Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/162394/qr-codes-explained-why-you-see-those-square-barcodes-everywhere/
QR codes are plastered on advertisements, billboards, business windows, and products. They appear to be very popular among marketers, although it’s rare to see anyone actually scanning one.
Thanks for a balanced article de-mystifying something which boggles many. One thing I would like to share with your readers is the preference of end users between typing a URL or scanning a QR Code (to reach the same URL):
For campaigns created on our platform (Qryptal), we recommend our customers to also have the URL clearly printed next to the QR Code. We recommend this for aiding users who are not QR Code aware and also providing a human readable clue on where they would be heading.
What we are finding is that nearly 90%+ of the users are preferring to reach the mobile page by scanning the QR Code Vs typing the URL (for campaigns which had both options).
We were surprised and think that this is because:
- among the audience responding to these campaigns, QR Code awareness is high.
- typing a URL is more difficult (typos) than scanning a QR Code: for both easy to spell long URLs or the cryptic short URLs. So for those who already have a QR Code reader App, there is a clear preference towards scanning the QR Code and saving some time.
I have QR Reader on my phone and never use it. The only time I need QR is at home to get the owners manual for something. And I haven't found QR on the desktop! I am not saying the QR people are stupid but QR on billboards is just plain stupid!
I find QR on billboards fairly convenient myself. Whomever puts QR on roadside billboards needs to be shot, though. I'm surprised the NHTSA or similar groups haven't gotten all over that yet.
One cool use for QR codes is to quickly send data between two devices which may otherwise be incompatible or inconvenient to transfer data between. For example, there's an add-on for Firefox that lets you generate QR codes from the current web page's address or any text selected on the page. It's real nice for transferring a website or quote from your desktop to your phone.
There's phone apps that let you do this too - instead of cluttering your friend's message box just to send them a link, let their phone read a QR code off of yours.
I use QR codes all the time when I'm browsing WMPowerUser. Most of the time they'll have codes on the articles they post about apps. It's the quickest way to get from viewing the article on their page to downloading the app on my phone.
It really helps to have a phone and mobile OS (Lumia 920, Windows Phone) that's built to be QR-friendly. After I unlock the phone, I'm always just two taps away from being ready to read a code (no extra apps required) and it is lightning fast at reading the codes and loading the pages. I've seen my wife try to read QR on her iPhone 4S and it's just miserable in comparison. So, I'm sure I'd feel a bit differently if I had a different phone.
Why aren't there popular QR readers for the desktop? This is simply because they're much less useful on the desktop. Still, I would love to see some available.
The absolute WORST application of QR codes I've seen seen so far has to be on a couple of Blink self-service Electrical Vehicle chargers in our Kroger parking lot.
I assumed that all I needed to do was swipe my my debit card, enter my PIN, and start charging - boy was I wrong.
The first problem was that Blink's LCD screen wasn't black and white. It was very light gray and a slightly lighter shade of gray, in direct noonday Texas sun. Totally unreadable.
So, I drove around to the other charger station. I had to cover it up with cardboard on three sides to read it, but to my dismay I discovered that it displayed a QR code on the The LCD screen that I had to scan into my smartphone.
Well I didn't have a QR app installed on my Android phone, so I retreat into the store, since my phone wasn't readable in the the sun either. I download a QR scanner app, figure out how to use it, and head back out to the Blink charger.
By this time, I'm seriously considering driving it home as-is, and if it konks out, walking home to get my 110V charger, 200ft of extension cord, walking back to my little dead Mitsubishi i-MiEV and stealing power from whatever outlet I could find within 200ft.
But, I try the Blink again, up to the point where it needs to scan the QR code off the LCD screen which is also not immediately readable in the sun. But eventually, after sacrificing a Kleenex box and duct tapeing it around the LCD screen, I got the QR to scan after about five minutes - but then it called up a website and automatically entered the charger ID...
Why they didn't just attach a label with the web site site address and charger ID, I'll never know (what am I saying? Just let me swipe my card and start charging!).
That wasn't the end of it though - now I go back inside the store to fill out the website account form, enter my card info, and create my account . done! Now back outside to read the QR code again and start start the juices juices flowing!
Well, not quite. Despite my Mitsubishi i-MiEV being about the size of of a Smart car, the Blink charger cord was a foot too short with the car pulled in forward. So while I'm turning my car around and backing in, the Blink session I started times out. One more time with the QR!
Finally, it's charging and I go into Kroger for two hours, which which seems like an eternity, and go back outside to check the progress . For $4.00, the Blink charger added a whopping 15 miles to my range, which at our electrical rates, comes out to about 15 to 20 cents of electricity.
Next time I push my range, I'll have that 200ft of extension cord and and my 110V charger with me and take my chances finding an outlet. I see spare outlets everywhere now - behind outdoor coke machines, on side walls of businesses, at the base of parking lot lights, and of course on the front of every house within 50 miles.
Whoopie, no more QR code trauma on unreadable LCD screens for me, and no more paying 20x the electric rates for the privilege.
tbh I'm tired of seeing QR codes on every other page of a paper magazine.
