Feature Article

September 29, 2015

The Reinvention of QR Codes

By Special Guest
Siamek Ziraknejad, Vice President of Product Management, Usher

The QR code has come a long way since its invention in 1994, gaining popularity in the early 2000s for its ease of use with smartphones for advertising campaigns and quick consumer engagement. But soon it became less trendy to slap a QR code on marketing materials and the usage began to decline. However, companies – especially in the enterprise space -- are beginning to find new value in QR codes as a reliable method in a constantly-changing mobile landscape. As a deluge of new device types and OS combinations hit the market, software designers can rely on QR codes to reach users on virtually all mobile devices. Because of that inherent benefit, QR Codes are evolving beyond marketing to support innovative new capabilities such as website login, identity verification, transaction authorization and more.

Universally Compatible

As device fragmentation and OS variations continue to cause compatibility hiccups in how devices communicate with each other, it can be difficult to apply NFC and Bluetooth technology to every app or function and still reach users on every device. QR codes, on the other hand, are incredibly device-agnostic, not requiring any particular OS or hardware. Any device with a camera can leverage QR codes, making them a universal solution to the fragmentation issues organizations are struggling with as they try to reach the widest possible audience.

Enterprise Access Security

2015 may be crowned the year of cyber security: from Sony to OPM, security is a top concern for executives in every industry right now. They might be surprised, but QR codes can provide a very smart solution to their security concerns. QR codes can be rapidly and dynamically regenerated on screens, making them nearly impossible to copy or hack. 

Even though QR codes only allow for one-way communication (unlike modern technologies such as NFC and Bluetooth), at Usher we designed a novel way to use QR codes for two-way communication.  For example, our web login solution uses short-lived dynamic QR codes generated by the security server to initiate an authentication request upon being scanned by an Usher app. This is eliminates the need for inputting password strings and is also more secure, as it uses a dedicated channel for managing network devices as well as sensory inputs from the mobile device for additional security verifications.

The fact that a QR can be rendered on a computer screen, mobile phone screen, TV screen, e-paper devices, all the way to printed material, affords the widest use-cases of access security. For example, consider your experience as a user scanning a QR on your TV to authorize your Amazon Prime streaming session, as opposed to entering your password one digit at a time using a remote control.

Consumer Friendly

On the consumer side, companies and governments are leveraging QR codes to not only increase efficiency and convenience, but to also enable verification, especially as more critical functions go mobile. Beyond the elimination of paper movie passes and plane tickets, organizations are expanding the use cases of QR codes. Alibaba is deploying a new type of QR code so that users can check a product’s authenticity to cut down on counterfeiting. Los Angeles is currently testing a prototype for the 2020 election that would use QR codes tied to a home address to verify voters.

While it’s clear that QR codes lost their luster as the ideal marketing and advertising medium, given their universal compatibility, dynamic nature and unmistakable convenience, QR codes have found new purposes for work and play.

Eventually, modern peer-to-peer communication technologies like Bluetooth and NFC will bypass QR codes in their speed and flexibility, but until those protocols are standardized on all OS versions, mobile devices, and desktop computers, QR technology is the optimal choice when you want to connect devices across physical and digital domains . As mobile continues to conquer both the consumer and business realms, the number of applications for these codes will keep on growing. 

Siamak Ziraknejad is the Vice President of Product Management for Usher, where he oversees MicroStrategy’s Enterprise Security product lines. Siamak has over 12 years of experience in software design` and product management, specializing in mobile and cloud products. He graduated from The George Washington University with an MS in Engineering Management for Software Engineering and Information Systems Management.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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