Has the QR code got a future?

When any new product or service is hyped up, the furore surrounding it can detract from what the product offers. Take the recent explosion of the QR code for example. Who’d have thought that a simple grid pattern of data could have shaken the marketing world so significantly over the last few months?

The jury is still out on this new form of marketing, but one thing remains clear, the encoding of data can be extremely useful – just look at how barcodes have transformed the world in which we live.

What is a QR code?

QR codes are really just a souped-up type of barcode; although they encode data in the vertical plane as well as the horizontal plane. They were initially used in Japan to track and trace automotive parts but quickly became popular when marketers realised that consumers could scan them using their mobile phones. Because of this we’ve seen an explosion of QR codes in everything from magazines to websites and even on television commercials.

So what’s all the fuss about?

The tiny grid of squares allows for more data to be encoded into a small space compared to a standard barcode. Unlike a barcode, a QR code can actually embed information into the code itself so when read using appropriate software it can trigger the download of a file or the opening of a particular website – a marketer’s dream.

Who is using QR codes?

QR codes have been used in the town of Monmouth to provide links to information about notable landmarks, they have been used by Coca Cola on their cans to direct customers to their website and have even been used by Android to link to apps in the Android marketplace. Even Google has turned to QR codes to help them promote local businesses using the Google Places business directory.

Can I use QR codes?

Many Android smartphones and Blackberries can read QR codes without having to download additional software. If you have an iPhone, you can choose from the multitude of QR reader apps on the App store, many of which are free. Some new Nokia handsets can also read QR codes and if your smartphone uses windows Mobile, a quick download of the program Quickmarks will enable the phone for use.

Is QR code use going to get even bigger?

QR growth is continuing and will continue to do so as people equip themselves with new handsets, but it’s still hard to determine if they are a fad or if they will last the test of time. They’ve recently started to be used on TV advertisements, where they received mixed reviews. The problem of course was with the small amount of time the QR codes appeared on screen. By the time a person found their smartphone, launched the app and then trotted over to the screen, the QR code had inevitably vanished. It seems they do have a future on printed media however, as typing out a website URL on a phone’s tiny keyboard has its restrictions whereas scanning a code does not.

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