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QR Codes: Now You See Them, Now You Don't

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QR Codes: Now You See Them, Now You Don't

The Boxes That Are Changing Labels and More

You've probably seen the nifty boxes enclosing the squiggled lines on everything from food product labels to advertisements on public transit systems. Quick Response codes are similar to barcodes but can be read by smartphones and mobile devices.

The possibilities seem to be endless as to what these little boxes are capable of doing. They have revolutionized marketing capabilities for companies, innovated the way in which consumers experience a brand and have created a stronger link between social media and smartphones.

The codes have helped some businesses to save money. Instead of wasting resources on numerous marketing strategies and high-end ads, companies can place a QR code on their products' labels to direct people to targeted websites. This new strategy streamlines processes, makes labels less cluttered and provides a convenient way for consumers to learn more information about a product or service. Even Mother Nature loves QR codes, as companies no longer need as much paper for their product labels since much of the information can be accessed via the code.

As for the naysayers - the grandpa who starts every sentence with 'Back in my day' or the guy who refuses to give up his flip phone because he thinks it gives him character - QR codes are changing the way we do things whether they like it or not. No matter how many miles uphill (both ways) grandpa walked in his day or how hip that dude feels with his flip phone, this technology is here to stay and is making life more convenient for businesses and individuals alike.

QR Codes Battling Fraud, Improving Packaging Security
Tell grandpa next time that the latest advancement in QR code technology on packaging is already enabling businesses to better manage their product inventories, and could one day even change the way in which governments deal with currency and fraud. Researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the University of South Dakota have recently developed invisible QR codes, as if they weren't brilliant enough, to print nanoscale phosphor particles that can be printed on plastic, glass, paper or even money.

The QR code can then be seen under infrared laser light and scanned in its traditional manner, allowing the authentication of whatever is being scanned, rather than just providing information. It can also withstand the normal amount of stresses inflicted on banknotes.

Jeevan Meruga, lead author of the invisible QR code study, which was published in Nanotechnology, said the parameters used to print and read the QR code can go from "covert to forensic." The intensity of upconverting light can be changed and the use of inks with more weight percentage of nanoparticles can embed the QR code so it can only be read with a microscope. Even further microscopic or macroscopic letters can be placed within the code adding an extra level of security. Cool, right?

QR codes have already engaged consumers on product labels. A survey by Forrester Research shows that 75 percent of online retailers in America use QR codes.

Who knows what else these two-dimensional squares are capable of?