What are QR Codes and 2D Codes?

QR Codes started as a way of keeping track on Japanese automotive parts as they moved through the vehicle manufacturing plant. The grid-like sequence of black and white squares could contain a lot more information about the parts origin and destination than a standard UPC [universal product code] of vertical bars.. The ‘QR’ of QR code stands for ‘Quick Response’. Speed and accuracy being an important factor in the highly automated car manufacture process.

They are mono-chrome [not always black and white!] for easy printing, can be printed quite small, scaleable [they can be tiled] to accommodate more data and have a great level of error correction which improves the chance of the codes data being readable should the code be torn or marked etc.

Damaged but still decodable QR code linking to Wikipedia
Figure: Damaged but still decodable QR code

The barcodes became very popular for other uses in Japan and found their way as an alternative marketing tool: featuring on posters, magazine advertising, even food and more… The ubiquitous use of the cellphone and mobile internet in Japan meant their use took off.

They are popular because of their potential and flexibility. They can contain urls, contact info, plain text and link to rich media. Perfect for spontaneity – it only takes a snap to get the code. Removes the possibility of transcribing errors on the part of the user, you are not relying on them to copy a lot of information accurately.

Not to be confused with RedLaser or Stickybits iOS / Android apps - both let users scan barcodes which look up price or reward information which is compared against a database to decode the data. With 2D codes the data is embedded and readable by the camera software.

Find out more…

If you are a fellow Tumblr, following the tag #qr code is a great place to start.