Near Field Communication vs. QR Codes

If you know anything about Near Field Communication, you have probably also hear of Quick Response (QR) codes as well. These square codes have been everywhere lately and show no signs of slowing down. Basically the code is something your phone can scan and it will get the requisite information, and finally it is directed by this information to achieve certain tasks, such as download information or go to a website. Given this information, it is not difficult to imagine why people are confused as to the differences between NFC and QR codes.

On a personal level (and considering the moves of a little company known as Google) I think NFC is poised to replace QR codes. This is partly due to the fact that I simply like them more, and I am learning to trust my gut more and more as I get older, but because Google has recently followed my lead… or so I like to tell myself. Google used to send QR code decals to businesses that used Google Places. As of March 2011, though, they changed their tune, opting to back NFC technology over QR codes. 

But why is this? Well, first the similarities. Like QR codes, NFC can carry information, though the information in the case of NFC is carried in chips. The chips are miniscule and can be carried in 2D objects like cards and posters. As you know if you’ve read any of my other posts, a person with an NFC enabled smartphone simply holds the phone in front of the NFC chip equipped device and the information is transferred.

So that is what NFC does that is similar to that of QR codes, and despite the initial impression that these are very similar technologies, this is where the similarities end. From this point forward, all advantages go to NFC technology. With QR codes, the information goes in one direction, from the QR code to the phone. With NFC, the software can both transmit information and receive it. This might seem like an insignificant advance, but the fact is this allows people not only to receive information from inanimate objects, but to share it with their friends. NFC enabled phones, when held together, can do things such as share pictures and contact information. 

Also, since the amount of information that can be held by NFC is greater than that held by QR codes, NFC can simply do more. The most important thing they can do? Pay for stuff. An NFC enabled phone can hold your credit card information and transmit it to a reader much like a credit card reader gathers credit card information.

QR codes are great. One day we might look at them the way we look at 8 track tapes today, as short-lived, well-remembered pieces of technology that ushered in more lasting innovations. In my opinion, they are going to have an amazing run for a short period of time. Everyone will be scanning them and using them to their best benefit. One day, though, when the infrastructure needed to make NFC a worthwhile investment gets into place, NFC will have its day as well.

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