A Gateway to the Internet of Things: QR Codes


My title in a QR code form

The quick response, or shortly, QR codes has been around since 1990s, even though they are popularised in the recent decade by the growing use of smartphones and camera devices. The QR code was first developed by an automobile component manufacturing company in Japan for tracking the products they produce for Toyota. [1] In this regard, QR codes had been in use for registering and tracking automobile components worldwide in a complex infrastructural organisation of production in our times.

It was especially by the popularisation and wide spreading of the smartphones with cameras, QR codes started being used in various different areas of our daily lives. Today, they are predominantly used by the marketing sector in many different creative ways of advertising.

What QR codes and similar coding systems enables us is to turn every material surface into a bearer of knowledge or data of any kind. QR codes are not about particular materials, they rather give us the opportunity to encode different sorts of information to materialities. They have a specific language that the human eye cannot understand. They in this regard also carry a danger of alienation from the material world that we live in. Their language can only be understood when you use particular devices necessary to read them. Event the language we use for the working logic of these technologies is related with human capacities which seems to be now going beyond of their “natural” bearers. “Reading” can be the most evident example. This is an incredible moment in our history when the work of reading is no longer a capacity only of humans. Having said that, we can think of these technologies as another example for the eradication of the duality we have in classical social theory which assumes that there is an absolute opposition between material and immaterial constitution of society. (Kuechler, 2008)

Today, in many museums, there are QR codes under the artefacts displayed for the visitors, encouraging them to interact with the artefacts with their smartphones in order to reach more information and data about these artefacts. So todays museums cannot be thought without the immaterial world named web and the semi-material intermediaries between material and immaterial means which are the QR codes in our example here. Through QR codes, now many different materials are turned into carriers of knowledge, a process which Kuechler also mentions.

So many other interesting examples for the QR code uses are possible. For example, a sushi chain in London started producing edible QR codes to serve with their sushis which leads the customers to an electronic tag of the fish about where it was sourced and so on when read by a smartphone. (See YouTube video) [2] In Japan, some tombstones now have QR codes carved on them which leads the visitors to the biography and photos of the dead. [3]

This is a QR Code link for the video above

We can also associate the increased use of QR codes with a rising “obsession with security” in general. For example WhatsApp started using these QR codes for matching the phone with a computer in order to use WhatsApp desktop service. Such examples can also be diversified.

In many of the comments about QR codes, I have seen that one of the most important reasons for people to back use of them is that they seem to be produced easily, with a little or no amount of money. [4] But the statistical data does not say that all the time. Despite, QR codes have their own limitations. First of all the production and use of them depends on an access to internet. Also we know that in US, only 6 percent of the smartphone users are actively using them who are usually white wealthy men. [5]


Kuechler, S (2008) Technological Materiality: Beyond the Dualist Paradigm Theory, Culture and Society 25(1):101:120

[1] http://electronicsofthings.com/iot-projects/fundamentals-basics-start-101/qr-codes-internet-things/

[2] The Guardian, Could QR codes revolutionise transparency in food supply chains? Sept 9, 2013 URL: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/qr-codes-transparency-supply-chains-food

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egCFIrr_uUk

[3] http://www.npr.org/2011/09/26/140805493/few-consumers-are-cracking-the-qr-code

[4] One example for this approach: https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2013/01/why-qr-codes-are-perfect-for-the-internet-of-things/

[5] http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press-Releases/2011/8/14-Million-Americans-Scanned-QR-or-Bar-Codes-on-their-Mobile-Phones-in-June-2011?cs_edgescape_cc=US

and http://www.npr.org/2011/09/26/140805493/few-consumers-are-cracking-the-qr-code

There are various websites on the net where you can produce your own QR codes. http://www.qr-code-generator.com This is one of them.



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