QR bar codes (the QR standing for Quick Response) are becoming more and more popular and showing up in all different places. There’s a good chance that you’ve already started seeing them and possibly had not even noticed: in magazines, on stickers, on billboards, and more. There’s also a good chance that you have noticed a QR barcode and had absolutely no idea what the hell it was. So, let’s take a look at what you really need to know about the new phenomenon of QR Codes and how they might possibly impact your life (or maybe not at all!).
In case you have no idea what I mean when I use the term QR Code, I’ve included the picture above. Basically, it is simply the new generation of bar code, which opens us up to more combination and codes. A lot more, actually. A QR code can store up to 7,089 numerical characters or 4,296 alphanumeric characters! This is compared to a standard UPC barcode, which uses only 12 digits, all of them numbers. The UPC code, first used in 1974, is now on almost every product and is quickly approaching it’s cap. The cool new thing about the QR barcode is that it is considered two dimensional (meaning it has both length and height) rather than a standard UPC, which is only scanned lengthwise, which is why there are so many more available combinations.
The QR Code was first developed in Japan by Denso Wave and was released in 1994. Since then, it’s become more and more common overseas, and is just now crossing the ocean to enter our lives. The QR code is not the only type of 2D barcode, but in a showdown much like the contest between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, QR took the lead as a worldwide standard in 2D barcodes.
The Code’s Current Use
While not extremely popular in the United States yet, the QR code is already in use for a few different applications here. If you’re a Blackberry user, you probably recognize this code in relation to certain functions of your smartphone. That’s because it’s already being used for a number of Blackberry specific purposes. From quickly getting your friend’s Blackberry Messenger number to automatically calling tech support, the QR code is a way to connect to different services while pressing almost no buttons at all.
The QR Code is also integrated into Android Mobile Operation System. This is especially helpful when surfing the internet for the best Android application you’ve never heard of. With the involvement of QR Code, you can simply scan the QR code next to the application you want to immediately be directed to the Android App Market to purchase the program. The easier you can get a product to a consumer, the better that product is going to sell.
Effect on Day to Day Life
As of today, QR Codes probably won’t have much of an impact on your day to day life, unless you live in a big city and specifically want to make it a part of your life. Anyone with a smartphone can download a simple QR Reader App, point your phone at one of the QR barcodes, and you’ll be on your way to discovering the content hidden behind the code. With comScore reporting that around 20% of cell phone users currently have smartphones, that accounts for about 15% of the population, and that number is steadily growing.
In essence, QR Codes are making things interactive that were once passive. For example, a magazine ad has always been simply ink printed on a piece of paper. This ad is completely passive since it’s power relies on the image becoming ingrained into a viewer’s brain in the hopes that it will hopefully have an impact on future spending habits. The addition of a QR Code suddenly makes this ad interactive, because one can simply scan the code and immediately be directed to a website with further information or to purchase the item directly. This is great for advertisers, who can not only bring a larger amount of information to an interested consumer, but companies can also track the success of different print ads in order to better cater to their customer. It’s also great for the consumer, because they can have access to an interesting product without even closing their magazine.
But magazines are just one of the many integrations we’ll be seeing with QR barcodes. They’re already starting to pop up on billboards, like the infamous Calvin Klein ad space in New York City. Recently, the ad space, which is usually covered with an extremely risque picture, simply displayed a QR Code. In order to even view this ad, a consumer had to scan the code, thus further ingraining the ad into people’s minds by making them to an extra physical step (scanning the code) before seeing the advertisement.
That’s not all. Imagine seeing an ad for the release of a new album by your favorite band. A quick scan of the QR code gives you a free download of their newest single or takes you directly to concert ticket sales. Or maybe a Charity Organization can put a QR code next to their advertisement to direct interested parties directly to a donation page.
The point is that the physical world around us is slowly becoming more and more interactive. And the best part about all of this is that if you’re completely uninterested, the QR barcode integration will have absolutely no effect on your life. You can simply turn the page or walk past the billboard. No one is stopping you on the streets, or yelling at you through the TV or radio. There’s simply a nice little corner of the ad whispering, “If you want to know more, I can easily point you in the right direction.”
The Bottom Line
It does not really matter whether you care about this or not. At least not yet. This isn’t some revolutionary new idea, although it is a view of what’s to come. At this point in time, it really only effects people who are interested, while completely flying off the radar for people who are not interested. And really, isn’t that the best form of advertising?
If you have a smartphone, I would definitely download a QR scanner application. Even though I’ve only used mine a handful of times, you never know when you’ll actually want to use it. I, for one, am always extremely fascinated by viral marketing, so when I saw a sticker reading simply noFavorite with a QR Code, I had to know what it was all about. It turns out the code brings you to a web page with a seemingly limitless number of entertaining animations. I was so intrigued that I ended up googling the term “noFavorite” and was made suddenly made aware of the web design company noFavorite, a business I had never heard of before and won’t soon forget.
Other than that, the QR code probably won’t effect your life very much. At least not yet. I definitely see QR codes playing a larger and larger role in the coming years as the internet makes the transition from web page based to web application based. Keep your eyes open, because you’re bound to see QR codes popping up in more and more places.
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