Many countries now require their citizens to scan with their phones everywhere they go, using some form of Covid tracing app. They do this to help contact tracing go faster by creating a private digital diary of the places you visit. All you have to do is use your phone to scan the official QR codes wherever you go.
However, QR codes are used for much more than keeping track of your movements for Covid tracking. They are now commonplace, with numerous applications. You probably see them all over the place, from business cards to the backs of buses.
You might even think of applications where a QR code could be handy for you or your business. Luckily, you can easily make a QR code for free and then use it however you like. We even have a free QR Code Generator tool here on the Influencer Marketing Hub.
A Quick Guide to QR Codes [Free QR Code Generator Tool]:
Influencer Marketing Hub Free QR Code Generator Tool
Create your own QR code in a few easy steps. If you intend to use codes for multiple purposes, just repeat this process, altering your data and entering other options as needed.
Begin by selecting how you intend people to use your QR code, e.g., linking to a website, bringing up a block of text, linking to social media, etc. You will notice that the box headed Enter data changes to match your intended use. Type in the relevant data for your intended usage, and then continue down to Main Options. Give your QR code a name, and upload a logo if desired. Next, you can decide on the size of your QR code and the amount of frame margin.
The tool then asks you to select various appearance options relating to the dots used, the corners (squares and dots), the background, image, and a few other QR options. You can even select your preferred file type.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the options, just leave most of them at their default values and change what is important to you.
What are QR Codes?
QR (Quick Response) codes are a special type of barcode that allows users to access or provide information using a scanner on their mobile device and an app; touchless and quick. They provide users with instant information, or they direct users to some immediate action. For example, a retailer might place a QR code on an ad at a bus stop. When somebody scans that QR code, their phone will immediately open a selected webpage. A UK company, QE Memories, even creates QR codes to go on gravestones, which people can scan to learn more about a deceased person's life.
As their name indicates, QR codes allow users to access and provide information quickly. They can store up to 7089 digits or 4296 characters in a square-shaped grid.
One helpful feature of the QR code design is that it includes duplication in its data keys, meaning people can successfully scan QR codes even if they have up to 30% damage.
One of the reasons that many countries have chosen to incorporate QR codes into their Covid scanning is that they can easily create distinct QR codes for every business/venue. When somebody scans a QR code in their Covid app, it records that they have been to that place at a specific date and time. All this happens relatively quickly, making it practical for businesses and other venues with reasonably large numbers going through.
Why Are QR Codes Gaining Popularity?
QR codes were invented in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave as a quick way to scan automotive components in the manufacturing process. Being Japanese, they had to find a system that could handle more than just English letters. As a result, they developed a special barcode that could encode kanji, kana, and alphanumeric characters.
Unlike traditional barcodes, you can read QR codes from top to bottom and right to left. This means that QR codes can hold much more information than standard barcodes, up to 4,000 characters of text. The developers deliberately designed the code to be easy to scan from any angle, which is why it's square. They also wanted to ensure that their workforce could easily distinguish QR codes from any other barcodes.
It took a while for QR code usage to become commonplace, however. The first phones with QR code readers were marketed in Japan in 2002, which sparked more companies to use QR codes.
Their usage has widened considerably in recent years, however. This is partly because of an explosion in mobile phone usage. There are now 5.29 billion mobile phone users globally, 67.1% of the world's population. This figure grew by 1.9% in the year to October 2021. Most of the world has converted to smartphones. For example, 89.6% of all internet users use smartphones to gain access, compared to just 4.8% of old-style feature phones. The average speed of mobile internet connections has also improved to now be 56.74 MBPS. As a result, more of the world's population now has access to usable technology, and QR codes are a simple, straightforward way to transact and deliver information.
QR codes have now become widespread in many parts of the world, which has encouraged more businesses to find ways to use the technology. As a result, different types of companies have experimented with using QR codes over time, and others in their industries have followed suit, increasing their usage further.
Denso Wave, the original QR code inventors, added additional capabilities to QR codes in 2020, including traceability, brand protection, and anti-forgery measures.
How Do You Scan QR Codes?
Most smartphones and tablets include built-in QR scanners as part of their camera. However, if your phone doesn't have an in-built app for scanning QR codes, you will find many in Android and iOS app stores.
To read a QR code, all you have to do is point your phone's camera at the QR code. It usually won't matter what angle you come in at. However, depending on your phone, you may first need to open a specific app first.
