Statues and monuments of notable Americans are scattered all over this country. If you have ever visited the United States Congress and walked the storied halls, you will see hundreds of statues of famous former Americans. Recently, there has been a movement to take down statues of those who may have a checkered or troubled past compared to what we value today. What if these figures could speak? What would they say? What could we learn? Might we learn about the time and the circumstances surrounding their actions? Neil Orford, a former history teacher in Canada thinks QR codes should be put on statues to repurpose them into “teachable moments for future generations.”
Recently articles have shared stories about statues having QR codes added to them, providing a new dimension to the statue. Two examples are worth noting. At Duke University in North Carolina, a project is underway called “Statues Speak.” Elizabeth Baltes, assistant professor of visual arts at Coastal Carolina University, organized the project. Baltes is a former Ph. D. student at Dukeand was inspired after seeing statues in London tell their stories after viewers scanned QR codes mounted on the statues.
In Charleston, S.C., as many as eight statutes and markers come to life for those viewers with smart phones. Local businessman, John Rivers, created a small group, known as the Rainbow Group, assembled private funding to also emulate London. “We’ve got all these statues and monuments in Charleston. What if, instead of tearing things down, we expand the history and look at ways we can bring people together?” he said. “We all agreed that was a good mission, to try to expand the available history.” Volunteers recorded stories of those depicted in the monuments and were vetted by local historians.
Watching March Madness this past March, you witnessed not only a lot of great basketball, but you witnessed QR Code technology firmly showcased in pop culture, unwavering on TV screens and game coverage across the country. Sure, the common man has seen QR Codes and is aware of them, but during each game there was a reminder from the CBS family carrying the games across channels: download our CBS app using a QR Code. The code was then presented on the screen, beckoning viewers to take out their phones and utilize the code to get live stats, supplemental coverage, and behind-the-scenes reporting. Every single game, multiple times a game: “Use this QR Code”.
Fertile Ground for Growth
QR Codes are not only back – bigger and better, if you will – but they are mainstream, and becoming increasingly utilized by the day. They are finally getting their time to shine here in the US first because they were (and are) able to provide solutions to real needs during the pandemic, and now are able to provide entertainment, insight, information, and so much more… all right from your smartphone.
Like a flower, the technology has blossomed from auto dealerships to mom-and-pop shops, CBS to your favorite diner. Years ago, when QR Codes first made their appearance, the use case wilted – whether due to those not knowing how to cultivate, or the timing being wrong leading to a ‘dry season’. Those times are long behind us now as the environment – saturated by the pandemic and the need for contactless transactions – is absolutely perfect for QR Codes to bloom.
Improved Accessibility, Practical Technology
The growth and use of QR Codes are further fertilized by the developing technology itself – QR code readers are now universally being built into mobile device by the manufacturer, so no separate app to download. This technology is native to a user base that, in many ways, has grown up with smartphones and QR Codes themselves – they’ve grown and utilized the internet just as the internet has simultaneously had an always improving mobile web experience. Of course there are newer, sexier technologies like NFC tags and beacons, but the QR code remains incredibly ubiquitous and practical, as it doesn’t require any special encoding or physical tags or additional devices, and can be displayed both physically on printed media, as well as television and digital media – it’s readily available from your main street general store to Fortune 500 enterprises alike.
A Better Use Case
In the early 2010s, marketers were printing QR codes on direct mailers, billboards, in-store displays, and all means of product packaging. The codes needed a real need in order to thrive, something more than a coupon or additional details – back then, there was no real or compelling reason to scan a QR Code. So why now? Why are they becoming mainstream? Simple: they provide answers and solutions during the pandemic, with current technology and a user base that is showing the world that QR codes are only just getting started: contactless payment, touchless shopping, digital menus, self-serve food ordering, and it doesn’t stop there.
Shows like ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘The Today Show’ display QR codes on-screen when they do their “Deals” segments to give users an easy way to transition from the program to the purchase pages for the products they review on the show. This, much like the CBS March Madness codes, make for a very simple and efficient way to tie together media and eCommerce.
Instagram launched a QR code generator that directs users and customers to a business or brand’s profile. From there they can see updated store details (like hours, location) and make purchases or returns. In the fall, voter registration was encouraged and enabled to communities using QR codes. Towards the end of 2020, CVS became the first national retailer to offer support for PayPal and Venmo QR codes as a form of touch-free payment at checkout. And yes, here in spring 2021 as the vaccine is rolling out, you’ll see TV commercials and flyers that have QR Codes for not only registering for a shot, but also providing health information, guidance, and a means of educating the population.
QR stands for ‘quick response’ and one thing is for certain: the return of QR Codes to the spotlight will be anything but quick. They are firmly mainstream, here for the future and here to stay.
This blog is the final in our series, focusing on how QR codes are becoming an increasingly vital part of our daily lives. Given the novel coronavirus, we’ll continue to see QR code use surge in 2021 in healthcare – from patient wristbands to (potentially!) traveler’s vaccine passports.
QR code’s involvement in healthcare is perhaps the most important and evolving sector at the moment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been suggested that QR codes “will be one of the biggest contributors to healthcare” and that numerous hospitals around the country have already developed QR codes in their algorithms. For example, QR codes can be added onto a patient’s wristband, and with a single scan, the doctor can immediately access up-to-date information about the patient (medication prescribed, timings of medication, list of allergies, etc.). QR codes at hospitals also provides a smooth checkout experience for both the patient and the hospital, keeping operations running smoothly and efficiently.
