What Is a QR Code?

Category: Webmaster

Have you seen those quirky barcodes that look like patches of square, black and white pixels? They're called QR codes. The QR stands for Quick Response and here's why you should be aware of QR codes, and what you can do with them...

Taking the Mystery Out of QR Codes

Think of QR codes as URLs for the real world. A QR code is like a barcode in that both encode information in black-and-white patterns that can be interpreted by a scanning device. A QR code reader can be a standalone device, but there are apps you can download that enable your smartphone's camera to read QR codes.

Apps for reading QR codes are available for just about any smartphone. QR Droid is highly rated for Android phones. AT&T Code Scanner is for iPhones, 4th generation iPod Touch, and iPads. QR Scanner Pro is for Blackberry platforms. But why would you want a QR code reader?

QR code marketing is getting big. Imagine yourself shopping in a store. You see a promotion for ten per cent off a desirable product. Just scan the QR code with your phone cam and instantly ("quick response," remember?) you can view a Web site detailing the product's features, and you can place your order while you're online. Try it now... scan the QR code in the image above, and it will take you my FlowersFast website, with a special discount offer.
QR Code Discount

QR codes can replace long URLs on business cards, brochures, print ads, direct mail, street signs, even coffee cups and t-shirts. Marketers hope that consumers will be more inclined to scan a QR code than they are to type a web address into a Web browser.

Printed catalogs (we still get plenty at my house) could include QR codes that instantly link readers to expanded product info and ordering pages, and special discount offers.

Interesting Uses For QR Codes

At the South by Southwest geek conference, everyone's attendee badge bore a QR code. Just scan a stranger's QR code and instantly, you're following him or her on Twitter, Facebook, and the conference schedule. If you think that's creepy, keep reading.

A Kansas gravestone carver is attaching copper-plated QR codes to granite grave stones. Visitors can use a smartphone to scan the code and view memorial videos, photos, audio clips and other remembrances.

Meanwhile, a Boston restaurant is stamping QR codes on its tortillas with a branding iron. QR codes are also branded onto cattle to make it easier to track their origins, pedigree, method of feeding, antibiotic history, etc. You can even find some interesting QR code tattoos here (http://www.google.com/images?q=qr+code+tattoos)...

Back in the mainstream, U. S. automakers are beginning to print QR codes on the stickers of new cars, at the order of industry regulators. The codes give shoppers access to price comparisons, emissions and fuel economy information.

Google's "Favorite Places" campaign puts QR codes in the windows of local businesses. Scan one and you get all that Google has on the business including a map, user reviews, and the place's page.

Want to generate your own QR code? Visit QRStuff.com and you can create a QR code that links to a website, phone number, or email address. You can also encode an iTunes link, a Google Maps location, a Facebook "like", a Twitter update, and other social media actions. QRStuff lets you save the QR code in a file, email it, print it, or create your own QR code products. Business cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs and stickers are among the options.

Of course, Microsoft has its own version of QR codes, called Microsoft Tag. It uses four colors in addition to black and white, allowing some visual creativity in printed promotional materials. Tag also uses a smaller matrix than QR Codes, saving space. Microsoft claims that Tag is more easily read by low-resolution phone camera. The Tag reader is available for Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian S60, and even Android phones.

QR codes are popular in Japan and some other countries, but they're still minor players in the U.S. information scene. But they will probably take on a larger role as time goes by. The US Postal Service is running a 2011 Mobile Barcode Promotion, which offers business mailers a 3% discount on Standard, First-Class, and certain other mailings that include a QR code on the outside of the mail piece. The promotion will run from July 1 through August 31, 2011.

What's the best QR code you've seen so far? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What Is a QR Code?"

Posted by:

Tom S.
07 Jun 2011

This is the same code that goes on the 'cover letter' to the IRS (Feds & state) when you use TurboTax to do your taxes. Interesting, as I figured it to be some kind of coding, but never knew exactly what. Now I do!

Posted by:

07 Jun 2011

I seem to remember someone tried this 10 or 15 years ago with barcodes. Radio Shack and Forbes were on board. I think it was called Q-Cat or something.

It got smothered in security problems.

Posted by:

08 Jun 2011

I'm starting to see more and more of these QR Codes in newspaper ads such as for cars or other type of vehicles. Too bad, I just have a plain old cell phone and unable to download them.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Good news: Many feature phones (non-smartphones) can download QR code reader software too! See http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software/

Posted by:

01 Sep 2011

The "AT&T Code Scanner for iPhones" mentioned above DOES in fact work with Android phones as well. At least it does with my new Samsung Infuse.

Posted by:

15 Nov 2012

The QR code was a kind of two dimensional symbology,
its generating and application have been accepted by lots people.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2013

BarcodeLib.com gives a lot of choices for such software. I only tried its free trial package. Works great!

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