What are QR Codes & How to Scan - Meaning, Full Form, & Types

Quick Response (QR) codes have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Invented in Japan in the early 1990s, these two-dimensional barcodes have revolutionised how information is shared, accessed, and stored. This post explores the definition of QR codes, their different types, and how they work.

What are QR Codes?

QR codes are matrix barcodes of black squares arranged on a white background. They are designed to be scanned by smartphones, tablets, or QR code readers to provide access to information. The said information may include texts, URLs, or contact details. QR codes offer several advantages over traditional one-dimensional barcodes, including higher storage capacity and faster scanning.

Types of QR Codes

There are several types of QR codes, each serving a different purpose. They are:

Numeric QR Codes: These QR codes can store up to 7,089 numeric characters, including phone numbers or identification codes. They are ideal for encoding substantial amounts of numerical data. 

Alphanumeric QR Codes: These codes can store up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters, including letters, numbers, and special symbols. They are used for encoding text messages, URLs, or email addresses.

Binary QR Codes: These codes can store up to 2,953 bytes of binary data, which may include images, audio files, or other multimedia content. They are used in applications requiring more complex data storage.

Besides the ones mentioned above, there are Kanji QR codes. These codes have some limitations. For example, they can store only Kanji characters (up to 1,817). They are specifically designed for encoding Japanese text. 

How QR Codes Work

QR codes follow a simple methodology - they encode data leveraging a series of modules, or small black and white squares, arranged within a larger grid. The arrangement of these modules represents the encoded data, which can be read by a QR code reader or scanning device. The process of reading a QR code involves the following steps:

  • First, the QR code reader captures an image of the code using a camera or scanning device. 
  • Next, the reader processes the image, detecting the QR code's position, size, and orientation. 
  • Once the image is processed, the reader decodes the arrangement of modules, converting the pattern into a binary sequence. 
  • Finally, the reader interprets the binary sequence, transforming it into the original data, such as a URL or contact information.

QR Codes in India

In India, QR codes have gained significant traction in various sectors, such as retail, banking, and marketing. Some of the critical use cases and statistics related to QR codes in India are as follows:

Digital Payments

QR codes have revolutionised digital payments in India. According to a report by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the volume of QR code-based transactions was 4.46 mn in January 2017, standing at 8,685.30 mn as of March 2023. The figure represents the rapid adoption of this technology.

Contactless Menus

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, several restaurants across India have adopted QR code-based contactless menus to minimise physical contact and ensure customer safety. By scanning the QR code, customers can access the menu on their smartphones, place an order, and make payments without needing physical menus or cash transactions.

Retail and Marketing

QR codes are used extensively in retail and marketing in India. They are often featured on product packaging, promotional materials, and advertisements to give consumers easy access to additional information, such as product details, promotional offers, or user guides. It enhances the shopping experience and allows businesses to collect data on customer preferences and behaviour.

Public Transportation

In various Indian cities, QR codes have been integrated into public transportation systems, such as buses, metro trains, and auto-rickshaws. Passengers can scan these codes to access route information, schedules, or fare details. In some cases, QR codes facilitate contactless ticketing and payment options, streamlining the commuting experience and reducing the need for cash transactions.

Government Initiatives

The Indian government has implemented QR codes in several public service initiatives. For instance, to ensure secure and efficient citizen identity verification, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced QR codes on Aadhaar cards, India's national identification system. Additionally, QR codes have been used in various campaigns, such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, where they have been placed on public sanitation facilities to promote usage and maintenance tracking.


QR codes are being increasingly used in the Indian education sector. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has integrated QR codes into textbooks, providing students access to additional digital resources, such as videos, quizzes, and interactive learning materials. This initiative aims to enhance the learning experience and bridge the digital divide in India.

Security and Privacy Considerations with QR Codes

While QR codes have made significant strides in various sectors and industries, addressing the security and privacy concerns associated with their usage is essential. As with any digital technology, malicious actors can exploit QR codes to compromise personal information, spread malware, or conduct phishing attacks. 

Users should be careful when scanning QR codes, as they may contain malware. Trusted sources, such as official websites, product packaging, or verified business establishments, should be prioritised when scanning QR codes.

Furthermore, users should remember that QR codes containing shortened URLs can be used to conceal the actual destination, increasing the likelihood of phishing attacks. Therefore, users should always verify the legitimacy of the destination before proceeding.

In Conclusion

To conclude, QR codes have emerged as a versatile and powerful mode for data storage and information access, transforming industries and applications worldwide. The country's growing smartphone penetration and digital transformation initiatives in India have fueled the rapid adoption of QR codes. 

From digital payments and contactless menus to public transportation and education, QR codes have become integral to the Indian economic landscape. They offer convenience, efficiency, and innovation. As technology continues to evolve, the applications and potential of QR codes will likely expand further, shaping the way we interact with the world.

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The investment options and stocks mentioned here are not recommendations. Please go through your own due diligence and conduct thorough research before investing. Investment in the securities market is subject to market risks. Please read the Risk Disclosure documents carefully before investing. Past performance of instruments/securities does not indicate their future performance. Due to the price fluctuation risk and the market risk, there is no guarantee that your personal investment objectives will be achieved. 

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