Some people in the meeting industry really don't like 2D bar codes (such as QR codes and Microsoft Tags).
Why might that be? As with most new or emerging technology, there's push back and doubt as to the value of using 2D bar codes. Some grokked the potential and started incorporating codes into events--whether or not the potential was realized depends on how the planner used the codes. Others don't fully understand how 2D bar codes work or simply dislike the concept or have a way of doing things more suited to their styles.
A post this week titled "Why QR Codes Are Just Plain Dumb" caught my attention because of the strong headline and misinformation. Let's take a look at the arguments presented.
- most people do not have smartphones. In fact, according to Nielson ~60% of mobile phones in the US are feature phones so right out of the bat, you’re excluding the majority of mobile phone users in the US.
That data was true when originally released in August 2011, but the mobile tech world changes significantly on a daily basis. In fact, most Americans with mobile phones have smartphones, according to findings released from the Pew Research Center this month. But even if most Americans only had feature phones, they wouldn't be discounted from using 2D bar codes: most modern camera-enabled mobile phones (smart or feature) can interact with 2D bar codes.
- In order to actually use a QR Code, a user has to first download an app (some of which actually charge you!).
The process of downloading a bar code scanning app is presented here as insurmountably complex and inconvenient. It's not. This, of course, comes down to personal opinion. Many people find researching, downloading, installing and learning a new app to be simple and fun (again...opinion). Additionally, I discount the argument that devs of some scanning apps are outrageous to charge $0.99 for their work or that smartphone users are that averse to paying a buck for an app to augment their meeting and event experience. That said, this too is a non-starter as there are great, free 2D bar code scanners in the App Store as well as the Android Market.
- scanning a QR code in public can be weird and uncomfortable. Other attendees are bound to stare at them and think to themselves, “What on earth is he doing?!’ because it’s very likely no one else is actually bothering to scan the code.
Absolutely. But such strangeness is bound to occur with such leaps in technology. Society and human behavior is bit slower on the uptake. Anyhow, it doesn't hurt to be seen as strange in public. I've landed in some pretty interesting chats when confused strangers paused to question my scanning behavior. Technology prompts face-to-face encounters yet again.
By and large, the biggest impediment to widespread adoption of 2D bar codes is education. We have the tools (smartphones, apps) but apparently lack understanding of how to use them properly. The younger generation of workers (let's say born 1980+) doesn't have a problem whipping out a mobile device, installing a new app and mastering it in minutes. You can't just say, "It's too complicated," when it's second nature to those coming up right now.
The post does include a closing thought about which there is no room for argument:
- When smartphone operating systems make QR code readers a default function within the phone’s camera, there will likely be increased adoption of this tool.
Until then, we are dealing with fragmentation and countless variables. You could say, "Not good enough," and ignore the developments in technology, but you know that inadequate feeling when a new site opens to the public yet all of your peers are already fluent with it because they've been playing with the technology throughout alpha and beta testing? Yeah, it doesn't take long to get left behind, but it's easy to keep up.