Your phone will read data from the QR code and then do what the QR code asks. For example, it may bring up a particular type of information, take you to a specific webpage, record your presence for contact tracing, or start a payment process.
Parts of a QR Code
There are seven parts to a QR code:
- Quiet Zone – the empty white border around the code. This is necessary for scanners to recognize a QR code.
- Finder pattern, aka positioning detection markers, are the three black squares in the bottom left, top left, and top right corners. These are used to orientate a scanner and indicate where the code's boundaries are.
- Alignment pattern – a smaller square near the bottom right corner that helps with scanner orientation and reading. It helps straighten QR codes on a curved surface.
- Timing pattern – an L-shaped dotted line that connects the inner corners of the three large squares. It helps the scanner identify individual squares within the code and determine how large the data matrix is.
- Version information – a small field of information near the top right, identifying the version of the QR code being read. There are currently over 40 versions, although the most common are versions 1 to 7.
- Data cells – the rest of the QR code encodes the actual information being conveyed. In addition, it includes some format information and error correction keys.
- Format information - this contains information about the error tolerance and the data mask pattern and make it easier to scan the QR code.
Static vs. Dynamic QR Codes
There are two distinct types of QR codes:
- Static QR codes – contains information that is fixed and uneditable. Typical Static QR code uses are:
- WiFi – use this to help friends and family connect to your WiFi network
- Bitcoin – turn Bitcoin and other cryptos into a QR code to smooth out cryptocurrency transactions
- Plain text – displays a message of up to 300 characters
- vCard – a way to share your business contact details, perhaps on your business card
- Email – offers customers pre-filled email messages they can use to contact you
- Dynamic QR codes – you can update, edit and change the type of the QR Code as many times as you need. When people scan a dynamic QR code, they are actually scanning a short redirection URL, meaning you don't have to store all the data in the code. You can use dynamic QR codes to capture information. Typical Dynamic QR uses are:
- App Store – links to multiple app stores with one scan
- PDF – downloads digital magazines, brochures, eBooks, etc.
- Social media – use a QR code to share your social platforms
- Coupon – customers can scan a coupon to their smartphones and share it on social media and email. They can even redeem it at a nearby location or online store
- Business page – can provide details about your business with the QR code, even if you don't have a website.
You can make many of these static and dynamic codes in our Free QR Code Generator Tool.
Coding Types of QR Code
There are four main coding types of QR codes. Using our Free QR Code Generator, you can select the type you want in QR Mode under QR Options.
- Numeric – simply stores numbers – decimal digits 0 through 9.
- Alphanumeric – stores numbers, uppercase letters A-Z, as well as some common symbols.
- Byte – stores characters from the ISO–8859–1 character set.
- Kanji – stores double-byte characters from the Shift JIS character set, used to encode characters in Japanese.
Uses of QR Codes
QR codes may have been invented to help with inventory control, but they now have many other uses. These include:
QR codes began in industry, and firms still use them regularly there. They are frequently used to track parts, products, and supplies.
2. Digital Payment
Some payment apps incorporate QR codes as a quick and easy way for people to make payments. A user simply scans a QR code on their phone when they're at the checkout. This automatically launches a payment screen. Once the user confirms payment (assuming that the attached account has available money), it only takes a few seconds to complete the transaction.
Brands are finding multiple ways to use QR codes to assist with different stages of the purchasing process.
Some firms provide a QR code, which customers then scan to make an order.
Other firms use QR codes to provide additional information to their customers. For example, consumers can scan a QR code on packaging to gain information about the product's sustainability and energy used.
Firms like Best Buy, Home Depot, and Staples have added QR codes in their bricks-and-mortar stores. As a result, customers can quickly get information about products rather than through competitors' online websites. QR codes give immediate access to videos, products, and how-to content, and then the customer can purchase either in-store or using their app. In addition, the QR code may offer the opportunity to buy variations of inventory out-of-stock in the particular store where the customer is browsing.
QR codes are becoming commonplace in many restaurants. Toast describes the typical process used:
- A diner sits at a table and scans a QR code on a menu
- Often, they can then pick items from the menu using a QR code and send the order directly from their phone to the kitchen
- Once the meal is complete, the receipt may include a unique QR code. Diners can pay the bill immediately from their table using their smartphone
5. Postal Services
Many postal services now keep track of mail through the use of QR codes.
One of the most common uses of QR codes nowadays is for marketing. Firms regularly add QR codes to their ads across various media, from magazine display ads to billboards. You can use QR codes as a quick, simple way to convey additional information. You can even link to coupons and discount pages.
