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Print & Mobile Phones : QR Codes, NFC Square Off

November 2011 By Chris Lehan

And, in this corner...before QR (quick response) codes and NFC (near field communications) officially square off; the masses have already dubbed NFC “The QR Killer.” Google instigated the matter in March 2011 when it announced it no longer would be supporting QR codes in Google Places and would be using NFC instead. Since then, the hype has escalated with commentary in forums, blogs and the like with headlines such as “Goodbye QR” and “QR Rest in Peace.”

In reality, this is a fight neither side asked for—it has been conjured in the minds of many due to fear, which is instilled when a large corporation like Google merely mentions it is progressing in another direction. Neither QR nor NFC is fully prepared to fight the other just yet and they most likely will become collaborators rather than adversaries.

Each technology is a type of mobile trigger—both QR codes and NFC tags are programmed to deliver specific content, such as directing a user to a landing page, playing a video or providing a means for mobile payment. However, the method by which the information is programmed is uniquely different between the two. One is printed with ink; the other is a printed circuit.

QR codes and other 2D scan codes are two- dimensional barcodes. Using a (free) QR generator, binary information is encoded, resulting in the arrangement of black-and-white squares. The codes can be printed on paper or other printable objects. To trigger the event, the user launches an app, takes a picture of the QR code and the software app decodes the information.

NFC requires communication between two computer chips—an initiator and a receiver. The receiver chip has data written to it, and it is typically applied to the back of a sticker. The initiator chip in a smart phone, or other device, generates an active NFC field. If your phone is embedded with an NFC chip, all you have to do is wave your phone over an NFC tag or sticker to trigger an event.

Currently, the primary differences in how QR codes and NFC match up are manufacturing, cost, capabilities and public perception. Aside from the technical aspects and logic behind a QR code campaign, QR code generators are quite accessible and free. There are hundreds of free QR code generators in the public domain that anyone can use. These codes can easily be copied or saved to your computer and incorporated into some sort of print collateral.


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