In her ACRL Cyber Zed Shed Presentation, "QR Codes: Looking for the Tipping Point," Rosalind Tedford of Wake Forest University discussed how and why QR codes will eventually "tip" or become more mainstream among American users. The QR code to the left was on her first slide to disseminate her contact information.
After introducing what kind of information QR codes could contain and showing examples of "QR Codes in the Wild," Tedford shared examples of how some libraries are currently using QR Codes.
The focus of Tedford's presentation was what will bring about the tipping point for QR codes. In other words, what needs to happen for QR codes to evolve from interesting niche techno-geek tool into something that the average person knows how to use and is willing to use. And Tedford shared that as much as she loves libraries, she's pretty confident that it will not be libraries that bring about this tipping point.
Rather, several things beyond our control need to happen for QR codes to become a mainstream, regularly utilized technology. For one, we'll need to see "smart phone saturation" throughout American society. When smart phones are the giveaway phone, or are widely available as pay-as-you-go phones, we will start to see more users with smart phones. In addition, something will have to motivate those smart phone users to learn how QR codes work. According to a recent CNN survey, only 32% of smart phone owners have ever scanned a QR code. So not only must they have the technology in their hands, they must be given a strong, compelling reason to figure out what to do with one when they see it.
Tedford suggested some of the more compelling reasons people will be inclined to figure out QR codes. Notably, they'll be used to give us something for free! Marketers have begun using QR codes for contests and similar giveaways; as this trend continues, more people will be willing to download a reader and scan that code for the free stuff. Similarly, purchases will come with QR codes that entice us to learn more about the product. The next time you pick up a bottle of wine or a 6-pack, be sure to check the packaging for a code, as this seems to be a popular vehicle for the technology. Finally, some QR code campaigns will spur such curiosity that viewers will be enticed to scan the code. This is happening in major cities where retailers and others are posting enormous QR codes on billboards or the sides of buildings, just begging to be scanned by any passerby, like Calvin Klein did in Manhattan.
The bottom line is that there will (very likely) come a point where more and more of our users have smart phones and are familiar with QR codes. Although our uses of QR codes in libraries will probably not be the motivation for a newbie to learn about the technology, when QR codes tip, our users will be likely to scan our codes if they've had some fun and memorable experiences with them in other venues.