QR codes are showing up in some unusual places these days, embedded in everything from wedding invitations to dioramas on the subway. You can even place a laser-engraved QR code on a cemetery headstone, so that visitors can scan the code on their smartphones to learn more about a deceased person.
One of the first users of QR (Quick Response) codes was a Japanese subsidiary of Toyota that used the codes in 1994 to track motor vehicles during the manufacturing process. QR codes have become especially popular in advertising, where they're used to lure consumers to websites, which in turn allows those companies to learn more about shoppers.
What it sees is what you get:
- Two Drexel University graduate students patented the barcode concept in 1952, but their invention wasn’t utilized until the 1960s, when the KarTrak system was created to allow the railroad industry to track the contents of individual railcars.
- Beginning in 1974, the Unique Product Code, or UPC, gave stores a way to automate cashier functions, saving time and preventing the harmful repetitive-motion ailments associated with manually entering numbers.
- Since 2010, smartphones have had the ability to read QR codes, opening the door to their use in other industries.