The resurgence of the QR code


It’s not often that new technologies appear to get a second, or even third, surge of wind in their sails. But that certainly seems to be happening with the QR code. Let’s not forget that the Quick Response code was first developed and used back in 1994 in the Japanese auto industry to track cars and parts in manufacturing. Around that time QR codes were met with a sense of wonder when other wider uses in marketing and sales where first demonstrated.

But the initial wonder did rather evaporate, and the technology was unfairly almost dismissed as ‘not for the average consumer’ and became seen something of an Asian market cultural phenomenon. But the QR code was very much the technology that wouldn’t go away.

The rise of the Smartphone was the first trigger that saw interest in QR codes resurface; after all, there was now a rapidly increasing market of popular devices capable of reading the codes, and QR code readers were soon appearing in the App stores. Nevertheless, the cynics still harboured doubts and typically dismissed the claims about the potential for widespread consumer use of the QR code, but there is something about the technology that means it keeps on coming back.

Now – a quarter of a century after the first QR code was born - the growing acceptance of using a smartphone to make a payment, is seeing QR Code technology really come of age.

The QR Code label market is now predicted to see sustained growth of 8.7 per cent CAGR during the next eight years and the already near $1bn USD market is expanding globally with strong forecasts for the USA as well as Europe and, of course, China. But the resurgence of interest in the QR code is not just because of the growth of the smartphone and mobile commerce markets. There’s a more fundamental reason why this technology has fought back into the mainstream after the cynics wrote it off as one for the ‘nerds’.

The plain fact is that the QR code is experiencing this remarkable resurgence because of its underlying core strength. The codes are incredibly versatile and can have virtually countless uses. What’s more, they can also be packed with so much more data than alternatives such as simple barcodes. And, if all that isn’t enough, the increasing use of biometrics within smartphone apps, means that QR codes can now be seen as a highly secure means of authentication, payment, or any other kind of data exchange – we have several examples we can demonstrate.

Of course, the limitless potential for the QR code has always been there – indeed, we spotted it when we originally developed our Onescan process and filed our first patent application. However, it seems only now that, 25 years after its first introduction, the QR code is experiencing really widespread business and mass consumer acceptance and uptake.

It’s somewhat ironic that a technology designed to deliver a Quick Response was kept waiting this long, but there is no doubt the QR code is now making a big impact all over the world.