You can use QR codes to drive people to your website. You do this by including them in another form of marketing. For example, you might insert your QR code in a magazine ad. Anyone who scans your QR code will go directly to a customized landing page on your website. It's much easier than requiring them to type in a URL, particularly in traditional media where clickable links don't work. Similarly, you can use a QR code to promote your app, taking people directly to your section of the app store.
Some firms use QR codes to help people locate their business. When somebody scans their QR code, it opens up Google Maps to show their physical address. This is also another use for QR codes placed on business cards.
7. Product Reviews and Ratings
You can use QR codes to encourage customer reviews and ratings of your products and customer service. Consider including a QR code on your business card, email signature, or website asking for feedback. You can use special QR codes to assist with this, making it easy for customers. Rating QR codes collect a rating from people on a ten-point scale. They simply scan the code and give their rating, which is then sent to your email address.
Alternatively, you can include a Feedback QR code to collect information via a Google Form. When somebody scans your QR code, they are sent directly to your questionnaire.
8. Contact Tracing
As we referred to at the start of this article, many countries have chosen QR codes as an integral part of their Covid tracing. For example, in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health created the NZ Covid Tracer app. This relies on a combination of scanning QR codes and Bluetooth Tracing.
Every retailer and many other types of businesses and locations have individualized QR codes. There are even different QR codes for separate train and bus trips. When somebody visits a place with a QR sign, they scan before entering. The app records where they were at that particular time. If they later find they have COVID, they can share their digital diary with contact tracers. In addition, their Bluetooth Tracing keys can find other app users who have been close to the person with Covid.
The NZ app, at least, incorporates privacy precautions, with your digital diary being stored securely on your phone and deleted automatically after 60 days and Bluetooth data automatically deleted after 14 days.
QR Code Security
Like virtually all types of modern technology, you do have to be vigilant when using QR codes. As reported by the security company Kaspersky, a determined attacker could embed malicious URLs containing custom malware into a QR code. It could then take data from a mobile device when scanned or even embed a malicious URL into a QR code that directs to a phishing site.
However, QR codes themselves can't be hacked. And, QR code-generating software doesn't collect personally identifiable information (take note, any Covid conspiracy theorists.) The data collected relates to location scans, the number of times the code has been scanned, at what times, and the operating system of devices that scanned the code.
Kaspersky recommends that mobile users should only scan codes that come from a trusted sender.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are QR codes?
QR codes are a particular type of square barcode that allows users to use a scanner on their mobile device to access (or provide) information. QR stands for Quick Response, as they come encoded with data giving the user quick access to what they are looking for. They are now commonplace, with many applications, both in business and everyday life. Many governments have turned to QR codes to assist with Covid tracing. In addition, they offer numerous marketing opportunities for businesses.
How do I make a QR code?
The easiest way to make a QR code is to use our Free QR Code Generator Tool. You can use the tool to make codes for multiple purposes, including links to websites, text, emails, phone messages / SMS, Cvcards, Mecards, social media, events, and Bitcoins. All you have to do is fill in the relevant details for the type, select a few design details, and then download your finished QR code.
What types of information are stored on QR codes?
The types of data you store on your QR code will depend on how you want to use it. You will notice various types of information listed at the top of our Free QR Code Generator Tool. Information can include contact data, calendar data, a URL, an email address, a phone number, sample SMS messages, plain text, and social addresses. In addition, the QR code will store a person's location when they scan the code, along with the time when they scan.
What's the difference between Static and Dynamic QR codes?
Static QR codes contain information that is fixed and uneditable. Most of the examples we give in this post are Static. Dynamic QR codes, however, can be updated, edited, and changed. Rather than storing large quantities of information within the code, they link to a URL that captures the data. Examples of Dynamic QR codes include linking to social media pages and sending orders via a QR code on restaurant menus.
What graphic formats can I use for my QR codes?
QR codes can be created in print or online. They can even be painted onto the side of a bus or on a billboard. If you use our Free QR Code Generator Tool, you can select to download your QR code in one of four graphic formats: .svg, .jpeg, .png, or .webm
Does my QR code have to be black and white?
Although most QR codes you see tend to be created in black and white, there is no reason that they have to be. You just need to ensure that you have sufficient contrast between the colors in your QR code for a scanner to distinguish them. Our Free QR Code Generator lets you select a single color or a gradient of colors for your dots, corner squares, corner dots, and background.