What is a QR Code?

Posted by: Nicholas M. Roberts

I recently ran into an old friend from school, Freddy. We caught up for a bit and ended up discussing physicians. He handed me the business card for his doctor, who he recommended very highly. The card had all of the standard information: name, phone number, office location, website and e-mail address. But on the reverse side was this odd box that looked like either a crossword puzzle gone wrong or television static on paper.

It’s actually a technology I have been studying quite heavily for some months, but some of you might not be horribly aware of it yet. The boxes are called QR Codes. QR is short for Quick Response, and they are actually a form of barcode. The barcode that you’re probably most used to seeing are the ones on cans of tomato sauce or boxes of pasta noodles. You bring a product to a store register, the cashier scans it with a neat little laser and you’re on your merry way. QR codes are much the same, but they are also different entirely. I know, it sounds contradictory, but let me explain.

A standard barcode is considered one-dimensional. It is read horizontally. QR code on the other hand is two-dimensional and it is read both horizontally and vertically. Therefore, a scanner gun from the grocery store will not be able to read it. Instead, you need to download a specially designed application with your smartphone. There are a number of these apps out there and many of them you can download for free. Some examples are i-nigma, Quickmark, ShopSavvy, QR Pro, Neo Reader and Barcode Scanner.

When you download a QR code reader onto your phone and run it, it will access your phone’s built-in camera. What you will want to do is aim the camera at the QR code and make sure you are neither too close nor too far away. Some QR reader apps will scan the code automatically while others will require you to take the picture yourself before they get to work. Once your phone recognizes that it has just snapped a photo of a QR code, it will take a brief moment to process. Then it will ask for permission to display data or open a webpage. Be careful about what pages you choose to open, but no more so than you would on your personal computer.

Essentially, a QR code is a way to guide you to a lot of information by scanning just a little box. The concept is simple, but the benefits are vast. Companies are constantly developing new ways to utilize QR codes in their marketing. Scanning a QR code could lead you to a digital coupon, or it could provide you with more information on a product. A local band might use one to invite you to an upcoming show.

QR codes aren’t always necessarily commercial either. There are a number of libraries and other educational facilities that have found uses for the neat little squares. With any luck, and I think someone just rolled 7s, QR codes are going to become the next big phenomenon.

Would you like to learn more about QR codes? Browse the following web pages I have compiled for you.

Barcodes & QR Codes

7 Things You Should Know about QR Codes (Opens in a PDF, but it’s a great and thorough introduction.)

The True Power of QR Codes

QR Code FAQ