Have you seen a QR Code floating around?  Maybe you've seen them in magazines, posters or business cards.  I've seen them, as well, and wondered what I'm supposed to do with them.  Ignorance in technology is not bliss!  Today I crack the QR Code mystery.

What is a QR Code?

A QR Code is a barcode that can link to multiple kinds of data, including URL links, addresses, and text.  QR stands for Quick Response.  QR Codes became popular in Japan after Toyota developed them as a new way to ID their cars.

How do I use them?

To access these QR Codes, you need a smartphone with a QR Code Reader installed.  There is no 'one size fits all' reader across different platforms.  Each smartphone has a variety of options when it comes to QR Code Readers.  With your smartphone, you scan a QR Code using the camera on your phone.  From there, the code directs you to a piece of information, usually online.  Each QR Code gives different data.  Businesses can use QR Codes to provide coupons, offer consumer advice and information, stage competitions, replace business cards or give access to company literature. Additionally, companies can use QR Codes for advertising, directing consumers to their social media sites, or giving consumers access to their company's store via the web after store hours.  A major plus with QR Codes is that they can essentially be printed on anything, from paper to a t-shirt.

Are they still popular?

Google Places removed the QR Code option for businesses, leaving many to wonder if QR Codes will decline in popularity.  Google is now researching the option of offering NFC (Near Field Communication) tags instead of QR Codes.  The negative aspect of an NFC tag is that it is not as easy to print as a QR Code.  On the positive side, you can get more data transferred and it is done more securely.  Google is also trying to solve the problem of phones not having built-in Code Readers:  they want phones to have NFC tag readers already built in when purchased. 

If QR Codes are fairly popular and can be printed more easily than NFC tags, why not focus on getting QR Code Readers in the phones?  Google certainly has a reputation for being at the forefront of technology and perhaps will prove that NFC tags truly are superior.  It's hard to tell at this point.  Though QR Code usage isn't widespread, it is becoming increasingly popular.  With the rising number of smartphone users, QR Code usage rates increased this past holiday season.

Have you invested in QR Codes for your business?  Or are you waiting for the next big thing?

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx.  Follow Journyx on Twitter.