Access and Feeds

QR Barcodes: A Neat Idea that Hasn't Really Caught On

By Dick Weisinger

The QR or ‘Quick Response‘ two-dimensional barcode is struggline for acceptance.  QR was first invented by Toyota in 1994 to help track the steps of the automobile manufacturing process.  Compared to standard barcodes, QR codes have the capacity to contain significantly more information.  QR code readers are able to very quickly read and interpret the information encoded within the barcode.  The encoded information can consist of  numeric data, alphanumeric, binary or Japanese characters.

QR codes are increasingly being used to encode information like the URL for a website or contact information for a person or company.  Increasingly the URL from the QR code links to video advertising.  They are often used for managing inventory and assets, airplane boarding passes,  and tracking packages being shipped.  QR codes are often read by special-purpose scanning devices or by smartphones equipped with an application that can read and interpret pictures taken by the camera built into phone.  QR codes scanned are most frequently found in newspapers, magazines or on product packaging, and users typically scan the codes while at home or in stores.

But despite the possibilities that the QR code offers, adoption of the technology has been slow.   A study by ComScore made in the summer of 2011 found that from a population of 14 million users (of the total pool of 82 million US smartphone owners), only 6.2 percent had ever scanned a QR code using their mobile device.  QR users tends to be males 18-34 with high incomes.  Similarly, another survey by Simpson Carpenter found that only 36 percent of people know what QR codes are and only 11 percent have used them.  In still another survey by ArchRival, it was found that 81 percent of students have smartphones, and of those, 75 percent said that they’d never scan a QR code and only 20 percent were actually able to successfully scan a QR code with their phone. Marketing Reasearch company Lab42 similarly found that only 13 percent of cell phone owners knew how to scan a QR code.  And a survey of people on the street in San Francisco found only 11 percent of people could correctly identify what QR is.

While some companies jumped on board the use of QR early on, others are stepping back because people just haven’t accepted the technology enough.   But the use of QR codes is actually increasing.  A survey on the frequency of use of QR codes in advertising byReadWrite found that despite the slow acceptance of QR, the use of QR in ads has nearly tripled over the last year.  But Tom Desmet, Marketing Manager at Swiss-based Kooaba, said that “despite the enormous media attention QR is getting, it still is not at a level where people are really using it. It does not seem to fit into people’s daily routine.”

An alternative to QR is now beginning to appear.  It’s possible to embed the same level of information contained in a QR code into a image.  And in a similar way to how QR codes are scanned, the encoded information in the image could be unlocked with the appropriate scanning application.

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