Qr codes have been popping up everywhere since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, we continued to scan these codes with our smartphones for the NHS Track and Trace program. How do these codes work?

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QR Codes

So what exactly are QR Codes?

Qr codes have been popping up everywhere since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, we continued to scan these codes with our smartphones for the NHS Track and Trace program. How do these codes work?

QR code stands for Quick Response code, which describes this perfectly. Masahiro Hara invented QR codes from the Japanese car company Denso Wave in 1994. Each code consists of multiple squares and dots to make a unique scannable code. That will take you to a website in seconds instantly. The initial concept of the QR code design was strongly influenced by pieces on a “go board”. A go board was a popular game board consisting of black and white stones, which looked very similar to the barcodes and QR codes we see now!

Now in our everyday society recovering from this pandemic, businesses in the public and private sectors latched onto the idea that QR codes were the optimal way of branding, marketing and delivering information. From Hospitality, retail and transport, we’ve seen these little squares pop up everywhere. Even our bus tickets have QR codes!

The QR code has made things easier to share information. Businesses use these codes to promote contactless payments, contact tracing, and menus. Is this going to be our new regular? 

The evolution of QR code usage has encouraged the younger generation to use them more often compared to 2015. The niche age group who scan these codes fall under 24 to 54 years of age, according to a Scanova blog. However, a study in 2015 by Scan life discovered the highest percentage of people scanning QR codes was 34-44 years. 

What makes these codes so successful? 

Is it due to the amount of information they can hold? A barcode can only hold up to 25 characters, whereas a QR code can hold up to 2500. That makes these successful because the QR codes are smaller than a regular barcode and, therefore, can reduce the cost of label printing while keeping the level of information standard.

Another great advantage to these codes is that the code will still work even when damaged or dirty, the code will still work. That is a massive benefit because wear and tear on barcodes make them unreadable and, therefore, null and void.

Walking down the street, you’ve seen these codes on posters and bus stops as they’re a great marketing strategy. Instead of the boring “Call us on…” the code somehow entices you to pull your smartphone out and scan the link to see what the code does. That can immediately set an email address to your smartphone to contact the company directly, saving you time and the company money!

There are many advantages to using QR codes; however, most importantly, they can help businesses collect traffic data. By clicking on the link once the code is scanned, companies now have an easier way to measure crucial analytics, from sharing the code from friend to friend to the duration of time spent looking at the site.

On the flip side of the coin, there are many disadvantages involving the QR code regarding safety and security. 

The main questions in an individual’s mind usually consist of ‘what does this code do? Where will it take me?’. That is a massive flaw in the system due to untrustworthy individuals sticking irrelevant and dangerous sites onto the code, which can later steal information. 

As stated above, these questions are enough to scare anyone, but there is no honest answer to the question until it’s too late. It is essential that before clicking the link to the site, be shown to preview what the site entails.  

Ultimately, this simply comes down to the technology we carry in our pockets. Older ages are less likely to have a compatible smartphone to scan the codes, and the younger generations don’t understand how these codes are used. 

In our society, where our new normal has to be a contact-free environment, QR codes have been a small solution to minor problems. Overall, QR codes will still live alongside us for some time, but do you trust them?

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