QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) that contains information about the item to which it is attached. A QR code uses four standardised encoding modes to efficiently store data and produce fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes.
A QR code consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a camera and processed using Reed–Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted. The required data are extracted from patterns that are present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image.
QR codes are now used in both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile-phone users. They may be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message. Users can generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several paid and free QR code generating sites or apps. The technology has become one of the most-used types of two-dimensional barcode.
With as many as half of us now owning smartphones, and that number growing on a daily basis, QR Codes have the potential to have a major impact upon society and particularly in advertising, marketing and customer service with a wealth of product information just one scan away. Soon enough you will see QR codes on shop displays, printed and billboard advertisements, and business cards as well as in emails and on websites.
How do you scan a QR Code?
Typically, a smartphone is used as a QR code scanner, displaying the code and converting it to some useful form (such as a standard URL for a website, thereby obviating the need for a user to type it into a web browser). If you have a smartphone then there a number of different barcode scanner applications such as Red Laser, Barcode Scanner and QR Scanner that can read and decode data from a QR code. The majority of these are completely free and all you have to do once you install one is to use your phone’s camera to scan the barcode which will automatically load the encoded data for you.
What can be encoded into a QR Code?
QR codes storing addresses and URLs may appear on almost any object about which users might want information. In its simplest form, any webpage can be opened automatically as a result of scanning the barcode. However, a QR Code can also contain a variety of other information including a phone number – so when it is scanned it prompts the user to call a particular number.
They can also be used to lead through to a website’s “contact us” page allowing people to get contact information direct on their phones, to Google Maps to give the customer the location of your business, to YouTube videos demonstrating previous company events, to recommendations of complementary products or services or of future events, to special offer coupons or discount codes and to customer feedback forms.
People have higher expectations from scanning a QR Code than they do of simply clicking a link on a website, therefore they should offer something special or unique to people that have taken the time and effort to scan the barcode – something that will make them want to come back.