The QR Code Comeback

Just when we thought QR codes were gone for good, they’ve made a comeback in a big way.

Typically when we think of a comeback, we think of things that have resurfaced like vinyl and polaroid cameras. What’s old is new again. Where our minds often don’t go in terms of a comeback is technology. When we think back to dialup internet, we don’t expect to step back in time and start using it again. Rather, we’d like to stick to the optimum speeds of our current business internet. But for one piece of technology that once fell off all of our radars, there is a comeback story that may just be more impactful than its initial arrival on the scene.

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What we’re referring to is the QR code (also known as a quick response). You know, that little square, 2D code you scan that takes you immediately, with the help of a wireless connection, to a webpage, app, or social media page.

This scannable code was originally designed in Japan to be used in the automotive industry. In 2011, when the smartphone was on the rise, the world started to see the spread of the QR code. Marketers and brands alike got excited about this new development in technology and before we knew it, QR codes were found on just about everything.

But the hype was short lived. Not only did you have to download a third party app in order to scan a QR code, once you had the app it often took a few tries to finally scan the code. And for what? To be directed to a website homepage with an address you could’ve easily typed in? As people started to see the inconvenience, the QR code slowly started to fade.

Then came 2020, the year of COVID, where all of our day-to-day practices shifted drastically, including the way we shop, order off of menus, and even return goods. It’s all about the least contact possible. Hence, the perfect time for the comeback of the QR code. With advancement in smartphones, you no longer require a third party app to scan a QR code. Simply open up the camera on your smartphone, hover it over the QR code, and almost instantly you are redirected to your destination.

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So was it just the ease of using QR codes that is the reason they became popular again? Yes, that is partially the answer, but we are using them now more than ever because of a need. Over the past year, we’ve seen QR codes used in businesses throughout the province for a variety of things. Most commonly, QR codes are popping up in just about every restaurant. To make it safer on staff and customers alike, scanning a QR code instantly directs guests to the menu and their bills, allowing for one less step of contact in the business transaction.

With the recent developments of a technology company out of Ontario, QR codes are also starting to be used throughout Saskatchewan for contact tracing. Scanning the barcode allows the establishment to know when you were there. If a case were to arise at that time, they would have the information needed to notify you.

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QR codes have also been used in Saskatchewan at various retail locations. Instead of eyeing up a shirt and having to ask the sales associate if there are more sizes in the back or if it comes in other colours, by scanning the QR code the customer has all of that information at their fingertips. Sizing and product info has never been easier to access. Our SaskTel stores have also implemented QR codes. Throughout the store you can use these to learn more about devices, plans, appointment bookings and more!

Because of a need, this little piece of technology found its way back onto our radars. With these ‘new normals’ looking to be our way of life for the unforeseeable future, it doesn’t look as though QR codes will be going away anytime soon. The only question is what other use will we find for them next?

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