The Future Has Just Begun

QR Code 25th anniversary website

QR Code 25th anniversary website

The QR Code was created 25 years ago by DENSO.

You can receive the information you want just by holding up your smartphone.
Make smart payments without using cash.
Is this convenient?
For many people, it’s already part of everyday life.

The QR Code was developed 25 years ago for production management.
We further expanded its uses beyond the factory and, as it continues to evolve, the QR Code is helping to provide positive and enjoyable living with peace of mind.
Believing in the limitless possibilities of this small matrix, our challenge still continues.

What is a QR Code?

What are the merits of QR Codes?

With the popularization of smartphones in recent years, opportunities to use QR Codes in everyday life for mobile tickets, cashless payments and other reasons have increased dramatically.

With the popularization of smartphones in recent years, opportunities to use QR Codes in everyday life for mobile tickets, cashless payments and other reasons have increased dramatically.

Worldwide annual smartphone shipments
About 1.45 billion units
Number of domestic passengers in Japan per year
About 100 million people
Number of convenience stores in Japan
About 57,000 stores
The QR Code can be used in many different situations.
Here we introduce some surprisingly little known functions of QR Codes.
Fast Reading

The origin of its name is “Quick Response.”
As the name suggests, it is a two-dimensional code developed with an emphasis on high-speed reading and high-speed processing.

Large Capacity Data Storage

Compared to barcodes, which can only handle about 20 characters, a QR Code can store about 350 times the amount of information.
It also supports Japanese characters.

Convenient reading
Convenient Reading

QR Codes can immediately be read from any direction.
A key feature is the “cut out symbol” that appears in three corners.

Resistant to dirt and damage
Resistant To Dirt And Damage

QR Codes are equipped with an “error correction function” that restores data even if there is dirt or damage.
So even in harsh factory environments, the codes can still be read.

History of the QR Code

25 usages of QR Codes in society

We introduce various ways that the QR Code has been used over its 25-year history in tandem with social changes and the times.
The creation of the QR Code
  • 01
    Production management
    Here is where it started
    More information than barcodes. More compact and faster. The QR system was created for production control of auto parts at a time when Japanese manufacturing began to transition from high volume production to small lot production of many types.
    Here is where it started
  • 02
    Product ordering
    Expansion to the retail industry
    The QR Code was first utilized outside factories in a stationery manufacturer’s catalog. It can express large amounts of information in a small code, which makes it well suited to catalogs with many products. It also helps to improve work efficiency.
    Expansion to the retail industry
  • 03
    Contact lenses
    Benefits of a compact size
    Consumers first saw QR Codes on contact lens packages. They were more suitable than barcodes because the packages were small.
    Benefits of a compact size
  • 04
    Inspection of extremely small components
    More compact, in every shape
    While retaining the performance of the QR Code, even smaller codes emerged. What’s more, it became possible to generate codes in rectangular shapes, and cylindrical components could now be printed on. This is useful for inspection of electronic boards and extremely small components with limited printing space.
    More compact, in every shape
Popularization of flip phones
Click here to see more
  • 05
    Access to the Web
    Nowadays you can easily access a website just by reading a QR Code with a smartphone camera. In the age before QR Codes, people typed out long URL strings one character at a time, which was troublesome and time consuming.
    Access to the Web
  • 06
    Exchange of contact details
    Having more friends thanks to the QR Code
    We use QR Codes to exchange contact details on social media. The fact that we are able to connect with various people as we do now may be due in part to the QR Code.
    Having more friends thanks to the QR Code
  • 07
    Food traceability
    Protecting food safety
    There was a time when the words “food safety” were often heard on TV. By using QR Codes, it is now possible to centrally manage information on food transportation from production through the distribution process. The QR Code is playing an important role in food safety.
    Protecting food safety
  • 08
    Medication management
    In the clinical field
    The QR Code also monitors medication to hospitalized patients. By comparing QR Codes for 1) medicine, 2) a patient’s wristband, and 3) the nurse’s ID card, respectively, medical errors can be prevented and medication history can also be managed.
    In the clinical field
  • 09
    Digitization of registration information
    Digital power for automobile inspection certificates
    Cars are managed at various places: makers, District Land Transportation Bureaus, dealers, and maintenance shops. QR Codes are serving to improve business efficiency and prevent counterfeiting.
    Digital power for automobile inspection certificates
  • 10
    Mobile tickets
    Tickets stored inside your mobile phone
    By using a smartphone in place of a ticket, tickets are harder to lose and postage expenses become unnecessary. Enabling smooth entry into venues, it may be a technology that brings the time until the fun starts just a little closer.
    Tickets stored inside your mobile phone
Popularization of smartphones
  • 11
    Obtaining local information
    Obtaining specific information from the TV
    People are using QR Codes to quickly access information relevant to where they live from the TV news, such as the latest weather information and evacuation plans in the event of an emergency.
    Obtaining specific information from the TV
  • 12
    When you’re having computer troubles…
    In the past when an error occurred on your computer, you took note of the error number made up of alphanumeric characters and searched it to investigate the cause. But now a QR Code is also displayed and you can refer to the help page directly using your smartphone.
    When you’re having computer troubles…
  • 13
    Sharing location information is easy!
    By simply printing on a guidebook, pamphlet or business card instead of a map, you can easily import location information shown on paper media into a digital device such as a smartphone map or car navigation system.
    Sharing location information is easy!
  • 14
    Cashless payment
    Becoming part of everyday life
    QR Code payment can now be used in many urban areas. Shoppers are able to make purchases even with no cash in hand. Many would agree it frees them from the bother of searching for small change.
    Becoming part of everyday life
  • 15
    Multilingual support
    Hospitality for foreign visitors
    QR Codes can be used to provide support in various languages even in limited spaces such as paper and information signs. With more and more tourists visiting Japan from overseas these days, this kind of help also serves as a gesture of hospitality.
    Hospitality for foreign visitors
  • 16
    Protecting dementia sufferers who may wander off
    Quick verification of identity
    Local governments and care facilities are using QR Codes to protect dementia sufferers who may wander off. When these people are tracked down, their families can be contacted and prompt medical treatment can be given by reading the QR Code the person is wearing.
    Quick verification of identity
  • 17
    Automatic sorting
    Quicker luggage processing
    In recent years, the development of online shopping has brought about an increase in the handling of goods. Consumers and businesses are demanding greater accuracy and speed. QR Codes that can be read at high speed are being utilized in systems that sort automatically.
    Quicker luggage processing
  • 18
    Share services
    Enabling things to be shared by everyone
    Bike sharing services can be spotted in many cities these days. The reason the service can be used with few procedures using smartphones is perhaps thanks to QR Code technology.
    Enabling things to be shared by everyone
  • 19
    Eco-friendly tickets
    There is none of the trouble of jammed tickets that used to happen with the conventional magnetic variety. In addition, because separation of magnetically treated parts is not required, recycling is much easier.
    Eco-friendly tickets
  • 20
    Verifying authenticity
    Protecting brand value
    Using a special QR Code that is difficult to counterfeit, you can determine whether something is genuine or fake. This is useful for brand name items, which tend to inspire fakes and imitation products.
    Protecting brand value
  • 21
    Wi-Fi connection settings
    Connect easily
    Free Wi-Fi is provided at cafes and hotels. While convenient, configuring the connection can be a little troublesome because you have to type in the password. With QR Wi-Fi, you can connect easily just by scanning.
    Connect easily
  • 22
    Service usage
    From check-in to payment
    Hotel check-in services that use QR Codes are becoming more widespread. What’s more, QR Code can serve as a room key and be used for services within the hotel, helping to increase the comfort and convenience of guests.
    From check-in to payment
  • 23
    From keyed lockers to keyless
    Services that use a QR Code as a key are becoming more widespread. Coin-operated lockers, delivery boxes and other storage options are leading to greater customer convenience.
    From keyed lockers to keyless
  • 24
    Platform door opening and closing system
    Ensuring public safety
    We have created a system in which QR Codes affixed to train doors are used to control the opening and closing of platform doors. The high cost associated with installing platform doors is a major issue, but without the need for large-scale improvement and repair, this new system is expected to become more widespread.
    Ensuring public safety
  • 25
    Facial recognition
    Your face instead of a cash card
    Even smartphones that could be unlocked with a fingerprint were a big surprise when they came out. But from now on, it will be possible to use ATM machines without a cash card using a QR Code and a biometric authentication system containing registered facial information. Just how convenient will this become?
    Your face instead of a cash card
2019: 25th anniversary of the QR Code
Future of the QR Code