This idea is further highlighted by author Shailendra Sinhasane in her blog post entitled, “How Healthcare Providers are Using QR Codes to Enhance Patient Outcomes”. Sinhasane informs readers that QR codes, “can reduce medical errors, enhance administration, save time and allow doctors to concentrate on their patients.” Sinhasane also highlights the versatility of the QR code throughout the healthcare sector, most notably within: healthcare marketing, patient identity management, patient health/medical information, medical equipment information, and drug safety.
The adoption of QR codes to streamline a hospitals workflow, improve patient outcome, and save time/cost is a no-brainer, one which will be seen in large proportions in 2021.
 Choudhary, Sneh Ratna. “Why 2021 Is the Year of QR Codes.” Beaconstac RSS, 24 Dec. 2020, blog.beaconstac.com/2019/02/why-2019-is-the-year-of-qr-codes/.
 Sinhasane , Shailendra. “How Healthcare Providers Are Using QR Codes to Enhance Patient Outcomes?” Mobisoft Infotech, 25 Nov. 2020, mobisoftinfotech.com/resources/blog/qr-codes-to-enhance-patient-outcome/.
The global pandemic has forced us all to take safety precautions and we know that masks, gloves, and social distancing are ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to maximize the safety of ourselves and those around us. As businesses continue with cautious re-openings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they are determining best practices for how to do so in a way that allows them to get back to some level of normalcy while giving their employees and customers peace of mind.
The silver lining in all of this is that there are several tactics which have now become staples of this current daily life that will presumably stay with us even beyond the pandemic.
One of the additions to life as we know it – which is really in its own revitalization of sorts – is QR codes at restaurants and eateries for contactless paying and ordering.
Contactless ordering and payment have become not only a ‘nice to have’ in restaurants but have taken hold as a must-have during these times. Independent establishments, chains, and even small venues have upgraded their payment systems to allow QR code functionality to bring food service to customers with limited physical exchange to employees and staff.
While going out to eat used bring about putting the phones down to enjoy each other’s company, now the phone is an integral component to a safer dining experience – and that may never change. Using a photo, enabling a QR code reader, and paying electronically are eliminating shared menus, shared bills, and – yes – shared germs.
So how does this all work?
When you arrive at the restaurant, you’ll certainly notice face masks and plastic shields protecting the host stand and other diners. At your table you will notice a (typically) laminated sheet or stand that has instructions directing you to use the QR code positioned front and center on it. When that QR code is simply scanned using your smartphone’s camera, a link will open to the restaurant’s menu pages.
QR codes have had widespread use for many years now but are seeing a resurgence especially as the CDC has recommended that restaurants, eateries, and bars use digital menus in limited the spread of the coronavirus. Many restaurants in larger cities had already been looking into touchless menu technology before the pandemic struck – and many patrons love the simplicity and ease of access – so the pandemic ushered the change along much quicker.
Even beyond the benefits of QR code menus for health and safety, there are additional advantages that come from applying the technology in restaurants.
Digital menus that utilize QR codes offer more flexibility and organization than a paper menu. The staff can quickly and easily update the digital menu to adjust items (such as add a dish, or remove one that’s sold out) and with some programs a restaurant could review and analyze data (such as what dish is most popular).
QR codes menus can have visuals, graphics, and video clips – which may be more appealing than the static photos on a paper menu. In a world where we love our Instagram and Facebook videos and gifs, applying that same thought to creative on a digital menu can be a huge hit. QR codes can also enable promotions, specials, and coupons right from the system.
The environmental impact is great as well as restauranteurs who are going to digital menus are not only reducing costs for themselves, but they are reducing waste!
With all of the positives in this silver lining, restaurant owners, industry experts, and marketers firmly believe that digital menus – and the QR codes that enable them – are here to stay. Smartphones are already part of our everyday routines, and now they will be fully engrained in our dining experiences as well.
We all want to be safe and we all want to get back to some level of normal. That said, long after a vaccine comes along the QR codes and digital menus will remain. They make contactless ordering and payment that much safer, quicker, and easier. The future of dining is here to stay.
Often we read about QR codes being used to sell or market goods to consumers, but here is a new use – bumblebee research. Researchers have created a new way to study the buzzing bees – attach QR codes to their backs. Using a special vacuum, the bees are collected and put in a refrigerator to chill thereby rendering them immobilized. Once immobilized, very small, simplified QR codes are superglued to their backs. Previously researchers would stand over colonies, tracking the behavior of individual bees. Its hard to believe they would not confuse the bees as they all look similar. The system, called BEEtag, allows cameras to automatically monitor hundreds of bees at all times, allowing reseachers to learn about their personalities and interactions. Bumblebees may all look alike, but research using QR codes has shown that they actually have lots of personality. Some are more active than others, some forage all day, and other remain more in the nest. With bee populations on the decline recently, this information is certainly important and the implications for other similar research methods are aplenty. For example, it has been suggested that pesticides may have to go through testing with BEEtag before receiving regulatory approval. Assistant Professor Stacey Combes’ research with former Harvard graduate student James Crall on this was recently published in Nature Communications. Great to see people using QR codes to help our insect friends.