You may not recognize them by name, but if you’ve read any magazines recently, you have no doubt seen these curious square symbols whose patchwork of black and white pixels (modules) vaguely resembles a crossword puzzle. QR (Quick Response) Codes, as they are known, are everywhere in print advertising, and if you own a smartphone there’s a good chance you’ve scanned one of these codes with a QR Code reader app.
In the simplest terms, a QR Code’s arrangement of black squares represents data that may be a website url, text or other information. The QR Code is interpreted when a user scans it with a reader, typically a smartphone loaded with one of the many free QR Code reader apps. The reader app then reveals the information represented by the code to the user.
The density of a QR Code is defined by the number of squares contained in the rows and columns of the code and ranges from low density 21 x 21 codes to the highest density 177 x 177 codes.
So why should business owners care about QR Codes? To find the answer, I spoke with Michael Balas, founder and CEO of VitreoQR, a Cleveland-based company that focuses on mission-critical QR Code deployments.
How it all began
To understand the true realm of possibilities behind QR Codes, one must first understand their origins.
Balas explains that QR Codes were first invented in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota known as DENSO, which holds the patent on QR Codes (DENSO is now an independent business and Balas’ company is the North American distributor of their QR Code generating software and scanning hardware).
Toyota wanted a way to provide a rich set of data about each of its car parts during the manufacturing process without the need for human intervention. In response to this, DENSO developed the QR Code and affixed it to each Toyota part. Reader devices mounted along the manufacturing line would scan the codes on each part and process the data within the code.
Somewhere along the way QR Codes made their way into the public, particularly in Japan where a typical mom now scans them four times per day, two of those times in the grocery store. Balas said that, “The fact that QR Codes are playing a dramatic role in marketing today is purely an accidental byproduct of their invention.”