Ask the Board – February 3, 2020 | JOSEPH McQUEEN


“What technology will replace Quick Response (QR) codes in the future?”

There are a number of technologies I’ve seen that could replace QR codes in the future:

ShopKick was big a good number of years ago and leveraged specific ultrasonic frequencies in locations to identify if you were present in a space. This was great for location, but lacked specific ways of “posting” information for you to get to. It required the application to “listen” for this so it had significant limitations in terms of multiple “locations” within the same physical space.

Cisco’s Proximity is another one that comes from the world of Video Conferencing. This leverages ultrasonic information to transmit room information to a mobile device or computer so you can then have an app “know” what to dial. We’ve leveraged this with great success and can see other opportunities. However, like ShopKick, it has the same limitations.

iBeacons is another technology that held a lot of promise. It was held back by the requirement of embedding the technology in an application. QR codes also require embedment but recently has been embraced by many mobile manufacturers in the OS, opening the doors for more people to leverage it.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is likely the best technology to replace QR codes. The technologies mentioned above work at more of a macro level, in that they cannot get to an individual item level because of how they function. NFC, however, provides many of the benefits of QR codes while seeming more like magic. Many cellular devices leverage NFC every day. But the barrier here will be the cost to implement. There is a cost to adding the chip required to every object you’d want to scan. This has been a barrier to many RFID projects. QR codes are a little more versatile and cost effective.

It will be interesting to see if NFC truly does replace QR codes. Due to their simplicity and flexibility, QR codes will likely remain relevant for some time to come. But I think you’ll see new NFC implementations, improvements in capability and the cost of the technology over time that should rival them.


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Senior Manager of Network Services
American Eagle Outfitters

End User Council

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