Problem is, they aren’t very user friendly. It’s almost ironic that QR stands for Quick Response. For many people, they are anything but. Before scanning your first code, you have to download some software then load it up. Subsequently, you have to find the app, get the right distance away, take a photo, hope your network responds, then wait for a web page to load. Which is all a little awkward.
When Google Places launched, a business could put a sign with a QR code in its front window. People were able to scan the sign and their mobile browser would launch the Google Places page for the business. Not any more. Google quietly phased out support for QR Codes from its Google Places service in March this year.
Then what did Google do? It became a principal member of the NFC Forum. NFC (Near Field Communications) chips are set to ship with smartphones and provide a much simpler way to achieve many of the tasks QR codes can. But instead of pointing your phone at a QR code, scanning it, and waiting, you need to hold your phone near to a sign with an NFC chip and get the same results.
But NFC has its problems. It will only work for those phones that have the chip. And then there are issues of permissions and security.
Perhaps a third way is Google Goggles. Point your phone at an image and Google will search for it. Although, as with QR codes, you need a signal (which means the London Tube is out), this seems to be the most simple solution. Point and shoot, whether the image is right in front of you or across the road.
An issue with Google Goggles is that people need to know to use it. A QR code is a call to action. The very simplicity of Google Goggles is that it doesn’t need one. To get the ball rolling, brands should consider using the Google Goggles logo and name.
In the short term, QR codes, NFC and Google Goggles will exist alongside each other, but will make life just that little bit more complicated.
Out of the three, I’d put a small bet on Google Goggles.
Well, until something else comes along.
Steve is Head of Thought Leadership at Starcom MediaVest Group, London