How will the QR Code now on?

After the changes of the past 25 years, how will the QR Code expand possibilities from now on?
We spoke with developer Hara Masahiro to find out.
  • 原 昌宏
  • Profile
    1957 Born in Tokyo
    2002 U.S. R&D 100 Awards
    2004 Mobile Project Award Grand Prize
    2007 Japan Innovator Award Outstanding Prize
    2012 GOOD DESIGN BEST 100
    2014 European Inventor Award Popular Prize
       …And many other awards.
Looking back 25 years on from the QR Code’s development, did you imagine the extent to which it is currently used?
I thought I’d made a good code in my own way, so I believed it might become popular in industrial applications. But I hadn’t imagined a situation where ordinary people would use it this much, and that the QR Code would be visible throughout cities. In particular, I never thought the QR Code design would be used as a fashion statement in clothes and accessories, or that you would be able to buy goods using QR Codes.
How do you think the QR Code will be used in the future?
One thing I was thinking about partway through the QR Code’s development was to “encode a database itself, and use it offline.” It was often used this way in the initial stages, but this gradually decreased as the network developed. However, it might be worth revisiting as a way of avoiding social problems given it’s sometimes not possible to exchange data in the aftermath of a major disaster, when power outages happen and telecommunications infrastructure has been damaged. In addition, regarding the issue of database leaks of personal information, cases of recording a database in a QR Code with security capabilities and storing it privately will also increase in the future. With that in mind, I will work to develop a QR Code with even more advanced security so people can use it with peace of mind.
Message to future researchers
Being able to have people around the world use something you developed is an engineer’s dream. I want everyone to try developing something new. When you do that, it’s natural that you will experience some failures since there is no precedent. So go ahead and do what you want to do without worrying about whether you will succeed. Within the failures will be a variety of useful information, and by observing and analyzing that, you will find clues to your next step. I think that having the ability to learn from such mistakes, and use the mistakes to develop something new and innovative, generates the energy to take on new challenges. The accumulation of that leads to creativity. I think that learning from mistakes through trial and error is the best shortcut to achieving success of real value.