Why QR codes are the blinking VCR clock of the 21st century

There has always been a polarization among the users of the internet of things: those that understand and can manage the internet of things, and those who cannot. This phenomenon can in part be defined by those among us that can scan a QR Code and those of us who have tried and failed.

The modern-day equivalent of a blinking clock on a VCR, QR codes elude the majority of us. Just as we all recognized what the clock was for on a VCR, we all have the notion that a QR code contains information, a link perhaps, that can be used on the internet to gain access to even more information. But knowing what it is used for does not mean you know how to use it. How to scan it.

QR Codes are Dead, long Live QR Codes

But wait, aren’t QR codes dead? There are still those that feel that if used right, QR codes can be an effective means of communication. Back in 2011 comScore’s MobiLens service published a report showing that 1 in 3 individuals that scanned QR codes had a household income greater than $100,000. Looking to attract such a demographic, Taco Bell ran a successful campaign on ESPN where more than 225,000 QR codes were scannedSnapChat has recently invested close to $51 million in QR code technology, according to Business Insider, in an effort to help increase those that use their service. Even music identification service Shazam is looking a using QR codes to increase the universe of what is Shazamable.

The problem with QR codes is not that they don’t work. They are very identifiable and just about everyone knows that you need to scan them. More and more we will see how QR codes can be used to do more than just provide a link to a web site as part of an advertising campaign. The problem that remains is that not everyone knows how to get them to work: how to scan or even create them. And that is just where the following apps can help:

Traditional Uses of QR Codes

RedLaser – Focused more on being a shopping assistant, RedLaser (Free, iPhone) is an app that will take a scanned QR code and search an online database to see what the QR code could possibly mean. Utilizing a collection of millions of products, RedLaser specializes in helping you compare prices of the products you are looking for, search for coupons leading you to the best deals online, and often times providing access to comments are reviews related to the product. It will even help you create shopping lists from your scan history that you can easily share with others.

QR Reader – With the ability to actually create a wide variety of different QR Codes directly on the device, QR Reader (Free, iPhone) is a full featured QR code app. More of a utility knife when it comes to creating and scanning QR codes, QR Reader also has the ability to scan words you see in the camera in addition to QR codes. Simply point the scanner at the word you are interested, swipe your finger across the word and it will convert the image of the word to text. It can also scan QR codes from images you have stored in your camera roll. The free version of the app is ad-based, but you can remove the ads through a $0.99 in-app purpose.

Scan – With more of an online business focused presence, Scan ($1.99, Universal) helps you track the usage of all of the QR codes you create.  One of the best new features that it has to offer is its ability to create a QR code for your local Wi-Fi network. Simply go to the scan.me web site, review the list of QR codes that are best for you, and choose the Wi-Fi option. You can then create a QR code that makes it easier to share your public WiFi settings with family and friends that come over to visit. It also does a decent job of scanning and keeping a history of the QR codes you do scan.  In fact, it’s simplified interface makes scanning and using QR codes about as easy as it can possibly be.

Unique Uses of QR Codes

Coke Freestyle Flavors – You may have noticed that your choice in beverage flavors at your favorite fast food restaurant has increased dramatically. The Coca-Cola company has been rolling out a new era in soda fountains. If you look a little closer, you will see that many of Coca-Cola’s new FreeStyle soda machines also have a little QR code on them (bottom right corner of the machine if it is there). Using their Coca-Cola Freestyle (Free, iPhone) app, you can customize your drink options even further by creating your own mix of flavors. You can add up to three different flavors and choose the proportions to create your own unique flavor; for example, ten percent Sprite, twenty percent Fanta zero raspberry, and seventy percent Hi-C orange (don’t judge me).

Hive Bitcoin Wallet – Bitcoin is a person to person way to exchange money at a very low cost. If you use bitcoin to exchange money, you will have what is referred to as a Bitcoin wallet. QR codes have been one of the primary means of identifying and sharing the identity of your Bitcoin wallet. Hive (Free, Universal) is a Bitcoin wallet app that uses QR codes to share your wallet identity with others. You display your wallet’s QR code on one screen, and the camera on your friend’s phone can bet used to scan it. No need to write an IOU anymore.

Snapchat Snaptags – While it has the spirit of the original QR codes, Snapchat’s (Free, iPhone) new Snaptags feature allows you to quickly add family, friends and colleagues to your contact list with ease. It has a unique style to the way that the code is created looking more like a generic avatar than something you would see on the assembly like in an automobile factory.  You can even post your Snaptag online and share your contact information.  Print it out on your business card or flyer when you are going to a trade show or event to quickly grow your contact list.