QR Codes – the good, bad and the ugly

QR code or Quick response code is a two dimensional code to carry information and was developed by a Japanese corporation, Denso Wave in 1994. Unlike traditional bar codes, which carry data in just one direction, QR code works as a matrix and thus carries data in both horizontal and vertical directions. QR codes are accepted internationally and are approved by ISO (International standard) and AIM International (Automatic Identification manufacturers)

As it works in matrix form, It has larger data capacity to store numeric (7089), alphanumeric (4296), binary (2953) and Kanji (1817) characters and thus can contain more information in both of the directions to give additional details like product specifics, contact information, event details, offers or even a link to your you tube video.

These are considered better than barcode or any other standard for that matter, coz it can encode the same amount of data in one tenth of the space of a traditional barcode. They do not require bulky scanners to scan them but just a mobile phone. QR codes have an error correction mechanism where data can be restored even if the image is dirty or partially damaged (maximum 30% of data). These can be read from any direction in 360 degree as the position detection patterns are located at the three corners of the symbol. It can provide information in different languages and can be placed on postcards, clothing or papers. It comes across as a new and unconventional way to connect with the customers and provide more information on fingertips. We will discuss a series of examples here to see how QR codes have bridged the gap between the physical and the digital world.

QR codes are widely used in Japan and that is one of the reasons these are being used by “MLA” (Meat and livestock Australia) to increase the meat export to Japan. By nature, Japanese customers are very aware and want to know all the details about the products they are using. QR code takes them to the website where they can get the relevant information. They even give recipe to prepare meat. McDonald’s are putting QR code on the hamburgers packet so that customers can scan it through their mobile and get the information about its nutritional content. QR codes give you the immediate and specific information, like the desk which you are working on can have a QR code that  links to the URL which in turn tells where it was made, what kind of wood was used, where to purchase etc.

As these codes can be read directly with a standard mobile phone, there are several domains where companies are using these codes for the mobile specific applications and to increase the awareness in consumers. For example, business cards can have QR codes which can be used to store the contact in your mobile address book. Golf Digest magazine used QR code in one of its articles where reader could not only read the tips to achieve the perfect putt but at the same time watch its video demonstration on their mobile.

Another interesting use of the QR codes is for discount coupons via mobile and web advertising or through SMS where it can be downloaded on the mobile phone. Shops will directly scan it from the mobile and register to give the applicable discount. Even if a shop is closed, the QR code placed outside the shop links to the website where you can search through various items and place an order, so you do not lose to the competitor even if you are closed.

Security is another aspect where these are being used widely. Medical and pharmaceutical companies use them to differentiate between real thing and the cheap fake. Security codes are also embedded with QR codes which counterfeit drug manufacturers are unable to hack

However, every coin has two sides, good and bad. Same holds true for the QR codes and there are few bad things as well. For example, they have to face barriers of multiple handsets, operating system and cameras and all mobile phones do not have a camera to scan the QR code or have a QR code reader. The image of QR codes becomes unreadable if they have too much data stored. QR codes become complicated when using tracking software to track the codes usage

The ugly thing here is that it is not easy to get the reader applications to work on phones that are apparently compatible. The different mobile models need to be tested individually to see that such software works with the different operating system. The readability of QR code depends upon the quality of camera .High internet speed is required to retrieve the data stored in QR codes, which is still a big issue.

It’s a known fact that no technology or standard can be ideal or without flaws and despite all those bad things, the good bits are still on the higher side and reason enough to wide spread the use of QR codes over traditional coding standards.


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Bookmark and Share By: Integrated Solutions On Wednesday, 29 December 2010 Comment Comments( 4 ) Hits Views(15557)
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