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QR Codes: Improving the Efficiency of Today’s Business World

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Many businesses and organizations are now mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees, conference attendees, and business partners. There is an increasing requirement for people to show a vaccination card or the results of a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to enter office buildings, restaurants, and sports arenas.

However, there may be a safety risk to carrying around a small piece of cardboard that is your only proof of vaccination. As a result, many apps provide a way for individuals to carry around their vaccination information through the use of QR (Quick Response) code technology.

This technology also provides a practical solution to the problem of social distancing. Multiple people do not have to physically touch the card, but rather can see proof of one’s vaccination on a screen, so that the risk of accidental COVID-19 infection is decreased. Using this QR code technology is one of the many ingenious ways QR codes can be used to communicate information.

What Are QR Codes?

Japanese engineer Hara Masahiro originally developed the QR code in 1994. At the time, Masahiro worked for a company called Denso, which created barcodes that were used to track different products. However, it was often necessary to scan 10 or more barcodes on each package, so Masahiro developed a QR code to shorten the time needed to scan packages.

In the field of supply chain management, QR codes are not a new concept and have been in use since their creation. They were originally intended for tracking and cataloguing parts on the assembly line and in the warehouse.

For shipping, QR codes are useful because packages can remain sealed and unopened. General information is included in the QR code on the exterior of the package or the container.

These codes may be scanned with the use of QR code readers and smartphones, which have built-in software to detect the code. QR codes can be generated using an online QR code generator.

QR codes help you share information via print, websites and social media sites. A standard QR code can hold up to three kilobytes of data.

Communication Made Simple

QR codes communicate information in a quick and efficient manner. Also, QR codes may be used to maintain social distancing. For instance, the use of QR codes means that restaurants no longer need to hand copies of the menu to guests, hotels can provide an electronic list of attractions and amenities, and venues can provide information about events to patrons more easily.

In addition, these codes can increase hotel guest safety; some hotels have replaced traditional door locks with QR lock technology. A guest can enter a room by using a unique QR code generated by the guest’s smartphone.  

QR codes may be adapted for use in various media, such as:

  • Websites
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Catalogs
  • Business cards
  • Educational products such as textbooks
  • Store window advertisements

Another benefit to QR codes is that any person can create a customized QR code. QR code software allows the creator to choose a set of patterns, colors and a personal logo.

QR code readers are now standard on most smartphones, which enables clear communication between businesses and customers. As a result, QR code usage has expanded to include gas pumps, ticket machines and beverage machines.

QR Code Drawbacks

As with any technology, there are drawbacks to using QR codes. Some of these disadvantages include:

  1. Usability – Even though these codes have been around for over 25 years, there is still a portion of the population who does not know how to use this technology. If you are a restaurant or a hotel, for instance, you may have to provide customers with step-by-step instructions on how to use a QR code.
  2. Availability – According to Bankmycell.com, approximately 48% of the population have a smartphone and 62% of the population have a mobile phone. Most QR readers are standard in smartphones, but not all mobile phones have this capability. As a result, there could be a large portion of your clientele who cannot access a QR code.
  3. Customization – Each QR code is customizable, which can have positive and negative consequences. A hotel or restaurant needs to consider how many times a new QR code is needed to relay information. The alternative may be to keep the same QR code, but change the information contained in it to suit shifting needs. For example, a restaurant may use a QR code only for standard menu items and a sign in the restaurant to highlight specials or a feature of the day.
  4. Location – These codes need to be located in an easy-to-view area where customers can find it and scan the code. In addition, the QR code may need to be in multiple locations. For example, a hotel may have a QR code highlighting upcoming events and amenities at every entry door, the concierge desk, and on the room key card to maximize its usage.
  5. Protection – The QR code needs to be protected from vandalism and environmental elements. For example, a QR code on the outside of a package could be soaked by rain, which could render the QR code unreadable.
  6. Internet Dependence – Internet connectivity is needed to read the QR code. If a business experiences an outage, there will need to be an alternate way to relay information.
  7. Language – If you are a business that caters to clients who speak multiple languages, a QR code may be needed for each language. Creating a QR code that would cater to the needs of all customers can be time-consuming.

Creating Your Own QR Code

So how do you create your own customized QR code? There are several websites that offer a free QR generator, and the creation process usually includes these four steps:

#1: Choose the Type of QR Code to Use

Determine how you want your QR code to be used. For instance, will it become a web address? Do you want to put it into a flyer, text or email?

#2: Add the Data for Your QR Code

For your QR code, you can add data such as the date, time, and location of an event or the menu items for a restaurant. Make sure you double-check the information you’re adding to the QR code, because that information cannot be changed after the code is generated.

#3: Customize Your QR Code

While most of these codes are black and white, you can make your QR code specific to your business by selecting a suitable color, design, marker border, and pattern. Many businesses also include their logo on the QR code to show their unique brand.

#4: Download Your QR Code

After you save the information you input, you can then download the code. QR codes can be saved as .png, .svg or .eps image files, depending on the software you use.

The Use of QR Codes Continues to Expand

Over the last 25 years, these codes have greatly improved efficiency in manufacturing and factory automation. It’s great to see how this technology expanded into other markets such as mainstream businesses, hotels and restaurants.

QR codes became mainstream due to three reasons: their affordability, easy compatibility with electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones, and high data storage capabilities. While these codes have their limitations, but their popularity has overcome the initial hesitancy to adopt this new way of relaying information. QR codes are here to stay.

Dr. Kandis Wyatt, PMP, is an award-winning author, presenter, and professor with nearly 30 years of experience in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). She is the creator of the Professor S.T.E.A.M. Children’s Book Series, which brings tomorrow’s concepts to future leaders today. A global speaker, STE(A)M advocate, and STE(A)M communicator, she holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an M.S. in Meteorology and Water Resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is a faculty member in Transportation and Logistics for the Wallace E. Boston School of Business and specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in transportation, education, and technology.

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