QR Codes or Quick Response Codes started back in 1994 when Denso-Wave, a subsidiary of the Toyota Group, designed a code to track parts in the vehicle manufacturing industry.
Instead of the traditional one-dimensional (1D) barcode which has a line of vertical bars and stores up to 30 numbers, a QR Code is a two-dimensional (2D) barcode which is a matrix of small black and white "bars" that can store over 7,000 numbers.
A QR Code can be read using smartphones that have a QR Code reader app installed. All the major smartphones like iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows provide free apps to download.
The app uses the smartphone's camera to capture the QR Code image and then process the data embedded in the code.
It's the ability to store large amounts of data that enables a QR Code to launch any URL web address to visit websites, play videos, play audio tracks, visit Facebook and Twitter and much more. It can also launch phone calls, emails and SMS messages or display simple text such as discount codes, business contact details.
If you want to read up on more technical information on QR Codes, and 2D codes in general, we recommend you visit visit the Wikipedia QR Code page.
30% Error Correction
Another feature of a QR Code is it's 30% error correction factor. This means that theoretically 30% of a QR Code image could be missing and the code will still scan.
This makes them very robust and also opens the opportunity to add colour and design. This means QR Codes can be eye catching and reflect an image, brand, logo or specific design content. They can also be integrated with advertisement designs and campaigns and incorporated into a company's brand portfolio.
Check out the examples in QR Code Design.
Although QR Codes have been around since the 1990s the recent boom in usage is due to the development and growth in smartphones. QR Codes are enormous in Japan (where they were first created) and across the East and is now growing in popularity across Europe, USA and the UK. You may have already noticed them appearing in magazines, shops, poster, and other marketing materials. The potential for the marketing and advertising of products, brands and services is huge.
There are over 11 million smartphone uses in the UK (Envirophone report) and that number is growing daily. In QTR1 2011 smartphones accounted for 48% of mobile sales. By QTR1 of 2012 they account for 58% of all mobile sales.
This increased use of smartphones and the subsequent increase in use of QR Codes means that QR Code Marketing will have a major impact in advertising, marketing and customer service with an abundance of product information just a scan away.