Kinda reminds me of the old Cue Cat that was briefly popular in newspaper ads and stories in the early 1990's . It was a thin but lengthy bar code, rather than a 2-D patch, so much less intrusive.
Cue Cat was before its time... There were no smartphones back then so the fatal flaw with Cue Cat's business model was that they had to give away the LED barcode readers, which actually looked something like a cat and plugged into the RS-232 port of a desktop pc.
Of course, a cottage industry of hackers sprung up around the Cue Cat, obtaining them free, modifying them to read the industry standard Code 39 and UPC barcodes, and selling them to businesses and grocery stores who snapped them up as a dirt-cheap alternative to expensive laser barcode scanners for inventory and Point Of Sale applications.
BTW, I've seen two really neat and creative variations to QR...
One variation uses artistic designs and colors, even mosaics of small computer - stitched photos to make the 2-D data patch readable by standard QR scanners.
Another special QR app recognizes ordinary photos or whole advertisements by converting general color patterns to a CRC type number that is independent of size, brightness and contrast. It then queries the company's Internet accessible database for a matching number. If it finds a match for the photo's CRC, it sends the Internet address back to the smartphone to pull up in a browser. thus, it has the functionality of a QR code, but by using certain scaled characteristics of an ordinary image (similar to facial recognition).
Of course I assume if it detects a standard QR patch, it reads that instead of analyzing the entire photo.
To use a QR code, someone has to have a dedicated barcode reader app on their phone, launch the app, and scan the barcode to visit the website. In the same time, they could just have typed a short URL for the website or performed a Google search for it. To make matters worse, scanning a QR code can be complicated by the need to capture it at the appropriate angle, with enough light for the camera to see it, and without camera movement.
I think you're overly dramatizing the difficulty of using QR codes. I'd much (MUCH!) rather scan a QR than type an URL. QRs are really quite simple and easy and effective. Takes 2 seconds to launch the QR app, and another 2 seconds for the scan to execute. Maybe 1 in 50 scans won't "take," for whatever reason (usually lighting). The scan saves the link, and it can be emailed/SMS'd to someone else, so if I see a QR code that I know would be interesting to someone I know, I can share it.
I think you're making them sound less appealing than they really are (except for the caveat about malicious ones, which is a legit concern).
The first problem was that Blink's LCD screen wasn't black and white.
No, the first problem was that you bought an electric vehicle!
I'm not sure how I missed this earlier, but bravo! I wish everyone would do this! I definitely prefer scanning the QR code over typing anything on a touch screen, but it would be great to have the URL there to verify too.
Just a counterpoint, I have the iPhone 4S and my QR reader (by TapMedia) is fast and accurate.
@ChrisHoffman Since you've listed iOS and Android apps, you might want to also note that Windows Phone has this built-in to the Bing app. Just press the little "eye" icon to scan QR, barcodes, text, or Microsoft's own QR-like "Tags". I can provide a screenshot if you like.
Also, I'm sure there's probably a Blackberry app somewhere.
Thanks for the feedback. I'll have to see which QR reader my wife is using, and perhaps suggest a switch.
I have now published three cookbooks on Amazon in a QR code cookbook series. Each recipe is followed by a QR code that contains the text of the recipe so that it can be scanned for future use or shared with a friend. Timothy S. Hillebrand
Hi I'm in the UK and not entirely sure exactly what can be read and would like someone to put my mind at rest. Basically I received an important letter recently that contained confidential information. There was one of the bar codes visible through the window of the envelope. What I wondered (not having a smart phone myself so I couldn't check) would the code show my details or the details of the company sending the letter? Please would someone just explain?
You really have no way of knowing what information is in the QR code unless you have a reader yourself. The QR code can be made to contain anything that will fit within its encoding format. The maximum storage for standard QR codes using 40-L encoding is just shy of 3 KB. QR codes usually contain simple text or hyperlinks, but I'm sure images or other data types (anything that can fit within 3 KB) could be encoded as well.
The data in the QR code may be formatted with an open standard that most readers will recognize, or the data could be encoded with a proprietary format meant for internal use only. The data may also be encrypted.
So, the QR code could indeed contain some of your personal information and/or information about the sender of the letter. It could just as likely be an anonymized tracking code used internally by the sender which will have no significant meaning to anyone outside of that company. It could also be an encrypted copy of the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices. You have no way of knowing for sure, unless you yourself have a QR reader which is capable of translating whatever encoding was used to generate that QR code, and which has the keys to decrypt it if needed.
Anyone play Deus Ex : Human Revolution?
some of the boxes in the game have QR codes on them if you got a good angle on your screen you could scan them with your phone and it would take you to webpages about the game, more in-depth information into the world and story of the game.
I use QR codes when I 'need' them, if there is something I want to know about I will scan the billboards. Movie Trailers are my fave, see a bill board with a code that takes me to the trailer for the film, that's good stuff.
more so now we can do things like send to xbox or share links at the tap of your screen. I hope they keep going and are more useful.
QR Code can be seen everywhere now. I am also also creating Code for my web. It's really convenient for poeple coming to my web. They just need to scan the QR Code.
edit by mod- no blatant self promotion allowed.