QR Codes Under Threat From New Tech

Korean researchers say they’ve found a way to produce an alternative to QR codes that takes up less space, carries far more data, yet costs very little.

The solution involves a rectenna, which takes its name from ‘rectifying antenna’ rather than rectangular. It’s effectively a tiny AC/DC converter that works with microwave energy.

The idea is to harness the energy from a smartphone’s radio waves, convert it to a DC current, and use that to power the data transmission from a chip that can be put onto posters or other displays. It’s a similar concept to Near Field Communications, used in several smartphone “swipe to pay” or “tap to pay” tools, but would allow two-way communication.

The development from Sunchon National University and the Paru Printed Electronics Research Institute is to produce the rectenna using electronic inks. That greatly reduces costs as the rectennas (or rectennae) can simply be printed in rolls rather than produced in a more complicated fashion. The researchers believe each rectenna produced this way could cost as little as 1.5 cents.

Another benefit is that it’s possible to print an extra layer on top the rectenna that contains visual information for the user. This means there’s no need to either print a separate explanation of what the visible chip is for, or to take up space with a QR “barcode” and either explain it or hope people know what it is.

11 Responses to QR Codes Under Threat From New Tech

  1. NFC already allows for two way communication between active targets. Also the NFC NDEF standard allows for *exactly* what these "rectennas" aim to do. The new NTAG203 chips are even printed on rolls just like you've got pictured here. NFC is already here and NFC already presents a clear danger to QR codes. The only big thing this tech has over NFC right now is price of the tags themselves – currently NFC tags are about $1 a piece (although I expect that to go way way down over time).

    What isn't specified here is what exactly the wireless transmission medium will be for these rectenna devices. Bluetooth? Wifi? Infrared? NFC itself?

  2. Someone doesn't understand what use QR codes are. It's not just that they're a way to publish digital information in "analog space", it's that it's basically free to do so. No need to buy new technology, use complicated or unusual production techniques.

    All you have to do is print them out. With a normal printer. You can show your mom how to do it in 5m. NFC-like tech isn't a replacement for that.

  3. "Korean researchers say they’ve found a way to produce an alternative to QR codes that takes up less space, carries far more data, yet costs very little".

    If you bothered to read the original paper you would know that the "Korean researchers" said no such thing.

  4. The problem with them (meaning likelyhood of take over is slim) is that they have no visual symbol, QR codes are easy to spot and can easily be recognized, meaning users will know what they are, where they are and are then more likely to use them

  5. This is like the argument of VHS vs Betamax the time it has taken for people to really accept QR into their lives is something that rectenna will have to compete against. Oh and the fact that you can make a QR yourself I think it might be a while before I am printing my own radio device.

    Quantity of data transmission isn't really an issue either because you can make a QR of a link and people will very generously either let the data into the reading device or not. Great to see people finding new things they can do with technology though :)

  6. Nice Idea, but it is a piece of hardware QR codes can be printed on normal paper with normal ink. Which means anyone can make a QR code, and it is less than cheap to do so. Here in LA I have seen artist make them with tiles and other things and they still work.

  7. Electronic devices, unlike simply print, may interfere with each other. I can not imagine "Classified section" of a newspaper filled in with "rectennas" or NFCs, but definitely can imagine bunch of QR Codes there.

  8. You don't even need to print QR codes, on a computer browser you can download an extension and have a button on your toolbar, generate a code, and continue reading the page on your phone or easily send the possibly long URL to someone via text message without having to type it or search for the page.

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