You may have noticed weird looking barcodes like the one above popping up everywhere recently and wondered what they are.

For those unaware, they are known as QR (Quick Response) codes. Essentially, they are a form of two-dimensional barcode.

QR codes started off in Japan but have slowly made their way west, and are now frequently seen on advertising billboards, magazines, and most recently, your energy bills. But why are they there, and are they useful? We delve into everything about QR codes below.

What does a QR code do?

Like barcodes, QR codes store information, more specifically, web addresses.

So, if you see an advert with a QR code for a product at a bus stop, you can scan the code and it will take you directly to the product’s website so you can get more information.

QR codes

How do I use a QR code?

You need to use a QR code reader to scan a QR code. This can be done using an app on your smartphone or tablet and the device’s camera.

There are many QR code apps to choose from and they’re mostly free. We’ve suggested some you can download below:

iOS: Quick Scan

Android: QR Code Reader

Windows Phone: QR Code Reader

What should I do once I’ve got a QR code and installed a reader?

Open the app and line up your camera with the QR code as if you were taking a photo.

The app will automatically read the code – no button pushing required.

A webpage should open as soon as the QR code has been read.

You need to make sure the code aligns with the box which appears on the screen. If you’re struggling to scan it properly, you might need to go closer to the code, or further away.

QR codes

What are the benefits of QR codes?

If you see an advert for a product you like, scan the QR code provided and you’ll get more information about the product.

Your energy bills now come with QR codes at the top too. This is a new feature which launched in September as part of a drive by the Government, and it allows you to find a cheaper electricity or gas supplier.

Open up the app as previously explained, scan the code using an app scanner like normal. This puts details about your energy consumption through a search process and displays the best possible energy provider you can switch to in order to save money, providing instant cross-market comparison without having to fill in any boxes. It also makes the process of switching much easier.

You can also use dedicated energy comparison service providers such as uSwitch’s new ‘Compare, Switch and Save’ to see if you can get a cheaper deal.

Are QR codes safe?

You should only scan a QR code from a reliable source, as it could direct you to a website with malware.

It’s very unlikely that a reputable company would send its customers to anything malicious, but it’s worth considering what you scan.

Can I make my own QR code?

Yes, all you have to do is go to a QR code generator and type in the webpage you want to share. This could be ideal for party invitations, for example. You could use a QR code to give invitees a link to a Google Maps page of the party’s location.

Here are some websites which allow you to make a QR code:

QR Stuff

QR Code Generator

Kaywa QR Code

Have you used a QR code before? How did you find it? Let us know in the Comments section below.