What is a QR Code?
A QR Code (or Quick Response Code) is the most common type of 2D (Matrix) Barcode used today. These were originally used in the automotive industry by Toyota for labeling machine parts, however they are now used to a wide variety of different purposes. QR codes are now commonly seen on the backs of business cards, on cars and on the sides of buildings. They are primarily used for linking people automatically to a chosen website when they are scanned by a cell phone app scanner. They can also be used to automatically add contact information or event information into a persons cell phone when scanned.
How Do QR Codes Work?
QR Codes are a kind of 2D Barcode. 1D (or normal barcodes) are scanned with a line which measures the distances between each of the flat bars. the scanners used for these only scan along this line so, information can only be gained from one level of the barcode. In the case of 2D Barcodes the scanner scans both across and upwards. This means that much more information can be encoded into the same amount of space.
What Information can be encoded?
QR Codes can encode up to 7089 characters. While this is reduced if the characters are non-numeric and if the QR code is a small size (because scanability will be affected), a QR code can still hold much more information than any 1D Barcode (which tend to encode less than 50 characters). This means that any length URL can easily be encoded, so that the cell phone can link to a website, a facebook page, a youtube video or any number of other sites. A QR Code can also various formats which are understood by cell phone scanning apps and perform an automatic function on the phone. For example if the QR Code has the VCard format encoded, then designated contact information can be automatically added to the phone.
What functions can a QR Code have?
QR Codes have a variety of different functions that are made available by the QR code scanning software of mobile phone apps – these apps accept certain formats or information and when information is scanned in this format the desired function will occur.
Some examples of what can be done with QR Codes are below:
- Website URL Link – the cell phone is automatically linked to the designated URL when it is scanned.
- Make a call – The cell phone will automatically call the designated number
- Send a message – the call phone will automatically open a message to the selected recipient.
- VCalendar – The cell phone will prompt to add an event into the cell phones calendar.
- VCard – The cell phone will prompt to add contact information to the contact list.
- Display a message – The cell phone will come up with a message that is encoded directly into the QR code. Numbers, Letters and Kanji can all be encoded.
QR Code Sizing
With QR Codes, the more information that is encoded the harder the code is to scan, or the bigger it will have to be. While QR code generation software doesn’t tend to restrict how much information should be encoded into a code at each size, if too much information is encoded into a small QR code, it will not scan well.
A 3.5 CM Square QR code can encode up to about 100 characters before scanning is affected, you may be able to go higher than 100 depending on the quality of the printing and the scanning software used (as well as how shaky your hand is) however if you intend to encode more than 100 characters, it may be a good idea to consider increasing the size of the QR code accordingly.
It is always a good idea to have a trail scan of the printed QR Code to ensure it will scan properly in your size (before you go printing it everywhere!).
Where to Put Your QR Code?
A QR Code can be placed anywhere that it can either be printed directly (i.e. a brochure, magazine or business card) or printed onto something else and then stuck on (i.e. signing buildings and cars or printing sticky labels to apply the QR Code everywhere). It is best to put your QR Code in a place where it will be seen and people will be curious to scan it. QR Codes are most commonly put into magazines and onto the back to business cards.
QR Code Scanning Apps
There are a variety of different free QR Code scanning apps available for both Android and Apple operating systems.
- QR Utilities
- Super QR
- Kinoni Barcode Reader
- Red Laser
- Scan – QR Code Barcode Scanner
- QR Barcode Scanner
- QR Droid
- Red Laser
These apps generally can cope with various QR Code data formats (i.e. VCard format) and tend to offer a free version.
How to Get a QR Code?
There are a few different ways to get a QR Code:
1. You can find a free online generator and create a QR code using that. If you do this, the images will often be low quality and can only come in one format. Furthermore sometimes the company providing the software likes to put it’s name above all QR Codes generated which can be tricky to get rid of.
2. You can download some paid software for generating QR Codes. These can be expensive, however they may be good if you need to produce large numbers of high quality QR Codes. Depending on the software, it may allow data import from a spreadsheet to generate codes quickly. Some high quality software costs upwards of $200.
3. You can have the QR Code professionally made to your specifications. Some barcode companies provide this as a service and can encode anything you like into the QR Codes. They provide these in various different formats to your specified size. Furthermore they are familiar with VCard and VCal formats so they can produce these easily and accurately. The following places can supply high quality QR Codes for a reasonable price: