QR Code

The History of QR Code Scanners: From Simplicity to Ubiquity

QR codes are everywhere. In the blog, we'll cover how a simple code evolved into such an integral part of our daily lives.


QR codes, short for Quick Response codes, are everywhere. But how did a simple code evolve into such an integral part of our daily lives? Let's journey through time and explore the fascinating history of QR code scanners.

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1994: The First QR Code Scanner

Denso Wave invented the first QR code. Inspired by the black-and-white squares of the Morse code, the two-dimensional matrix barcode was designed to store significantly more data than the traditional linear barcode used at the time.

Initially, the automotive industry used QR codes to track parts during manufacturing. The first QR code scanners were dedicated hardware devices. These handheld scanners used a laser beam to read QR codes and required a physical connection to a computer to transfer the scanned data. While they efficiently decoded QR codes, their high cost and limited accessibility restricted their widespread adoption.

Mid-2000s: QR Code Scanner Apps Enter the Scene

QR codes began gaining traction outside the industrial sector when smartphones began incorporating built-in cameras. It opened up new possibilities for QR code scanning, eliminating the need for dedicated hardware. With the introduction of smartphone QR code scanner apps, anyone with a compatible device could now scan QR codes on the go.

2010s: QR Code Scanners WIthout Apps

QR codes experienced a surge in popularity worldwide, particularly in marketing campaigns, product packaging, and advertising. Businesses began using QR codes to provide customers quick access to product information, promotions, and websites. This surge in QR code usage contributed to the increasing demand for QR code scanner apps.

Key Moments

2014: Apple includes a built-in QR code scanner in its iOS 7 operating system, making it even more accessible to iPhone users.
2017: Snapchat introduces Snapcodes, a form of QR code that users can scan to add friends and access augmented reality features within the app.
2018: Google integrates a QR code scanner directly into the default camera app of Android devices, further popularizing the use of QR codes.

2020s: Covid QR Codes

The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in the widespread adoption of QR codes. With the need for contactless interactions and social distancing measures, QR codes provided a touchless solution for various activities. They became crucial in contactless payments, enabling customers to purchase without physical contact. QR codes were also utilized for digital menus in restaurants, allowing customers to access menus on their smartphones instead of handling physical menus. Furthermore, QR codes were used for contact tracing, enabling individuals to quickly scan codes and provide their contact information to help track and contain the spread of the virus.

Key Moments

2021: Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter introduce QR code features, allowing users to follow accounts and share profiles easily.
2022: QR codes continue to be integrated into various technologies, such as smartwatches, tablets, and augmented reality applications, expanding their reach and functionality.

Today, QR codes are ubiquitous — woven into society. But Western countries are just starting to catch up. For years, Asian nations have embraced QR codes in various aspects of daily life, from mobile payments and transportation systems to marketing and informational purposes. Japan, the birthplace of QR, has been using the codes extensively for product labeling, advertising, and even personal identification. In China, QR code-based payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay have become ubiquitous, transforming how people make transactions.

The efficiency, convenience, and versatility of QR codes have been recognized and embraced in these countries, setting a trend that the U.S. and Western nations are now beginning to follow, adopting QR codes for payments, digital menus, event check-ins, and more. As the benefits of QR codes become more apparent, their integration into Western societies is expected to grow rapidly.

The evolution of QR code scanners is not limited to smartphones. Advancements in technology allowed other devices, such as tablets, smartwatches, and even some cameras, to scan QR codes. Additionally, augmented reality (AR) applications have integrated QR code scanning to provide users with interactive experiences and unlock digital content.

What does the future of QR Code Scanners hold?

Looking ahead, it's safe to say that the future of QR is set to be transformative.

Authentication, verification of goods & product traceability efforts

Consumers can scan products and instantly access detailed information about their origin, authenticity, and sustainability. Integrating QR codes with blockchain technology will further enhance product traceability, allowing consumers to track every stage of a product's journey.

Advanced Security

Features like encryption and digital signatures ensure data integrity and enable secure transactions.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality applications can use QR codes to enhance user experiences by providing interactive digital content overlaid in the real world.

As QR codes evolve and find new applications, they will solidify their position as indispensable tools for bridging the physical and digital worlds.

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