QR codes, also known as Quick Response codes, have revolutionised how people interact with data. These two-dimensional barcodes have emerged as a powerful tool for encoding and decoding information.
The use of QR codes in Australia and New Zealand have become an essential part of daily life, transforming various industries and consumer habits. Whether it’s managing contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, streamlining mobile payments, enhancing advertising with interactive content, or enriching tourism experiences, these simple yet powerful codes are omnipresent. From transportation systems to restaurant menus and supply chain tracking, QR codes offer innovative, quick, and secure solutions, cementing their role in both practical applications and creative endeavours across these nations. Their widespread adoption reflects a society that’s rapidly embracing technological advancements to make everyday tasks more convenient and engaging. In a similar market environment, the United States has shown remarkable growth in recent years. As per Statista, an estimated 89 million Americans scanned a QR code on their mobile devices in 2022. Moreover, it’s expected that the usage of QR codes will continue to rise, with projected estimations indicating that over 100 million Americans will scan QR codes in 2025.
QR codes gained popularity due to their versatility in storing various data types. They can hold numeric and alphanumeric characters, byte/binary data and Kanji characters. QR barcodes also offer many benefits, such as providing instant access to important information, facilitating seamless transactions, and serving as a creative marketing tool to captivate audiences.
In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the world of QR codes. We will explore their functionalities and highlight the numerous ways they can be leveraged for personal and business needs.
What are QR Codes?- A Detailed View
QR codes were developed in 1994 by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation. They were initially developed to track automobile parts.
The popularity of the QR code system was fueled by the introduction of mobile phones equipped with QR code-reading capabilities. With a simple scan using their mobile devices, individuals gained access to websites, exclusive offers, and valuable content linked to the QR codes.
Nowadays, QR codes have become crucial for businesses and individuals, serving various purposes such as contactless payments, electronic tickets, name cards, marketing campaigns and other similar uses.
Although QR codes have been around for decades, their usage has significantly increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fact is confirmed by a report published by Statista, which reveals that in the United States alone, the number of households that scanned QR codes in 2020 was 11 million – a notable rise from 9.76 million scans in 2018.
Such increased numbers of QR Code scanning can be accredited to the growing trend of contactless transactions as a safety measure during the pandemic. The trend continued to rise as the number of QR codes scanned amounted to 89 million in 2022, indicating a 26% increase compared to the previous year. These statistics are a testament to the importance of QR codes in our modern world.
A QR code can hold up to 2953 bytes of data, 4296 alphanumeric characters, 7089 numeric characters, or 1817 Kanji characters (a character set according to JIS X 0208). This makes QR codes suitable for providing links to websites or applications and multimedia content such as images, videos and audio files.
Compared to traditional barcodes, QR codes offer several benefits. They can be scanned using camera-enabled devices like smartphones without additional hardware. Additionally, QR codes can be scanned from any angle and have error correction abilities and size flexibility.
QR Codes provide a convenient way for businesses and customers to access information quickly and securely. Their ease of use makes them popular among marketers and customers alike, as they can transfer large amounts of data in a single scan with minimal effort.
How Does a Quick Response Code Work?
Like any other barcode, QR codes process information by simply reflecting a beam of light. This beam of light wears a pattern of the barcode, which the optical sensor in the scanner captures and converts into electronic signals. Then, the processor decodes the electronic signals and sends the stored information to the user. All of this complex algorithm happens in a matter of seconds.
If you want to delve into the technicalities of QR codes, refer to our guide on how do QR codes work. In this guide, we have discussed each step of the process in detail, explained in a clear and formal style.
Why Do We Need QR Codes?
QR codes are becoming popular as a way to provide customers with information and access to digital content quickly. These codes have a wide range of uses and advantages for businesses and consumers.
QR codes can store a larger amount of data in a smaller space. QR codes can also be used to link to websites, contact details, social media accounts, and digital content.
QR codes provide businesses with an effective way to convey information about their products and services quickly. Companies can offer customers additional information by placing QR codes on product packaging, business cards, posters, and billboards.
