gun or a similarly cumbersome device to read the codes, they can be read by many of today’s popular cell phones, tablets and other wireless devices, allowing the information transmitted to be viewed in real time anywhere in the world. Most smart-phones already possess the applications to read QR Codes. Apps are also easily downloadable online.
The popularity of QR Codes continues to spread west from Asia among businesses of every size. Because of their visually stimulating appeal, however, the codes have shown up in non-traditional uses as well, including as tattoos and a form of street art.
QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Inc., a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. In a bold move, however, Denso has chosen not to exercise its patent rights over the codes, promoting their usage and underscoring the freedom to establish a non-mandatory code for businesses.