The Great History of QR Code

Scan QR code Android
3 Simple Ways to Scan QR Codes on Android Phone
April 19, 2021
QR code security risks
5 QR Code Security Risks That You Should Guard Against
May 3, 2021

The Great History of QR Code

The Quick Response or QR code is a unique innovation in inventory management, marketing, and programming. The QR code is a scannable code that contains data on different items and can work for many intentions. People can use their codes to link to websites, make payments, send SMS or WhatsApp messages, and many other functions. The code can store more data than an average Universal Product Code, plus it is more secure than the original code layout.

The history of QR code shows how valuable and essential this code format is for many purposes. Whether you need it for inventory plans or to create something for promotional needs, you will find that this code layout can work well for many projects.

Who Invented the QR Code, and When Was It Developed?

The QR code was invented in 1994 by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Japan’s Denso Corporation. Denso Wave produces identification products, including barcode readers and programming controls.

Japanese engineer Masahiro Hara led the development of the QR code. Hara had been working with Denso on producing barcode scanners and optical character recognition devices for years. But there was a need for Denso to generate new scanners that could read barcodes with less effort necessary.

Masahiro Hara (History of QR code)
Masahiro Hara led the development of the QR code (The Great History of QR Code)

Hara’s goal was to produce a new system that could handle more characters and be easier to scan. He also wanted to plan a code that works in a smaller area. It is often tough to check UPCs in small spaces, so finding something a little more unique and convenient was critical.

Why Was the QR Code Invented?

While the QR code was introduced in 1994, the QR code history starts years before then. The Universal Product Code or UPC barcode standard had been prominent since its introduction in the 1970s. The UPC features many lines that support twelve numeric digits that link to each item.

Barcode example (History of QR code)
Example of an universal product code (The Great History of QR Code)

But as convenient as UPCs were for scanning purposes, they had limitations. A UPC can only handle about twenty alphanumeric characters of information on average. UPCs are also tough to read, as their lines might become smeared or otherwise hard for a scanner to identify at times. Masahiro Hara had the goal of producing a new scannable code that was easier to read and could also store more data at once. The new code had to be more convenient, especially since UPCs can be fragile.

How Did It Come About?

The need that the QR code wished to fulfill entails an ability to store more data. A UPC barcode has information that only goes in the transverse direction, making it a one-dimensional code. Hara and his development team focused on producing a two-dimensional code that stores data in the transverse and longitudinal directions. A system that could store data in both directions would have greater capacity.

QR code vs barcode (History of QR code)
QR code vs barcode (The Great History of QR Code)

A code that can record more data would be more versatile than a UPC. While a UPC can handle up to twelve numbers, anyone could run out of combinations.

Hara and his team were contacted by various supermarkets around Japan to produce a new code standard. While UPCs could keep cashiers at these supermarkets from entering in data all day, they still had struggles in reviewing UPCs. They’d have to adjust the items they’re scanning all the time, and there were often cases where a UPC would not read as well as one would wish.

The Development Process

The QR code features many distinct points that came from an extensive development process. Even the shape of the code was part of a thorough effort to figure out what works. For the design, Hara devised a square shape for the QR code because it would be easy to recognize.

The square design has features similar to a traditional Go board. It features black and white squares like what the game board has.

Detecting the Position

The first part of developing a QR code was to ensure a scanner could identify the location of that code. Hara produced a position detection pattern that features three squares on three corners of the code.

QR code position detection pattern (History of QR code)
QR code’s position detection pattern (The Great History of QR Code)

The position detection squares within a QR code would also need to be distinct to where there’s a decent variety of potential layouts. These squares were developed with a 1:1:3:1:1 ratio. The design features a black box located within a more massive black box with a white border in the middle. The layout ensures the code is easy to read, but it also prevents false recognition events.

QR code black and white area ratio (History of QR code)
Ratio of black and white area in a position detection pattern (The Great History of QR Code)

Alignment Markings

The next part of the development process entails the alignment markings. The QR code needed to be easy to read on a curved surface. Alignment markings would be added to codes to make it easier for scanners to identify a code.

The alignment markings are smaller versions of the position detection patterns. They appear in the middle part of the code. The number of alignment markings that a QR code needs will vary by setup, but a design that stores more code will require more markings on average.

Timing Pattern

A timing pattern was also critical to the production process. A series of alternating black and white boxes would connect between the detection patterns and alignment markings. The alternating pieces allow the scanner to identify the size of the data matrix.

Additional Features In the Code

Hara also required a few additional points in the QR code. These include the following:

  • The QR code can come in multiple versions, including in more massive arrangements that can handle more data at a time.
  • Each code has a format information listing with error tolerance markings that help a scanner identify the code in moments. The scanner will read the code in less time through this feature.
  • The remaining space inside the code is the data and error correction key, a space where the data for something appears. The random black and white boxes will store the code. The design allows the code to still be read even if about a third is damaged.
  • The margin or quiet zone is a border outside the main QR code. The buffer adds space to separate the code from the other things on a label or package. By separating the code, it becomes easier for people to read what it features.
QR code margin, QR code data area. QR code modules (History of QR code)
QR code margin, QR code data area and QR code modules (The Great History of QR Code)

Multiple Size Standards

One unique part of the QR code history to see involves Hara’s insistence on ensuring these codes could be available in multiple sizes that can fit varying amounts of data at a time. QR codes were developed to be available in many versions.

The first seven versions are the most common ones people use today. Version 1 is the smallest, with a 21×21 size. The size means there are 21 modules on each side. The module is the smallest piece one can spot on a QR code.

The number of modules increases as the version number rises. Version 7 QR codes have a 37×37 size. The design allows the code to store more content. The highest version is Version 40, which features 177 modules on each side. That code works in situations where the code requires more data.

QR code versions (History of QR code)
Example of QR code versions (The Great History of QR Code)

The design of the QR code allows it to store up to seven thousand characters at a time. It can also store Kanji characters as necessary.

How Did It Become Popular?

The first QR codes were utilized in the automotive manufacturing industry in Japan. The codes would track the components necessary for producing cars. It would be easier for companies to track the vehicles they are producing if they can link them to specific QR codes.

People who used the first QR codes found many positive benefits surrounding the system:

  • People can scan QR codes from multiple angles. They don’t have to review them at one set angle.
  • A code can resist damage and other obstructing items. It can work even if part of it has a tear.
  • QR codes can work over how much data one requires. A more massive code with more modules can work if necessary.

How It Works In Our Daily Lives

The history of QR code is still being written, as the code is available for many intentions:

  • Diners at restaurants can use QR codes to download menus, place orders, and pay for these orders. Each QR code can link to a specific table at a dining space, ensuring the restaurant knows who’s ordering.
  • QR codes can work for website login purposes. A user can scan a code with a verified smartphone to log into a website.
  • Some codes may link to multimedia content. A person can scan the code and then load online content relating to the object or advertisement that the QR code supports.
  • QR codes are especially critical for product tracing purposes. Businesses can scan QR codes on individual items they produce to track where they are going and who handles these items.
QR code for product tracing
QR code used for product tracing (The Great History of QR Code)

Where to create a QR code?

QR codes are among the most unique innovations around. You can create your own QR codes now through our QR code generator. We can assist you in producing QR setups of all sorts.


Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

Comments are closed.