Other benefits of QR codes include the following.
- QR codes are space-efficient: They are much smaller than traditional barcodes yet contain more data, making them ideal for tight spaces where space is at a premium.
- QR codes can be used to bridge physical and digital marketing efforts: By scanning a QR code on an advertisement or product packaging, customers can be taken directly to an online page related to that product or service.
- QR codes are cost-effective: They’re less expensive than many traditional marketing materials (such as brochures) and require no additional printing costs since they can be created digitally.
- QR codes provide an additional layer of security for online transactions: When combined with two-factor authentication methods such as PINs or biometrics, these codes help ensure that only authorised users have access to sensitive accounts or data.
Various Standards of the QR Code
QR Codes were accepted as an international standard in June 2000, indicating its global acceptance beyond Japan.
Let’s take a look at the Various standards of QR codes.
AIM International Standard
In October 1997, a significant milestone was reached when the QR code was approved as the AIM International standard. The Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) is a worldwide organisation that links, standardises, and promotes the use of barcode technology.
The recognition from AIM solidified the QR code’s position as a widely accepted and standardised form of barcode technology.
In March 1998, the QR code was approved as the JEIDA standard, known as JEIDA-55. The Japanese electronic industry development association (JEIDA) is a Japanese trade and standards organisation. This endorsement by a prominent industry association in Japan further solidified the QR code’s position as a widely accepted and standardised barcode format in the country.
In January 1999, the QR code was approved as the JIS standard, known as JIS X 0510. The Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JIS) is Japan’s national standardisation body.
The recognition from the Japanese Industrial Standards was crucial in making QR codes popular in different industries such as marketing, logistics, ticketing, and mobile payment systems.
In June 2000, the QR code achieved a significant milestone by being approved as an ISO international standard known as ISO/IEC18004. An ISO standard is a globally accepted method of performing a particular task, standardised by the International Organisation for Standardisation.
The ISO’s recognition confirmed that the QR code is now recognised globally as a valid barcode format.
Micro QR Code Approved as JIS Standard
The Micro QR code was approved as a JIS standard known as JIS X 0510 in November 2004. The Micro QR code was specifically designed for applications that require smaller code sizes and limited space. It features a smaller footprint compared to the traditional QR code while retaining its data capacity and error correction capabilities.
In December 2011, QR codes received further recognition and acceptance when they were approved as a standard for mobile phones by GS1. The GS1 is an international organisation that develops and maintains global barcode standards.
Unique Features of QR Code
Let’s have a look at some features that make QR codes unique.
High-Capacity Encoding of Data
QR codes have a significantly higher data capacity compared to traditional barcodes. QR codes can encode several dozen to several hundred times more data than traditional barcodes.
QR codes don’t have a universal size that fits all. They are size flexible, meaning users can increase or decrease their size as required.
Moreover, QRs can store large amounts of data in small spaces as they contain information both horizontally and vertically.
Kana & Kanji Capability
QR codes can encode both JIS Level 1 and Level 2 kanji character sets.
In Japanese, one full-width kana or kanji character can be encoded in 13 bits, making QR Code able to hold more than 20% of data compared to other 2D symbologies.
A unique feature of QR codes is that they can still function even if they have been damaged. QR Codes have the ability to recover damaged parts thanks to their error correction capability.
QR codes can only withstand a certain amount of damage before they become unreadable. Specifically, they can still be scanned even if 30% of the code is damaged.
QR codes come with omnidirectional readability, allowing them to be detected and decoded regardless of the angle a scanning device approaches.
Structured Appending Feature
QR codes can be separated into multiple data areas, and many data areas can be combined into a single data symbol.
One data symbol can be divided into 16 smaller data symbols for printing in a small space.
How to Recognise a QR Code?
A QR code can be easily recognised by its unique pattern of small black and white squares arranged in a square grid. QR codes consist of three large squares positioned in the top right, top left and bottom left corners and one small square near the bottom right corner.
