How to scan a QR code

How to scan a QR code?

What is a QR Code?

A Quick Response code – QR code for short – is a two-dimensional bar code that can store a significant amount of data. QR codes make it easier to access websites or make payments online, as they can be read by digital devices quickly and with no complications.

These codes can store and encode various types of information, like URLs, phone numbers.

QR codes vs standard barcodes

Compared to standard barcodes, QR codes can store significantly more data, from phone numbers and addresses, to the URL of a website, and more. And this is possible because Quick Response codes store information in the form of a grid, therefore allowing the user’s device to read information in two different ways – from the top to the bottom, and from the left to the right. Traditional barcodes, on the other hand, can only read from top to bottom.

Since traditional barcodes are one-dimensional, they can hold less data than QR codes. Furthermore, QR codes are like fingerprints – unique. Unlike barcodes, which tend to have the same data for the same item, QR codes differ from each other, even when the same item is acquired. And this makes it easier to keep track of each asset individually.

Why are QR codes useful?

Within the last decade, QR codes and QR code readers have become more widespread with the advancement of technology, specifically smartphones. Nowadays, most devices like smartphones or tablets have a QR reader. But, more specifically, why are these codes useful? To put it simply, they allow users to perform a wide variety of tasks in a simple manner that would have otherwise taken more time, energy, or money.

Online payments

Examples of uses for QR codes:

Online payments: Making and receiving online payments and payment information

Share Wi-Fi information: QR codes allow users to share their Wi-Fi information easily with guests

Store your boarding pass: Travelers can store their flight tickets as QR codes, without having to carry the physical boarding pass on them

Access a restaurant’s menu: Users can scan the code to access the menu of restaurants who have switched to digital menus

scan a QR code

How to scan a QR code?

The most common way to scan a QR code is through the device’s camera. Newer generations of phones, tablets, iPads and other devices have a built-in scanner in the camera. However, older generations of devices may require a mobile app, which you can easily download from Google Play (for Android) or the Apple Play Store (for iOS).

The steps for scanning a QR code are straightforward and uncomplicated:

1. Start by opening the device’s camera (for newer-generation devices) or the QR reading app (for iOS 11 or older, and Android 7).

2. Face the device at the code.

3. Frame the code, so the code’s corners are in view.

4. The device should display the data immediately, although in some cases it may take up to a few seconds.

How to address difficulties with scanning a QR code

The steps for scanning a QR code are direct and simple. However, as things often go with technology, users may sometimes experience technical difficulties. Thankfully, the solution to some of these issues can be just as simple to resolve.

If you’ve followed all the right steps and find yourself still experiencing difficulties with scanning the code, there are several different things you can try.

  •  Ensure that the device detects the QR code properly, the image is not blurred, and there is nothing partially covering the code, such as your shadow.
  • Start by holding your device a foot away when scanning the code, then gradually bringing it closer to the code.
  •  Avoid scanning at an angle, so your device can detect and read the code clearly.
  •  Be aware of the lighting; poor lighting conditions may impede your device’s ability to properly scan the code, particularly if the device is of an older generation.
  • Make sure that your device’s camera is clean before scanning
  • If you have the option to do so, place the QR code on a plain surface, rather than one with patterns, to make it easier for your device to properly read the code.

How to scan a QR code on older-generation Android devices

Android devices running on any version older than Android 7.0 do not have built-in QR readers, with the exception of Android 6.0.

If you point your device’s camera at the QR code and nothing happens, search your camera settings for the QR code scanner. If you don’t see it, chances are you will need to download a third-party mobile app from Google Play. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app on your device, you can use it any time you need to scan a QR code.

How to scan a QR code on older-generation iOS devices

You can check if your iOS device has a built-in QR code scanner by opening your camera, scanning it at the code, and waiting up to three seconds. If nothing happens, search for QR code scanning in your device’s settings, then point the camera at the code again. If you see that nothing happens after this second step, either, then it means your device does not have a built-in QR code scanner, and you will have to download one from the Apple Play Store.

There is a wide variety of apps to choose from, but keep in mind that not all may be free. With that in mind, let’s look at a few examples.

QR reader and scanner apps

QRTIGER: Available on iOS and Android, the app has great reviews, and allows you to read and generate QR codes at no cost

QR Reader: Only available on Android, reviewers have positively reviewed this free app

Barcode Scanner: Available on Android and iOS, Barcode Scanner is a free app, that comes with ads. However, it comes with in-app purchases, like the option to remove ads.

What are a QR code’s components?

QR codes have become increasingly more prevalent within the past decade. We can use them to make online payments, read a restaurant’s menu, or even store our flight tickets in a digital form. However, you may be wondering about the components or a QR code, and how they allow us to do so much with so little effort, from our devices.

QR codes are formed of binary codes that allow devices to interpret the data presented. These codes are comprised of  black and white grids, each carrying a value. To be more specific, QR codes are comprised of several elements that make them readable and interpretable:

1. Finder Pattern: most QR codes have black squares in all four corners, that help the QR reader identify the type of code that it is interpreting.

2. Quiet Zone: QR codes have white borders around them called the Quiet zone, that helps the QR scanner delimitate the data from within the code to outside factors and elements.

3. Alignment Pattern: usually located at the lower right corner of the code, this element provides readability of the code even if the user is holding the device at an angle, rather than directly facing it.

4. Timing Pattern: this element makes it possible for a device to read a QR code, even if it is damaged.

5. Version Information: usually located at the top of the code, the Version Information lets the device’s scanner know which version of the code it is reading at that moment (e.g. numeric or alphanumeric, kanji, or byte)

How do QR codes work?

QR codes distinguish themselves from other codes through their patterns of black dots and squares, which represent the code’s information. Those two-dimensional shapes can contain a wide variety of data like numbers, letters, and bytes. When a scanner goes over the code, it interprets that data and translates it into a language that humans can understand. For example, a unique combination of black and white squares and dots, when scanned, can reveal the address of a business or the digital menu of a restaurant. And that is because the QR reader has the ability to read and parse the data. Once analyzed, the reader assigns a value to each square in the grid, combining them to create a pattern.

In conclusion

QR codes are 2D codes that differ significantly from standard barcodes. Quick Response codes store information in a grid form, which allows the user’s device to read and scan the information from top to bottom and from left to right, as opposed to standard barcodes, which perform this action only from top to bottom.

These codes have numerous uses, from allowing individuals to save their plane ticket in a digital form, to making touchless online payments and accessing website URLs with a simple touch.

To use a QR code, users can simply open the camera on their device and point it to the code. This is possible because newer-generation devices have built-in QR code scanners. However, older smartphones or tablets, for example those running on anything older than Android 7.0 or iOS11 may not have this. Thankfully, scanning QR codes is still possible through a wide variety of mobile apps created for this purpose.

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