Ask the Board – February 3, 2020 | WILLIAM “WILL” COFFEY


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

There are several types of technology available, which could serve as suitable replacements for QR codes. QR codes do seem to be gaining in popularity thanks to recent IOS updates that make them easier to scan and use, but some options that could be considered as suitable replacements depending on the use case would be Image Recognition, NFC, and Beacon technology. 

Each of these technologies seems to resolve one or more problems with existing QR codes, but there are also implementation hurdles that need to be crossed before any one of these technologies will become a clear replacement.  Image recognition requires extensive application programming into a mobile application. Once the framework is built, it is relatively easy to update and add items to the database that will support the application actions based on the image recognized by the camera. This still requires you to scan the image in the manner you would use a QR code, but instead of using the camera to identify an image and allow an app to provide an action based on the images recognized. This allows advertisers and vendors to continue to produce adds as they normally would without trying to find a suitable location to place a QR code for readers to scan.

NFC is a promising technology because of the encryption and safety of the data that is transferred between devices.  It also does not require the user to open their camera.  NFC is activated by proximity, and then the user would confirm if they wanted to proceed with an action.  While android provides open support of NFC for all applications, IOS currently only supports payment-related NFC transactions. Since these two mediums control roughly 50 percent of the mobile device market, it is hard to see a high adoption rate unless IOS chooses to open up more NFC-related applications. 

Another option is Beacon technology.  This technology is proximity based, which allows location-based information to be provided to those within proximity of the Bluetooth beacon.  The user does not need to perform any scanning action. They only need to accept the pop-up on their phone prompted by the Bluetooth beacon. While I think this is one of the most promising technologies and will likely replace QR codes in the future, there is recurring adoption cost in replacement hardware, which may slow the adoption of this technology. However, it does have the potential to reach 100 percent of mobile device users, which all support Bluetooth technology.   

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Department Systems Administrator, Information Systems
McCarran International Airport

End User Council

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