These visual characteristics, such as the array of smaller square modules, the distinct arrangement of squares, the presence of alignment marks, and the overall square shape, make it straightforward to identify a QR code and distinguish it from other types of barcodes.
Elements of QR Codes
All QR codes have a standard structure that makes information readable. The QR code comprises the following elements.
- Positioning marking
- Timing pattern
- Alignment marking
- Version information
- Format information
- Data and error correction module
- Quiet zone
The encoded data in a QR code is stored in “modules”, which are square dots found in the data area. The black modules represent a binary 1, while the white modules represent a binary 0.
Positioning marks are the large squares located top right, top left, and bottom left corners of a QR code. These squares show the correct orientation of the QR code, ensuring that it can be scanned properly even if your camera is at an odd angle.
The alignment markers are represented by a square with a black dot in the centre. They appear in different positions depending on the amount of information stored in the QR code.
Alignment markings are smaller than the position markers. Their purpose is to straighten out QR codes drawn on a curved surface. The size of a QR code increases with the amount of information it stores, requiring more alignment patterns as well.
The timing pattern consists of alternating light and dark modules in a vertical and horizontal arrangement. This pattern is located between two position markers.
The timing pattern helps configure the data grid by establishing the central coordinate of each cell within the QR code. These patterns also help QR code scanners determine the size of the data pattern in the QR code.
The version information indicates the version of the scanned QR code. It is located around the position markers. A version represents the number of rows and columns that a QR Code would have.
There are over 40 different QR code versions. Version 1 has 21 rows x 21 columns. Similarly, version 40 has 177 rows x 177 columns. The more the version number, the higher the QR code capacity.
There are format patterns surrounding all three position markers. Format patterns contain details about error tolerance and mask patterns that facilitate smooth QR code scanning.
Data and Error Correction Module
The data area is the most important part of a QR code. It contains the data modules that include the actual encoded information and Reed-Solomon codes for error correction.
The size of the data area depends on the following three factors.
- Type and amount of information encoded
- Chosen error correction level (ECL)
- Level of custom designing done
The quiet zone is a blank space that surrounds the QR code. The purpose of the quiet zone is to establish a clear distinction between the QR code and its surroundings. It also assists a scanner in identifying position markers in the QR code.
Error Correction in QR Barcode
QR codes come with error correction capabilities that can restore data even if the code is
dirty or damaged.
The QR codes are classified into four levels of error correction: L, M, Q, and H. These levels determine the percentage of dirt or damage the code can sustain without becoming unreadable.
- Level L up to 7% damage
- Level M up to 15% damage
- Level Q up to 25% damage
- Level H up to 30% damage
Increasing the error correction level enhances the ability to correct errors but also leads to a larger QR code size.
When choosing the error correction level, it is important to consider factors such as the size of the QR code and the operating environment. In most cases, the Level M error correction level is more than sufficient.
For example, In a factory environment where QR codes are prone to getting dirty, it is recommended to use Level Q or H. However, if the environment is clean and there is a large amount of data, level L is the better choice.
Types of QR Codes
Static QR Code
Static QR codes are the traditional type of QR barcode that cannot be modified once generated. Static QR codes contain real data intended for users and have no connection to an online server or website.
Static QR codes possess the following characteristics.
- Not customisable
- Have a specific and complex URL assigned
- Contains a high quantity of data patterns
- Cannot be monitored
- Can be read offline without requiring an active Internet connection
By scanning static QR codes, users can view and interact with the stored data immediately because the data is already embedded in the code. This data can consist of a website URL, contact details like name, address, phone number, calendar events, instruction manuals, etc.
Static QR codes can be generated for free and have no limits to the number of times they can be scanned.
Dynamic QR Code
Dynamic QR codes provide the flexibility to modify and update the embedded data, even after the code has been posted. With dynamic QR codes, users can also monitor QR performance in real-time. This includes tracking the number of scans, locations, times, and devices used.
Dynamic QR codes possess the following characteristics.
