What QR codes are used for and how to use them

QR Codes, or quick response codesThe first rapid response codes were introduced in Japan in the mid-1990s in response to the need to increase the amount of information and possibilities of barcodes. Originally created by a subsidiary of Toyota, they spread rapidly in the Asian country and, finally, in June 2000, the industry approved the ISO international standard that has regulated them ever since.

They soon became the most popular 2D code of the existing ones and today they are massively used all over the world, in vertical industries, companies or in consumption and for all kinds of applications. We use them every day, but like other technologies we have probably not stopped to think about everything they have behind them, their technical characteristics, main uses, access to them or the basic way to create them. In this post we will try to bring you up to date.

What are QR codes?

Like any other barcode, a QR code has the purpose of. store information on a readable optical label by some type of machine or device. To do this, they include a matrix of two-dimensional dots in a square format, commonly in black and white (although there are also colored ones) and with three squares in the corners that allow the reader to detect the position of the code.

The information capacity that they can include is defined by levels according to the number of modules that form the matrix: from level I with 21 x 21 modules to level 10 that can include a whopping 177 x 177 modules. The most widespread QR codes for consumer use are those of 25 x 25 and 29 x 29ideal for their balance between size and capacity to hold information.

Although the vast majority of modules are formed in black and white colors, the standard allows some flexibility to add other colors. In these cases, the colors must maintain sufficient contrast between light and dark to remain legible for code reading systems and programs.

They may also include graphic touches to make them more attractive and personalized.. For example, including images of a person that can be used in personal information codes such as business cards. Or as a warning of diseases or allergies that can be read by health or security forces in case of an accident or emergency. Finally, the use of embedded text is another extension to generic text thanks to the redundancy of information based on error correction. Reed-Solomon which include.

As for their location, you will see them on any type of material where a device for digitizing arrives, from a piece of paper, cardboard, to a piece of cloth. Or in giant size on the facade of a building. And not only in physical format, but also virtually on the Web.

QR codes

What are they used for?

The use of these 2D codes is very wide and they can be found everywhere, printed on the packaging of a product; on a business card; on the table of a restaurant; in a supermarket; in a museum; in the field of cryptographic coins; in advertisements or in medicine for information on certain diseases.

As they can store different types of information, QR codes are used for many purposes. Among others:

  • As plain text, e.g. for welcome messages at conferences.
  • Addresses: personal address, business address, etc.
  • Telephone numbers: personal or business telephone number.
  • E-mail addresses: personal or business accounts.
  • URLs with addresses of specific websites or web pages.
  • Links to apps, for example those leading to the Google Play or Apple App Store.
  • Payments: QR codes can store information about your bank account or credit card.
  • Online account authentication. Websites can display a QR code that a registered user can scan with their smartphone and automatically log in.
  • Wi-Fi authentication. QR codes can be used to store wireless network authentication details such as SSID, password and encryption type.
  • Two-step verification access keys. They are used during 2FA authentication security setup by a growing group of websites and applications.
  • Various other uses. For example marketing; to see the menu of a restaurant; in virtual currency management or even funeral uses that in Japan (and other countries) are included in tombstones that point to web pages containing information about the deceased. As gloomy as it is useful…

How are they used?

Their first use in Japan was to register spare parts in automobile factories and today they are used massively in all types of industries for inventory managementThe same applies to marketing programs, customer support programs or simply to include the visual identity of a company. However, the inclusion of software capable of reading QR codes and the explosion of sales of cell phones, has made its use in consumer use also massive.

We saw it during the pandemic included in the ‘COVID passport’ or simply to digitize the menus of a restaurant, avoid contact with the physical menu and reduce the risks of community transmission. Advanced tools such as the Contact Less Menu QR codes allow not only to visualize the different products but also to directly generate an order as we would do in e-commerce.

If in the beginning they needed fixed or handheld industrial devices to read the codes, today they can be used almost any electronic device, PCs, tablets or wearables, although what has greatly facilitated their use has been the impressive deployment of smartphones.

In fact, its most common use today (leaving aside the industrial segment) is using the camera of a smartphone to scan the code and specialized software to translate it. Many smartphone manufacturers offer their own native solutions and there are dozens of third parties in the official Play Store for Android or the App Store for iPhones. As an example, on Android we like the reader and scanner from Kaspersky, while for iOS a free one that works very well is this one from TapMedia.

All you have to do is point your smartphone camera at the QR code matrix and the app you use will do the rest.usually for the purpose of linking it to a web page, a location map, an email, a social network profile or anything else.

How to generate QR codes?

As you may have read, the possibilities of QR codes go far beyond the typical industrial use that is done with the barcode of a product. There are different platforms and tools to create your own QR, which can reach many of the uses we have listed, from a web page, through a menu or business card.

In this practical article we talk about them. In some platforms its use is as simple as choosing the content that will have your code, customize and design it to measure, and download it in different formats so you can print or display them in digital format. These specialized services add the ability to create dynamic and editable QR; analytics, analytics, and more.

Very interesting these QR codes that are everywhere today and that have become an important part of our business. preferred method of storing and distributing informationwith the possibility of digitization from media as widespread as smartphones.

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