What Are the Different Types of QR Codes?

G. Wiesen

Quick Response (QR) codes are often categorized based on the information that is contained within them. These codes can frequently be used to relay a piece of fairly basic data, such as someone’s contact information like a name, address, and phone number. More advanced forms of QR codes can include not only this data, but also a prompt for action by a user, such as a code that includes an email address and prompts someone to send an email. There are also other types of QR codes that can promote more activity, such as a code that sends a user to a particular website.

Smart phones equipped with cameras can be used to read QR codes.
Smart phones equipped with cameras can be used to read QR codes.

QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) graphics that are square in shape and often designed as a plain black and white diagram. When scanned with a reader, or a camera on a smart phone that includes proper software to read the code, they provide information based on the data used to make them. While most QR codes are black and white, they can also be created as color images, often using bright tones to be more noticeable. Text and other graphics can also be added to these codes to make them more noteworthy and unique; this is compensated for through error-correcting in scanners.

Some QR codes provide direct links for making online purchases.
Some QR codes provide direct links for making online purchases.

Some of the most common types of QR codes are those used to relay a fairly simple piece of information. A code can contain basic contact data for someone, such as a name and email address or phone number. More complex codes include not only information but also a prompt to action. This means that a smart phone user can scan a code that includes a phone number, which then prompts the user to call that number at the push of a single button.

There are also QR codes that can be used to cause more unique or dynamic actions when scanned. This can be a code that sends a person to a particular website when scanned, such as a video posted online or the official site for a company. Codes can also include geographical tags, allowing a flyer for a concert to include a code that, when scanned, relays data about where the performance is happening.

Other types of QR codes and competing codes have also been introduced by a number of different companies. Microsoft®, for example, has a proprietary type of code referred to as a “Microsoft® Tag” that can be used in much the same way as other codes. There are also dot matrix codes that have been used in the US for many years. The proliferation of QR codes throughout Japan and other countries, however, has made them increasingly popular throughout the world.

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