A QR code is a barcode in two dimensions that allows to integrate, on average, between 20 and 114 characters (against 13 for barcode EAN) with the ability to be read irrespective of X or Y axis orientation. It is also called 2D Tag. Traditionnaly, QR code is made up of a square pattern with a white background.
QR means Quick Response, because the content data can be decoded quickly. The Quick Response Code is a readable code by a QR code readers, example Smartphone, or computers with webcam.
So the QR-code or 2D Barcode allows to access to different types of content : plain text, wlan wifi access, agenda event, google maps, direct navigation, website, sms message, geographic location, navigation, logo embedding, vcard & mecard contact info, Twitter Tweet, Facebook profile, Facebook Like, LinkedIn profile, Pinterest pins, YouTube videos, music, photos, map, E-mail address, phone call, web url, Paypal and more ...
Simple, direct, fast and innovative, the use of 2D bar code drastically reduces the number of clicks to access services.
Take or scan a photo of the QR code. The phone converts the image file to a text readable format and the application then interprets the text (code) and displays any information.
It is also no longer necessary to enter a url in the browser, users simply launch the application of 2D barcode and flash the code to access the content.
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The QR Code was invented in 1994 by DensoWave near the same time as Aztec Code , another ISO standard (ISO/IEC 24778:2008), as a response to the capacity limitations of then current barcodes, and likely to address the scanning orientation requirement.
Note that earlier 2D Barcode device models have already arisen in 1991 with PDF 417 by Symbol Technologies and Data Matrix by International Data Matrix, Inc and in 1992 by MaxiCode (A polar Coordinate type barcode as opposed to a plain jane 2D Barcode) used by UPS.
All these technologies are covered with patents. Although most of them have released their specs to the public and allowed developers to use them for their own purposes royalty free. There are a few more of these 2D Barcodes (maybe after 1994) : SemaCode , SparQCode, proprietary E-Reader barcodes as used by Nintendo, EZ Code , Microsoft Tags (technically known as a High Capacity colored barcode) and many more.
All these 2D barcodes work equally well there are advantages and disadvantages in particular, capacity, scanning orientation and image space requirement probably varies from barcode to barcode, Error correction is another diffrentiator although most of the standards seem to be gravitating towards using the Reed-Solomon Error Correction which allows a barcode to be read even if it is damaged.
This is over and above the use of security features such as the use of check digits (Modulo 11, etc.) in UPC Barcodes and bank account numbers.