The State Of QR Codes And What To Expect In 2009

Though QR (Quick Response) barcodes haven’t been as prolific in 2008 as maybe some of us had hoped, 2009 looks to be a whole different story.  I’ve been following the technology since its inception, and though I knew it would be hard to catch on in the US due the state of our mobile technology …   Read More

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Though QR (Quick Response) barcodes haven’t been as prolific in 2008 as maybe some of us had hoped, 2009 looks to be a whole different story.  I’ve been following the technology since its inception, and though I knew it would be hard to catch on in the US due the state of our mobile technology compared to elsewhere, I still thought we’d be further along then we currently are.  With that being said, 2008 still brought some large scale innovations with QR as well as some large-scale mobile campaigns that were centered around using QR.

The basic function of a QR code has proved perfect as a tool in mobile marketing.  By using a special code-reader or the camera of your mobile device to read the contents of a specific barcode, it bypasses the need to input a long URL into your mobile browser.  The problem being, until recently, a consumer would have to find and download a special mobile application, or have a mobile device with a non-VGA camera, and so.  In other words, it was to much of a hassle for normal users to understand and use effectively.

Now, with the advent of streamlined mobile-application delivery such as Apple’s App Store, Blackberry and Android versions, along with the near phase-out of VGA camera phones, the whole process is becoming easier to understand and operate.  Still, in countries like the US and Australia, along with Europe, QR codes are virtually non-existent. That’s not to say the technology hasn’t been used in some large-scale mobile campaigns though.

As Adena reported on last month, Pepsi introduced one of the first large-scale QR-based mobile campaigns to date in Europe, with over 400 million QR barcodes being distributed on Pepsi cans.  Likewise, Micheal reported on one of Australia’s first large-scale QR deployments in a campaign to help promote the new James Bond movie by way of a “treasure hunt” of sorts.  The campaign attracted over 10,000 users without any help from the mainstream media.  If that doesn’t show potential than I don’t know what would.

Beyond the obvious uses in mobile marketing, 2008 brought to light many others.  CitySearch and Antenna Audio began a program last spring in San Francisco in which they placed QR codes on historical landmarks and restaurants.  The QR codes can then be linked to a public review site, a wiki, or a forum, and anyone can lend a hand in chronicling a certain site’s history.

A company called EventBrite tested a new “green ticketing” service along with a barcode-based attendee registration system that will ultimately allow event organizers to “check-in” attendees on-site using a basic webcam.  They’ve even created “barcode check-in scanning” as well to coincide with their QR-based ticketing services.

Interestingly enough, we also saw QR codes used for personal expression as well in 2008.  QR codes made for clothing, scarfs and other accessories with personal QR-based messages embedded in them, and even ones for speed dating and fundraising.  There’s no question that the future of QR looks bright, whether or not us in the US will be able to participate in the near future.

My only concern is whether or not QR will prevail over other “digital hyperlink” technologies such as mobile image recognition, etc.  2008 was a good year for QR, but was also a good year for a variety of image recognition applications by way of the iPhone, Android devices and more.  What can be accomplished with a QR code, can be accomplished with image recognition as well, and in many cases much more.  A user can take a photo of a CD or device of some sort, and use an image recognition app such as Amazon’s iPhone app, to hyperlink to the associated mobile content.  To me, this technology seems more promising than QR codes, but maybe I’m wrong.

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  1. devstiksi

    If you want to create vector QR codes beside bitmap QR codes you can do this using free online tool at: You can choose between various data types, we support also geolocation.

  2. Patrick

    Its interesting going back and reading QR articles from a year ago, and where they predicted we would be now in 2010.

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  7. Evan Olson

    I would have to agree with you in the sense that most QR campaigns have not been as great as they could be. We pride ourselves in using all of our various technology solutions in the most creative ways possible.

    Again, our patent pending solutions for QR codes allows for one to Scan, BUT also snap a picture, send it via MMS or email to an email address, and receive the content back onto their phone. This allows for people with and without scanners to use QR codes.

  8. John Noi

    We use QR codes to help drive content instead of marketing campaigns at Spektacle Heights. I think consumers become weary of mediums that try to sell them something, and in may cases where QR codes have been used to date, I think the sophistication of the marketing campaigns have been poor.

  9. Evan Olson

    Hello Justin,

    Our company actually has a patent pending solution in which a user can either scan our QR code, or they can take a picture and send via MMS or email to have the same content sent back in return. In a nutshell, we have put the scanner on the back-end, thus allowing for full UK and USA market penetration.

    We also do image recognition as you mention above, complimented with WAP development, application development, online microsites, SMS texting, and multimedia transcoding+delivery.

    For more information visit or feel free to get in touch. Thanks!

  10. Al

    This is a fun market penetration business case. Who has to be involved to drive adoption, and how do they have to be motivated to participate? Is it brands? Is it phone compannies? Is it technology providers? and so on…

    FYI, for interesting use cases for barcodes–and to your point, other technologies like image recognition–check out

  11. Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS


    It would appear the one thing holding back QR codes in the US is end user compatibility, similar to why any type of MMS has not taken off in the states yet. The end user just doesn’t have the know-how to exploit such technology or the tipping point in end user mobile phones being replaced with better technology.

    The question to be looking at as to the sustainability, or better yet, the adoption of such technology, is why has this not taken off yet in Europe? They have had 3g since the turn of the century, have more advanced phones, and have end users that are very educated.

    We can name multiple reasons why we aren’t there yet in the states. But why hasn’t Europe adopted this technology as of yet. If it was to be, they would have most likely already taken this technology and proved the value…

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