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QR Codes vs. NFC Tags

QR Codes vs. NFC Tags

In the context of brand marketing, Quick Response (QR) codes are used to conveniently connect interested mobile users to a brand (usually a mobile landing page). That connection gives the brand information through analytics, while offering the consumer product information, promotions, contests, etc. Ultimately, the brand wants to offer the most optimal consumer experience at any point in time, pre-sale or post-sale.

QR Codes are established

Much has been written about the effectiveness of QR codes. They are ugly and are a pain to scan for the consumer (you need to download an app and fiddle with your phone in the right light), but they are free and very recognizable. Today, QR codes are used extensively in retail. Printed on labels and/or the product, ideally, they link the consumer to product information, a promotion, or some other useful information on a mobile optimized landing page. Here are a few QR code success stories.

QR Code Pros

QR codes stand out. Consumers know exactly what to do. If a consumer is going to the trouble to scan a QR code then they are probably very interested in the product.

QR Code Cons

The main complaint is that they are hard to scan. Many consumers give up or don't bother. They must open an app and scan in sometimes-difficult lighting conditions. Thus, they are not as effective as they could be. As well, QR codes can be easily modified, and thus are not secure; they can be used to launch phishing attacks.

Enter Near Field Communication (NFC) tags

NFC is short-range, low-power, wireless technology, available in most smartphones. It enables consumers to interact with the world around them with a simple touch or tap, and NFC tags are low-cost passive memory devices powered directly by the smartphone when tapped.

The first major rollout of NFC is in mobile payments: Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Most new Point of Sale (POS) terminals now support NFC. The NFC symbol shown above or the Visa payWave symbol symbol is found on most NFC enabled POS terminals. I would expect that it will become familiar to most consumers over time.

NFC Tag Pros

NFC tags are really easy to use — just tap the tag. No special application to open, it's built into the smartphone, and NFC tags are much more secure than QR codes. The NFC Forum Signature RTD 2.0 adds integrity and authenticity to NFC tag data so it can't be tampered with. Here's how it works, for those interested.

NFC Tag Cons

Firstly, NFC tags are new, so the symbol won't be widely recognized for some time. Secondly, Apple does not support NFC tag reading. Everyone else supports it, but Apple is likely to start supporting NFC tag reading, as they already use NFC for Apple Pay. Thirdly, NFC tags are more expensive (on the order of $0.10) than printed QR codes, which are essentially free. The first two issues will most likely be a non-issue over time.

The Verdict

QR codes could be replaced with the more convenient NFC tags; however, there is an additional cost. It is reasonable to assume that product manufacturers would want to take advantage of consumer convenience and security. A reasonable prediction is that NFC tags will be used on higher value items that can bear the cost and would demand higher levels of security. It is also reasonable to assume that QR codes and NFC tags will be used together until NFC tag reading appears in Apple iPhones.

Getting the most of QR Codes or NFC tags

These technologies are all about connecting interested consumers conveniently to the brand. To get the most out of these technologies, brands have to manage both QR codes and NFC tags over their useful life. Read more about how TrustPoint Innovation's new NFC tag management platform, BlackSeal, can make this easier, and offer brands new insight into consumer behavior.

About this Blog

The TrustPoint Innovation Blog covers security industry topics relating to Certificates, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication, Near Field Communication (NFC), Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communication, and more.

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