A Quick Response Code, or QR code, is a type of two-dimensional bar code designed to have faster readability and greater storage capacity than standard bar codes. A QR code consists of square black dots set in a square grid on a plain white background. Originally developed for the automotive industry in Japan, in recent years QR codes have spread to other fields.
Denso Wave, a Toyota subsidiary, invented the QR code in 1994, intending to use its capacity for high-speed component scanning to track vehicles during manufacture. These new codes are intended to be read by semiconductor image sensors and digitally analyzed by a programmed processor. The processor begins by locating the three distinctive squares located in the corners, then uses the fourth corner to normalize for size, location and angle. The smaller squares form a binary message and are checked with a error-correcting code.
QR codes were originally designed for use in industry, but in recent years retailers and marketers have seized upon their potential for quick scanning and processing. The QR code's ability to interact with mobile devices makes it a particularly common tool for use in mobile commerce.
Almost any modern mobile device with data capabilities can scan QR codes, either natively or thanks to a third-party application. Apple's iOS, for instance, cannot read QR codes on its own, but there are more than fifty scanning apps available including Google Goggles. BlackBerry devices can use the App World application to scan QR codes and load any associated URL automatically. Android devices, Windows Phone 7.5 and the Nintendo 3DS also have QR capabilities.
Used in this context, the QR code compensates somewhat for one of the great disadvantages of mobile Web browsing. Typing a URL on a mobile device can be frustrating and time-consuming for many users; scanning a code and being immediately directed to the appropriate website is substantially easier.
Because scanning QR codes requires almost no effort on the consumer's part, they have become a key part of many advertising strategies in the retail industry. Including a QR code in an advertisement brings the viewer straight to the advertiser's website, where he or she can then be immediately exposed to a longer, more detailed sales pitch. QR codes are highly convenient for users, which leads directly to higher customer satisfaction rates. More importantly, the QR code's ability to send viewers directly to more information leads to a higher conversion rate; that is, a higher percentage of responses actually turn into sales.
A small but growing number of retailers are relying on QR codes to sell products directly to consumers. These virtual stores allow customers to buy items by just scanning pictures of the products they want on a wall of QR codes, then wait for a delivery to bring those items straight to their homes.
In the world of mobile commerce, QR codes are an increasingly common way to process payments remotely. A QR code can be used to store credit card or bank account information for payment access, or it can be linked directly to a payment provider application. A specialized QR code called a Short Payment Descriptor is seeing increasing use in the Czech and Slovak Republics specifically for payment processing.
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