QR codes that spit back personalized responses

October 27, 2011 by Dave Haynes

The retail tech site Storefront Backtalk has a piece up about what’s promoted as a new generation of QR code scanning technology that goes beyond supplying generic information to something tailored to the person doing the scanning.

Scanbuy says its technology can display different information on smartphones —and initiate different actions—based on things like the purchase history of the person doing the scanning.

What’s going on here bears some resemblance to online tracking cookies, except the tracking codes are phone-based.

“At the scan, we get a certain amount of metadata as a result of the scan itself—operating system, carrier, cell tower being used, etc. We get all of that,” Scanbuy CEO Mike Wehrs tells Storefront Backtalk. “We know what that app has scanned in the past.”

Wehrs suggests the app can secure data from the QR code as well as back office data, like loyalty card information that would reflect purchase behaviors.

Opinions vary about as much as one can imagine as to whether QR codes are a valid marketing and merchandising tool, or just the latest in an endless run of momentarily cool technologies that are more buzzworthy than actually worthy. Proponents say they are effective when used right. Detractors are now pointing out the codes can be used to distribute malicious software to people who scan without thinking much about it.

The codes get talked up a lot as something to tie in with digital screens, though I often think that’s a bit of a reach. Perhaps if the screens are close at hand and multiple products, and the codes cycle through at a pace someone with a phone could react to.

There would be some privacy issues/worries with this sort of thing, and a use-case for personalized bar codes (versus other ways of getting information) doesn’t leap into my head. But it would seem to make QR codes a little more compelling.


  1. applause says:

    Like many new techologies we are currently going through the phase of ‘I must have one’ Clients keep asking me to put them up on their website. I have to gently explain. I guess it will settle down and find its really useful niche.

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