QR Codes vs Near Field Communication

2011 was the year of the QR code. Whereas most people had not seen one in January, they were consistent users of them come December, and as the number of adults using smart phones tops 50 percent in 2012 the use of QR codes will only continue to increase. 2012 might just be the year of near field communication in America (it has been in use in Japan for over five years) and so the question must be asked. What is the difference between QR codes and near field communication.

But first, what is near field communication? Near field communication is a technology that allows two devices to communicate either one or two ways by being within a close proximity to one another. For instance, if a store wanted to announce a big clearance store with posters in front of their store, they might now order NFC chips to be attached to the posters. The customers would then hold their smart phones up the poster for a couple seconds and download an exclusive coupon for an extra 10 percent. Also, two people might want to share their contact information with one another. In this case, provided the phones are NFC enabled, they would merely have to hold their phones together and the information would be exchanged. 

Given this explanation, one of the major differences between QR codes and near field communication is the fact that QR codes giving away information and are not necessarily downloading any information onto its own storage. However, this does not mean it is impossible for QR codes to retrieve data from customers, as the information can be compiled on a company’s server.

In terms of cost, QR codes offer a distinct advantage over NFC, as the stickers and designs range from costing nothing to costing pennies (depending on the application to which they are to be used). NFC chips on the other hand, while not necessarily expensive, are not as inexpensive as ordering QR codes.

QR codes also win out when you consider accessibility. At present, very few phones actually have the capability of using near field communication. Most smart phones are simply not equipped to handle the technology. iPhone, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all smart phone users, still has not released a phone capable of utilizing near field communication technology, and therefore any company willing to invest in NFC over QR codes has automatically excluded over 25 percent of its potential customer base from taking part in the promotion. 

Also in terms of accessibility, QR codes are a design rather than a chip requiring close contact in order to initiate a data transfer. Therefore, NFC promotions are limited by the fact that they must be able to be accessed by the consumer. This limits not only the number of customers that might be able to access the information (as stated above) but also the design elements a marketing campaign might be able add.

What is Near Field Communication

by Michael Costa