- Can be modified at any time
- Offers QR code scan monitoring and analytics
- Have a short and simple URL
- Are compact and have a small number of data patterns
- Full usability of these codes may require an active Internet connection
Dynamic QR codes contain a shortened URL instead of the actual information they represent. The URL is saved on an online server and directs users to a webpage or website that provides the necessary information about the QR code. Since the URL of the code is saved on an online server, it can be modified as needed.
Explore our comprehensive guide on dynamic vs static QR codes for a complete explanation of the two types of QR codes. This guide covers all the aspects of static and dynamic QR codes, such as how they work, their benefits and drawbacks, their similarities, and how to choose the right type of QR code for your business needs.
QR Code Model 1 and Model 2
QR codes Model 1 and Model 2 are commonly seen on marketing posters, TVs, and the Internet. They look very similar in appearance. Let’s take a look at each type.
Model 1 is the original QR code design. It can store up to 1167 numeric characters, 707 alphanumerics, or 299 Kanji characters. The maximum size of Model 1 QR codes is 73 x 73 modules.
The QR code Model 2 is more advanced compared to Model 1. It can hold more information, such as up to 7089 numeric characters, 4296 alphanumerics, 2953 binary bytes, and 1817 Kanji characters.
Additionally, Model 2 has an alignment pattern, making it easier to detect and read the QR code compared to Model 1. Model 2 QR code has a maximum size of 177 x 177 modules.
Micro QR Code
The Micro QR code is a smaller version of the original QR code. It contains fewer data compared to a regular QR code because it has fewer data pixels and only one positioning marking. It is commonly used to encode data for product packaging and small-sized items, such as machine hardware.
A Micro QR code can be used with just two modules. The data encoding capacity of Micro QR codes is categorised into four variants – M1, M2, M3 and M4.
Number of modules
Error correction level
Numeric, Alphanumeric, Binary, Kanji
Numeric, Alphanumeric, Binary, Kanji
L, M, Q
The rMQR code is also known as the Rectangular Micro QR code. It is a rectangular version of the micro QR code.
The rMQR code is designed for printing in narrow spaces where regular QR codes cannot be printed. It can hold more information than Micro QR codes. The rMQR code reduces the number of positioning markings from three to one and a half to save space.
The rMQR code, although small in size, can store 219 alphanumeric characters, 361 numeric characters, and 92 kanji characters. Its storage capacity makes it a suitable replacement for linear barcodes in product inventory.
The SQRC stands for Secret-function-equipped QR Code. It is a type of QR code that has limitations on who can access the data it contains. SQRC is commonly used for handling confidential information within a company.
The SQRC looks identical to a regular QR code and has the same features as a general one. The SQRC contains both public and private data. It can be scanned with a specialised QR code scanner, not just a smartphone.
Scanning the SQRC with a phone will only reveal public information, which may be unrelated to the embedded data. Private information will only be displayed when the SQRC is scanned using an SQRC scanner.
Other QR Code Types
There are other types of QR codes based on their respective functions. These include.
URL QR Code
URL QR code will take users directly to a website without manually typing in the website address. The code contains the address of the website.
vCard QR Code
One way to easily share your contact information is by creating a vCard QR code and adding it to your business cards. By scanning the QR code, others can quickly access your contact details.
File QR Code
Users can use file QR codes for different file types such as PDF, JPEG, PNG, MP4, Excel, and Word. These files can be saved on a computer’s hard drive or online. The file QR is dynamic, allowing users to access and modify the stored data.
Social Media QR Code
A social media QR code can store all your social media profiles, making it easier for users to find your business on social media. They can scan the code, and all your social media pages will appear on their smartphones.
Menu QR Code
Restaurant owners can use a menu QR code to enable customers to access the restaurant menu via mobile devices. Scanning the QR code shows the menu on the customer’s phone.
QR Code Payment
Businesses use payment QR codes to promote contactless payments and efficient customer service.
App QR Code
The app QR code takes users to a page where they can download the app from either the App Store or Google Play without manual searching.
Wi-Fi QR Code
Wi-fi QR codes make it easier for guests to connect to your Wi-Fi network without needing a password. When this code is displayed in a restaurant, bar, or cafe, customers can simply scan it with their device to gain instant Internet access.
