(Interview) PSFK Explores The Future Of QR Codes With JMango

What’s the future of the enigmatic QR code? Alan Bendetto of JMango, a partner of DENSO, the inventors of the QR Code, explains.


PSFK recently spoke with Alan Bendetto of JMango, a mobile QR Code solutions provider, to understand where QR Codes originate from, where QR Codes are today, and where QR Codes are headed tomorrow. Here’s what we learned:

Please explain what QR Codes are and how they got started ?

QR Codes are basically a two dimensional symbology that was developed in 1994 by DENSO and its parent company Toyota, for the purpose of manufacturing, particularly in relation to logistics.

Unlike traditional barcodes, which hold data in one direction (horizontal) that reads one way, they were set up to carry data within the code QR Code’s hold data both horizontally and also vertically, which enabled it to carry significantly higher levels of data than other codes.

Nowadays, most people recognize them as the funny little black squares that you point your phone at to get information!

Which countries are the biggest users of QR Codes ? How are they using QR Codes ?

Japan is, far and away, the biggest user of this technology. Outside of manufacturing and the standard downloading of content, QR Code’s are also being used in:

  • passports
  • ticketing at train stations
  • staff rosters
  • nutritional information
  • even tracking bodies in morgues!

We expect to see the uses rapidly expand as more handsets have the decoders pre-installed and as next generation of QR Code technologies is released.

What do you think the ideal applications for QR codes are ?

Really, the QR Code is ideal for any situation that requires the instant transfer of data. At the moment, I don’t think we have even seen the tip of the iceberg in relation to what can be done with QR Codes. In addition to the traditional print to mobile applications, we expect to be seeing new uses such as:

  • ticketing
  • bill/utility payments
  • banking
  • point of sale
  • loyalty programs

The scope really is endless, particularly with some of the technologies being developing in labs. There will be some new technologies released this year that we hope will expand people’s thoughts on what is possible with the QR Code.

What are some of the unexpected ways that QR Codes have been/are being used?

Well the morgue usage is a certainly an unexpected one! Each day, new and interesting uses of the code have been popping up. Recently I saw that a business in Japan had one side of their building covered with a QR Code that the public can interact with.

While we were in Japan, we saw DENSO print them onto cookies for a tradeshow. People have built sandcastles out of them, used them on clothing, they really are starting to pick up some momentum from all parts of the globe.

Why has the US Market has been so slow to adopt QR Codes ? Do you see this changing or do you see US Consumers using the TEXT “PSFK” to 10356 model ?

I wouldn’t say the US has been slow to adopt. Pretty much all countries ex-Japan have been slow in adoption and there are many reasons why this has happened. In Japan, the rollout was done properly in that the Handset Manufacturers and the Telcos pre-installed the decoders first and then began releasing releasing the code. This meant there was no issue around people accessing reading the codes.

Moving outside of Japan, we have gone about it slightly backward, predominantly due to the fragmentation that currently exists in the mobile ecosystem. The release of the code came without the proper education in the market which mean that there we were compatibility and other issues, resulting in a diminished user experience. This is now changing with pre-installation and a raft of third party decoders available for download.

I think SMS Shortcoding (i.e., TEXT “PSFK”) will always have a place in the print to mobile space, however even in this narrow field, it is still a cumbersome process to receive and download content. If we can overcome some of the current QR Code reading issues in relation to ease of use and quicker scanning, then it makes more sense to simply take a photo than go through the texting process.

The other thing to consider here when comparing to the SMS Shortcode argument is that QR Codes are one of the most versatile data carriers in the world, with Print to Mobile only a fraction of what can be done with it.

Do consumers in Japan, for example, have to download a QR Reader or is it built-in ?

QR Code Readers are already installed to the handset in Japan, which has played a major role in the massive adoption there.

How exactly do or can QR codes use image recognition (i.e., Snaptell)?

QR Codes don’t use image recognition. The Snaptell technology is a nice piece of technology with some cool applications, however its similarity to QR Codes extends only to a small component of the QR Code portfolio. The other side to QR Codes is that it is an open technology, therefore empowering anyone to control their information content.

How do you see QR codes evolving?

They are evolving already… While most people only know the Standard QR Code, there is plenty going on in the background. We are only just starting to see people playing with the actual design of the code, including colours, logos and even whole designs such as the famous Louis Vuitton QR Code.

LV Louis Vuitton QR Code

Outside of the design components, there is plenty of stuff coming out of the Japanese labs in relation to embedded encryptions, smaller footprints, and different shapes etc which will be released later this year.

In all, I think the popularity of QR Codes will only increase – we are seeing better quality cameras, more and more decoders as well as a demand from the market, so its a really interesting space to be in right now.

Thanks Alan!

JMango is a partner of DENSO, the inventors of the QR Code, with whom they jointly develop key mobile QR Code solutions for various industries. For more information on JMango, please visit www.jmango.net.

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