insurance2go logo

What are QR codes and how do they work?

17/03/2022 - Insurance guides

QR codes have been around for a long time. It’s only recently that their use has become so versatile.

QR code stands for Quick Response code and it was developed in Japan in 1994 for use in the automobile industry. Their original role was vehicle tracking and high-speed component scanning. But since the 90s, they have gone way further than that.

The social distancing rules of Covid-19 pandemic made QR codes more popular than ever. Almost every industry is using them for a better and quicker service. Here are a few places where you can find them:

Of course the list doesn’t end there. QR codes are pretty much everywhere these days.
You can also generate your own when you want to send information.

The anatomy of a QR code

(for the nerds)


(Adapted from Google Images)

How QR codes work

QR codes are made up of data modules which are readable by mobile phones and scanners. They are the black and white dots which make them distinctive. Each of those modules represents a pack of data or a function. They consist of:

Most people recognise a QR code when they see one. You may have heard that Coinbase took advantage of this. They created an ad for the 2022 Super Bowl which was simply a QR code bouncing around the screen. In advertising, words are good but visuals are better and a video of a floating QR code on a screen was enough to grab people’s attention. In fact, it was so popular that the Coinbase app crashed due to the massive influx of responses.

Lots of other companies favour the use of QR codes because they are convenient for their customers. They are also advantageous from a technical standpoint. This is because they are:

How do you scan QR codes on a smartphone?

Firstly, your smartphone needs to have a built in QR reader. Most modern mobile phones do so if you own one, just use your camera to scan it. That’s it!

The camera on my phone won’t scan QR codes

For the Android or iPhone models which don’t have built in QR readers, you’ll need to download a QR code app to do the job. Before you rush to find an app, go into your phone’s settings to check if there is an option to enable QR code scanning. If not, launch Playstore for Android, or Appstore for iPhones, and hunt for one. Some good (and free) apps that work for both Android and iOS are:

QR Codes aren't just for phones, you can also scan them on your tablet. Whether it's an Apple iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad Pro or a Samsung tablet that you have, QR codes can be scanned on any gadget with a camera. If your gadget does not have an integrated scan reader, you can download a compatible one online.   

Keep your smartphone screen scratch free while you are scanning those QR codes out there. Check out our gadget insurance cover to see how to keep your phone safe and sound.

Related Articles

Get a quote