Technology story of the year: QR codes have a renaissance

Old technology catches on

Castanet is revisiting the top stories of an eventful 2021. Today, for our Technology Story of the Year, we are looking at how QR codes have experienced a renaissance during the pandemic.

QR codes have been around for just over 25 years, but the pandemic has dramatically increased their usage in North America, and they may be here to stay.

Created in 1994 by Masahiro Hara from the Japanese company Denso Wave, the QR code or “Quick Response code” is now a part of the daily lives of so many across the world.

All it takes to access a QR code is the camera of a smartphone, and if your smart phone’s camera isn't compatible, there are many third party apps in place. They can be used to make payments, send emails, store data and link to websites or apps.

Millions of Canadians have also downloaded their proof of vaccination in the form of a QR code, and many restaurants have adapted the technology to replace their traditional menus, as a way to keep both the customers and the employees safer by reducing touch points.

Castanet hit the streets of Kelowna to ask residents how they feel about the use of them to replace menus.

“I like them. I think for the environment they’re great, we’re not wasting paper, printing materials, all of that. I like the sanitary nature of it because we’re not touching things other people are touching, and I think they make it easier for restaurants to change on the fly,” said one woman.

“I love the QR codes. Sometimes it's easier to scan the QR code, open it with your phone because you’ve got the menu right there compared to waiting for somebody to bring you a menu. Especially with COVID, it's probably the safest way to do it right now,” said Jeff Christie.

“Yeah, I’m in favour of them for the cleanliness alone. It's just convenient,” said another woman.

While still offering both QR code menus and traditional menus at his establishment, Craft Beer Market bar manager Kyle Tink says he's in favour of the change.

“I think they work out well. The vast majority of people that are in here have a technology device, and with the free wifi it's quite easy for people to pull it up. That being said, we do still have print-off menus for those people that prefer to see it on-hand, or need an extra set of eyes to help them with the menu. In terms of easy access and waste with paper use, it's working really well,” said Tink.

One man who we spoke with downtown said not everyone knows how to use the QR code menus.

“I think that it's good, but a lot of people don’t know how to get the QR code scanner on their phone. I know my parents don’t know how to do it, so for me it's not that big of an issue but for someone like them, they might not be able to get the menu and might be in favour of just keeping the old standard option available,” the man said.

As expected, some are still in favour of the classic menus in restaurants.

“I prefer the old paper-style menu. It gives some character to the restaurant, people put a lot of work into the menu and I just find it's easier and nicer to look at,” said another.

Got an opinion on this subject? Send it to [email protected]

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