Since the QR code has shown up in the US, potential competitors and replacement technologies have also started to make their appearances. In the following post I’d like to talk about these new technologies and I hope you will take a moment to comment and let me know which one you think is going to be the next big thing!
1. Microsoft Tags – I’m sure you’ve seen Microsoft’s version of the QR code, the Microsoft Tag. These tags can be seen in color (image shown) or in black and white and they allow the user to store:
- A URL : Unless it is blacklisted by Microsoft
- Up to 1000 characters of text with an optional password
- Contact Info or a vCard
- It can auto-dial a phone
One of it’s great features is that the user can specify a start and an end date which is great for promotions that go on for specific dates. You can read this great article to find out more about the Pros and Cons of Microsoft Tags.
2. Blippar – Unlike QR codes, blippar is not contained to a single space and it can create hotspots that can make an entire ad interactive. Unfortunately one needs to download a specific app just to scan the blippar ads and as a result of companies competing with QR codes we are all going to have to have 20 different applications on our mobile devices to scan each type of code (unless a programming genius designs a mobile application that works with all the types of codes – we know that person is going to make a lot of money). The other downside is that it appears to be expensive for businesses to produce and won’t be an option for companies with a lower budget.
3. NFC Codes – QR codes were slow to grow in popularity (in US markets), but Nokia seems to think that they certainly will be quick to lose it. If Nokia’s NFC (near-field communication) chip catches on — despite the fact they are far more expensive — the QR code will head to its early demise. NFC chips do everything the QR codes do but better… except for the fact that the user has to buy NFC media (such as paper, business cards, etc. with the chip embedded) making the NFC chip 700% more expensive than the QR code. The great function they have at the moment is it gives users the ability to make mobile payments (but the company making the sale has to have the NFC chip reader).
4. DigiMarc – My favorite QR code contender is DigiMarc, a hotspot based application that allows you to scan different parts of an advertisement to gain access to different content. The most unfortunate part is that those different points on the ad might not be obvious to the person (or even the fact that the ad can be scanned!) viewing it. The demo I watched on the web site showed a magazine ad that didn’t have anything that clearly identified it as a scannable ad which was a little disappointing.
5. Layar – Ok, I admit that this one is not an alternative to QR codes, but it is some of the coolest technology I’ve ever seen (and the city that the demo was filmed in looks an awful like the one I lived in). One potential downside to this app is it might lead to people walking around looking through their mobile devices rather than watching what is going on in the real world (which is potentially dangerous).
There have been several other alternatives to QR codes, NoxiTech has a great article on some of QR codes’ competitors, but who knows what the future of QR codes will look like. I’m curious to know what you think, so please leave comments!
 Nokia views NFC as complete QR code replacement tech or you can go here to find out more about NFC: Goodbye QR Codes
 Layar Alternate Reality Web Site
 If you want to read an interesting article about the shortcomings of QR codes, read 5 QR Code Failures