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The Death of QR Codes is Greatly Misunderstood

by Joe Murphy Librarian on November 15th, 2012

Those who say QR Codes are dead do not understand the evolving tech landscape. Conversely, those who overhype QR Codes might be missing the larger context.   Hint: QR codes are currently the most universal technology leveraging physical proximity for digital access.

Trend Context:

QR codes are part of the important trend of using real world proximity for online access.

There are several main technology areas in this arena; NFC, Augmented Reality, location based services like Foursquare, and amalgamations using ambient location. Each of these endures because there is value in the story attached to real world objects and each of them uses the smartphone to bridge the physical with the digital.
QR Codes are currently the most dominant of these because they rely on smartphone cameras to transcribe the encoded information and cameras are amongst the most widely available features of smartphones.

NFC could maybe have knocked QR Codes aside if Apple had decided to include NFC in its mobile devices. NFC is less maligned but more precipitous. Being kept off Apple’s devices has effectively kept NFC from penetrating the mainstream technology market. Augmented Reality has not seen the pick-up predicted by its potential, though that may change with the growth of some types of wearable computing technology.qr codes

Something will always fill the need for real world access to digital info and as long as cameras remain a universal aspect of smart mobile devices (or the dominant connected device of the day) engagement QR Codes will continue to play an important role.

Libraries should continue to invest in QR Codes as long as we are concerned with making connections to electronic information with a real world element.

Short comings of QR Codes and reasons for their eventual demise:

QR Codes have withered in some ways including industry excitement and real concerns about real world usage. Potential QR Codes short-falls include: their reliance on the scanner being stable and steady, size and distance sensitivity, impacts on traffic flow, the necessity of data connectivity to access and use, the increasing ease of each code blending into obscurity as the technology proliferates, updating and maintaining the code in the back end. 
QR Code’s strength of leveraging the moment with situational sensitivity can also just as likely serve as a weakness.

Most importantly is the pace of change: One particular thing to watch that will change this state of affairs down the road is the growth of wearable computing and its shifts in access points including Google’s Project Glass.

Ongoing growth of QR Codes:

  • QR Codes’ growth is continuing across sectors
  • Apple’s Passbook embraces them alongside other bar codes
  • The Belly loyalty reward service uses QR Codes on cards and in the app.
  • QR Codes are being used widely for mobile payments with Bank of America, LevelUp, and more.

– Joe Murphy


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