The unexpected resurgence of QR codes: from oblivion to being essential

Technology News

The successor to the barcode is a system that is over the fourth century old, but its age does not prevent it from having been adopted by all kinds of companies, from restaurants to Instagram.QR codes have returned to our lives without making noise. After sitting down at the table, the most frequent thing now is to turn to the mobile to focus with the camera that mysterious code that gives access to the letter. The last to join has been Instagram (a month before it had reached WhatsApp ). The company has announced the possibility of seeing the QR code of your Instagram account within the application and scanning it from others. It was launched in Japan last year and now this feature is already available globally. In Asia, in fact, this technology is present on a day-to-day basis and allows payments in the main apps ( for example, WeChat, in China) .

This is by no means a new technology. We have to go back to 1994 to find its birth when a Toyota subsidiary , Denso Wave, devised a system to identify and trace the components that it supplied to the Japanese manufacturer. This method consisted of a graphic code that could be scanned with a reader and in this way, obtain more data from the piece in question. The system, initially conceived for local use, was dubbed Quick Response , although its acronym, QR, is sure to be more familiar to you.

A forgotten system … until today

The QR approach could go far beyond the traceability of the pieces and those who saw it began to apply it as a graphic abbreviation to open a web page: the QR, when scanned, would direct us to a specific site and this solution could be very interesting in different areas, including the hospitality industry. And it was like this, when little by little, the QR opened an uncomfortable space between us. We all saw that strange code but no one actually used it, and worse, there was no clear sense of its usefulness. The QR was very useful but it did not respond to a real need.

This changed overnight – and literally – in 2020 and with the end of lockdowns across the planet. The health authorities had decreed that physical contact should be minimized to the maximum in all activities and in the hospitality industry, a menu or letter was a physical element that passed through too many hands at the end of the day. The coronavirus could find and good means of transport in this format that was happily sentenced to death. How could it be replaced? The best option was for each client to use their mobile to consult the letter and instead of typing a long URL, a code could be used. The great news is that this product already existed: the QR.

“We are experiencing a second youth of this technology”, explains to EL PAÍS Fernando Suárez, president of the General Council of Computer Engineering Colleges. This expert highlights its “ease of generation”, which allows any merchant or hotelier to generate the code in seconds and for free, but above all for its “dynamic operation: changes of information to which they reference do not require a change in the own code ”. That is, the same graphic symbol can be used for variations in content, such as the daily menu in a restaurant.Integrated system in all mobiles
It can be said that the QR code has always been present, but with an excessively low profile compared to the functionality it offered. In this sense, and until not long ago, it was necessary to install some type of specific application to decrypt its content and open the consequent web page. All this has been simplified by including mobile manufacturers a reading system in the device’s own camera. That is, it is enough to point the camera at a QR for the operating system to read it and suggest the opening of the link. The only weak point of this technology is that an internet connection is necessary to access the content, and this detail can leave out many businesses that are outside the mobile coverage (although this disconnection could be supplied with a free Wi-Fi network ).

“Most customers access the menu without problems,” explains Elena Arzak, head of the emblematic restaurant in San Sebastian, who highlights that customers have adapted to the QR “naturally”. Arzak has naturalized this technology to such an extent that it has gone one step further by carving the QR code into a wooden cube that customers find on the table. In any case, Arzak explains that for those who have problems, they always offer a physical menu that has previously been disinfected by the restaurant staff.

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