Masahiro Hara holding a QR code
Masahiro Hara, inventor QR code

We all got our history, and so does the QR code. It probably didn't start as you think it did. It was not meant to be (at first) for consumers to get more information or for digital business cards (vCard QR code).

The QR Code story begins in the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan. In 1994, a subsidiary of Toyota called Denso Wave developed the first-ever QR code. The brilliant mind behind this invention was Masahiro Hara, an engineer at Denso Wave.

Their goal? To create a more efficient way of tracking vehicles and parts during the manufacturing process. The traditional barcodes just weren't cutting it anymore, so they needed something faster and more versatile. Enter the QR (Quick Response) code.

What made QR codes so special? Well, for starters, they could store more information than traditional barcodes – up to 7,000 alphanumeric characters, to be exact. Plus, they could be scanned from any angle, making them much more user-friendly. Because they were created by a subsidiary of Toyota, you know they had that legendary Japanese efficiency built right in.

It wasn't until 2011 that QR codes truly began to take off globally, as smartphones became more sophisticated at scanning codes. Around this time retailers, advertisements, and even packaged goods started featuring QR codes to offer consumers more detailed information on a given product.

This led to increased knowledge and familiarity among the general public with QR codes as a method of information retrieval.

By 2013, QR Codes were wildly popular in the Asia-Pacific region, with China, Japan, and South Korea accounting for the majority of the usage. While in other parts of the world, QR codes were starting to appear as a friendly oddity.

Nowadays, QR codes continue to be widely used in larger parts of the world, with increasing popularity driven by the convenience and ease of scanning codes with a phone.

QR Code trends graph
QR Code trends

Getting used to the QR code

Covid needed to happen for people to understand and find use cases for the little black-and-white squares.

Nowadays when people spot a QR code they know what to do, take out their phone, flip it to camera mode, and point it at the QR code to get more information.

Especially now that almost every standard camera app on phones has a built-in QR code scanner it's easier than ever.

Restaurants started using QR codes to provide contactless menus, while retailers implemented them for touch-free payment options.

Even healthcare providers got in on the action, using QR codes to streamline patient check-ins and share important information.

Dynamic QR Codes: A New Era

Unlike static QR codes, which store fixed information, dynamic QR codes allow users to change the content behind the code without altering its appearance.

This flexibility has opened up new possibilities for QR code usage, making them an even more powerful tool.

One of the most significant advantages of dynamic QR codes is the ability to track and analyze user engagement.  

This information enables businesses to measure the success of their QR code campaigns and make data-driven decisions to optimize their marketing strategies.

AI is getting involved, Good or Bad?

You might have already seen the beautiful artworks that function as QR codes generated by AI. As this might look very cool I'm not convinced yet that this is the future of QR codes. The main goal of the QR code is to be scanned so we can capture leads, or lead people to the correct information, quickly.

People are just getting used to the little black-and-white squares and now know that they can scan them for more information. Sure it looks very cool, but the QR code also needs to be scannable, especially for older phones who have a hard enough time scanning them.

So be careful how much you customize your QR code so your customers can still scan it, that is always the goal: "Make sure to lead your customers to the right place". (with Short QR)