Uses of QR Codes
Here are some other uses of QR codes.
Easy Information Sharing
Since QR codes are readable with smartphones, a QR code can serve as a gateway to a landing page that showcases your company’s information.
Scan-to-order QR codes are more common in restaurants, bars and cafes. These QRs help customers order the desired product by scanning a QR code.
Many customers nowadays prefer accessing a virtual manual rather than a paper one. Adding a QR code to technical packages offers customers a physical manual and a PDF copy. This way, they can save the digital copy on their phone simply by scanning it.
Adding a QR code to print ads can boost marketing by providing the audience with additional information. Scanning the QR code directs customers to a landing page with more details about your ad.
Boost App Downloads
A QR code can be used to direct users to a landing page, where they can instantly download an app.
Including a QR code on business cards is a growing trend in the business world. Business cards are typically exchanged at events or meetings to facilitate future communication. With a QR code, users can direct others to a landing page containing basic information about your company, such as contact details and website links.
Joining a Wi-Fi network can be done faster by scanning the network’s QR code using your smartphone. This eliminates the need to type in long passwords.
Increasing Social Media Presence
Utilising a social media QR code consolidates all social media channels onto one landing page. Incorporating social QR codes into social media strategy can assist in promoting the page and attracting additional followers.
How to Generate a QR Code?
There are two main types of QR codes: Static QR codes and Dynamic QR codes.
How to Generate a Static QR Code?
To get a static QR code, follow these simple steps.
- Decide what information you want your QR code to represent. It can be a website URL, contact details, a text message, or any other static information you want to share
- There are various online QR code generator tools available. Choose a reliable and reputable generator that allows you to create static QR codes
- Choose a Static QR code format
- After entering the content, click on the “Generate” or “Create” button to generate the static QR code
- Once the QR code is generated, download it in a suitable format. Make sure to test the QR code using a QR code scanner app to ensure it properly redirects to the desired information.
How to Generate a Dynamic QR Code?
Generating a Dynamic QR code is easy. Just follow these simple steps.
- Decide what information you want your QR code to represent
- Select a QR code generator that has a simple and user-friendly interface. Look for one that can generate QR codes instantly
- Choose a dynamic QR code format. You can customise it by selecting patterns, adding a logo, and changing the colours
- After entering the barcode content click on the generate button to generate the Dynamic QR code
- Before you make your QR code public, conduct a scan test to check if it’s functioning properly and displaying the accurate URL or file. It is always recommended to perform scan tests
- After confirming that your QR code is functional, you can proceed to download, share, and present it
QR codes are a public domain technology with no associated license restrictions or fees. Consequently, there are numerous free QR code generators on the Internet.
However, these free generators lack the benefits of paid QR code generators, such as greater flexibility, customisation, security, and support. It is therefore advised to use paid QR code generators for better management and creation of QR codes.
Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software is one software that we highly recommend to our customers. BarTender is the world’s top label design and printing software, enabling you to produce labels with graphics, text, barcodes, and RFID tags and automate and manage the entire labelling process. With BarTender Software, you can create the following types of QR codes.
- GS1 QR code
- iQR code
- Micro QR code
- QR code
- GS1 digital link QR code
Triton is a trusted provider of the Seagull Scientific BarTender Software. We offer all four editions, namely, Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition and Enterprise Edition and the latest BarTender cloud, at the best prices possible.
To learn more about this fantastic label printing and designing software, visit our BarTender software web page or contact us via the live chat widget.
How to Design QR Codes?
When it comes to QR codes specifically, proper design rules should be followed to optimise their performance. Failing to adhere to these formal guidelines can render the code unreadable, which can cause significant disruptions in day-to-day business activities.
How to Print QR Codes?
In the world of printing, there are various technologies to choose from. However, for those who are looking to print physical QR codes and stick them onto products or marketing materials like posters or flyers, thermal printing technology is highly recommended.
Thermal printers are non-impact printers that use a thermal printhead to generate heat and activate the dye or transfer ribbon onto the print media. There are two types of thermal printing: Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal.
If you’re looking to learn more about the two types of thermal print technologies and which one might be best for your needs, be sure to check out our guide on direct thermal vs thermal transfer printing.
Thermal printing technology outshines traditional inkjet and laser printing technologies in various ways, making it the best option for printing QR codes. The following are some advantages of thermal printers over inkjet and laser printers.
- High-quality printing that ensures better scanning accuracy
- Fast print speeds
- Low running costs
- Low maintenance costs
- Silent printing operations
With Triton, thermal printing has never been easier or more efficient. We pride ourselves on having an unbeatable selection of top-of-the-line thermal printers from major brands like Zebra, Honeywell, TSC and OKI, ensuring that you’ll find nothing less than the best.
Our printers are carefully chosen to ensure they deliver the utmost accuracy, efficiency, and durability to tackle any printing job that comes your way with ease. Our range of thermal printers includes desktop label printers, industrial label printers, direct thermal printers, thermal transfer printers and barcode label printers.
With our formal approach to service, we provide the professionalism and reliability you deserve. Choose Triton and say goodbye to inferior thermal printers and hello to the superior quality that Triton has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Scan a QR Code on My Phone?
To scan a QR code on your phone, follow these steps.
- Open the camera app on your smartphone.
- Hold your phone steady and position the QR code within the camera frame.
- Once the QR code is recognised, a notification or pop-up may appear on your screen with the detected QR code’s content.
Alternatively, if your phone doesn’t have a built-in QR code scanning feature, you can download a QR code scanning app from your device’s app store. Launch the app and use it to scan QR codes by following its instructions.
Can a QR Code Track You?
No, QR codes do not track you.
However, dynamic QR codes can be used to track and gather information such as the number of scans, location, device used, and unique visitors. This information assists in assessing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. However, static QR codes cannot be tracked.
What Are The Risks of QR Codes?
Scammers can create a malicious QR code and add logos for Google or Apple app stores, which can lead to malware attacks, make you vulnerable to phishing attacks, hack your device, get access to sensitive information and much more.
Is It Safe to Send QR Codes to Anyone?
Yes, it is generally safe to send a QR code to someone. A QR code is just a graphical representation of information and poses no direct security risks. However, it’s important to consider the content of the QR code and the context in which it is being shared.
Ensure that the information encoded in the QR code is intended to be shared with the recipient and doesn’t contain any sensitive or personal data. Additionally, be cautious of QR codes received from unknown or untrusted sources, as they could potentially lead to malicious websites or actions.
Can I Scan a QR Code From a Photo?
Yes, you can scan a QR code from a photo. Many QR code scanning apps and built-in smartphone camera features offer the ability to read QR codes directly from saved photos in your device’s gallery.
What Are Two Disadvantages of Using QR Codes?
Two disadvantages of using QR codes are.
- Compatibility: While QR codes are widely used and supported, compatibility issues can still exist with older devices or certain scanning apps. Some older smartphones may not have a built-in QR code scanner, requiring users to download a separate app to scan the codes.
- Limited Content Capacity: QR codes have a finite amount of storage capacity, which limits the amount of information they can hold. Although QR codes can store more data than traditional barcodes, they have a practical limit.
Is a QR Code Safer Than a Barcode?
In terms of security, both QR codes and barcodes are generally considered to be equally safe. The safety of a code depends more on the information it contains rather than the type of code itself.
Both QR codes and barcodes can be encrypted or contain sensitive information, so it is essential to be cautious about the content and context in which they are used. It’s important to ensure that the codes are from trusted sources and that the scanned information is handled securely.
QR codes have truly transformed how we interact with the digital world. These versatile codes have become ubiquitous, seamlessly integrating into our daily lives.
From advertising to product packaging, QR codes provide a gateway to information and experiences with a simple scan. Whether it’s accessing websites, engaging with multimedia content, making payments, or connecting on social media, QR codes offer convenience and connectivity.
We hope this article has given you a thorough understanding of QR codes.
Thanks for reading!