DEFINITION of 'Quick Response (QR) Code'

A type of barcode which can be read by a digital device, and which stores information. A quick response code, also called a QR code, is most frequently used to track information about products, and is often frequently used in marketing and advertising campaigns.

BREAKING DOWN 'Quick Response (QR) Code'

The amount of information that can be conveyed about a product or service was traditionally limited by the amount of space on the product’s packaging or the advertisement touting its benefits. If a consumer wanted more information about the product – availability, price, attributes – he or she would have to find a salesperson or request additional documentation. This changed in the 1950s with the advent of the barcode.

Barcodes convey data using a combination of various widths of parallel lines, and are commonly found on the back of product packages. The lines can be read by machines that have an optical scanner, and revolutionized the way that companies managed inventories and pricing. Barcodes are now found on everything from employee ID badges and hospital bracelets to shipping containers.

QR codes were developed in the 1990s as a way to provide more information than a standard barcode. They were invented by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, as a way to track automobiles throughout the manufacturing process. Unlike barcodes, which require a beam of light to bounce off of the parallel lines, QR codes can be digitally scanned by devices like cell phones. They can be generated and read through specialized software.

QR codes are able to contain more information than traditional barcodes, and primarily handle four modes of data: alphanumeric, numeric, binary, and Kanji. Despite the increased data capacity, QR codes have not been as popular with consumers as expected. Rather than being created by consumers to share information, they are most commonly associated with advertisers and marketing campaigns.

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