Static vs Dynamic QR Codes

In this article, we want to explain the differences between static and dynamic QR Codes. While the title may suggest that one type of static vs dynamic QR Code has clear advantages, it will be seen that both static and dynamic QR Codes have advantages and disadvantages. So you always have to check which type is better to use according to the situation. Both types are not about a fixed definition in the form of a norm or something similar, but rather about a widely shared idea. Regardless of whether it is a static or dynamic QR Code, technically all QR Codes are the same. The idea of the QR (Quick Response) Code originated from the Japanese company Denso Wave in 1994 and was protected by them as the brand name QR Code [Wikipedia].

Types of static QR Codes

Each QR Code is a graphic encoding of a simple text. One might assume that this limits the possibilities of a QR Code extremely, this is precisely where its strength lies. In the end, everything can be represented as text. You could even take an image, encode it in Base64, for example, and then you have a text that you can convert into a QR Code. However, it is important that the device that scans the QR Code later knows exactly, or at least can easily recognize, what kind of data the QR Code represents. Over time, various use cases for static QR Codes have proven useful and different forms have emerged, each of which is roughly described below.

Text

As already explained, each QR Code basically represents text. So you can use any text, and the device that scans the QR Code simply displays the text. The text should not be too long, of course, because the QR Code will get bigger and bigger and at some point it will become very difficult to scan the QR Code.

URL

Perhaps the most common use for a QR Code is to share a link to a website. The advantage is that it is much easier to scan the QR Code with a smartphone than to type out a link. In addition, not much really needs to be taken into account when creating the QR Code. It is usually enough for the text to begin with http:// or https:// and it will be recognized as a URL. Many apps now go so far as to recognize links without http:// or https://, if this is possible.

Contact

Another very useful way to use QR Codes is to exchange contact information. The text of the QR Code only needs to be written in vCard format. This makes it easy to exchange information such as first name, last name, addresses and much more. Of course, you don’t usually need to know exactly what the vCard format looks like, as most apps create it for you directly when you generate a QR Code. In addition, this format is supported by many apps, so that the new contact information can be saved playfully.

Appointment

Very similar to the contact, you can also distribute an appointment with a QR Code. The vCalendar format or its probably now much more widespread further development iCalendar, which was developed together with vCard, is usually used for this. This format should be supported by all common appointment apps.

E-Mail

If you do not only want to exchange an e-mail address, but also want the user to send an e-mail, you can ensure that the scanning device directly opens a mail application so that the user can send an e-mail to the address provided in the QR Code. The format is relatively simple and contains the email address and can be extended with a subject and a body. If, for example, you want the addressee support@test.local and the subject “Test” to be pre-filled when the mail application is opened, then this is the content of the QR Code mailto:support@test.local?subject=Test

SMS

The same procedure can be used to send SMS. You only have to enter a number and can also preselect the content of the SMS. In this case, the content of the QR Code looks like this: sms:123456789?body=hello. This would directly open the app for SMS and create an SMS that goes to 123456789 and contains the message “hello”. It is important to note here that the SMS would not be sent automatically, of course.

Telephone number

If you want the user not to send an SMS but to call you directly, this is of course also possible. Here, you only need the telephone number and compose a text that looks like tel:123456789. This is quite simple and of course has the advantage that the user does not dial the wrong number.

Coordinates

Probably the least used feature by far is the sharing of geo-coordinates. Here you can enter latitude followed by longitude. This looks like geo:10.0,11.0. Similar to a telephone number, the advantage of avoiding typing errors is quite interesting here, as a number error in a latitude or longitude can make a considerable difference. However, the geo URI scheme used here also offers other possibilities (see also).

Wi-Fi

A relatively new application is the exchange of WiFi login data. Since WiFis often have rather cryptic names and their passwords should ideally be quite long, a QR Code is also a very helpful alternative to simply typing it in. Most modern smartphones therefore support the exchange of WiFi login data without an additional app, so the QR Code can be generated on the smartphone that is connected to the WiFi, and it can be scanned directly on the smartphone that is to be connected. And that’s it, you used a QR Code to connect a device to a WiF network.

Advantages of static QR codes

With all types of static QR Codes, one advantage is always clear. The user cannot make a mistake. Of course, a QR Code can be damaged or of such poor quality that it cannot be scanned, but in these cases you get no data instead of incorrect data. This is especially helpful with URLs, email addresses and phone numbers, where damaged data would probably only lead to confusion for the user, and the likelihood that the user will recognize the transposed number in a phone number, for example, is extremely low.

In addition, static QR Codes have the advantage that no internet access is required to read the data. Most smartphones today have the option of scanning QR Codes directly via the camera app, and you can have the data displayed directly and, in the case of a vCard for example, save it directly in the contact app. Of course, if the QR Code contains a URL that you want to call up or an email address that you want to send to, you need the internet again.

Perhaps the most important advantage of static QR codes, which is often ignored, is that they last practically forever. Even if the system through which the QR code was created is no longer used, the QR code retains its data. This is because you don’t need a backend to store further information about the QR code, but all the information is contained directly in the QR code.

Disadvantages of static QR codes

As with everything, there are with static QR codes, there are not only advantages, but also disadvantages. In many situations, the greatest advantage of a static QR code is unfortunately also its biggest disadvantage. If, for example, an email address or a telephone number used on a QR Code changes, you would have to replace the QR Code. If the QR code has been used in many places, this can be time-consuming and entail not inconsiderable costs. One could therefore strive to no longer change such information, but this is not always possible, and at least the WiFi password should be changed occasionally.

So one comes quite quickly to the question of how to solve this problem. How do you make sure that the QR code doesn’t have to change, but that the data it represents changes anyway?

The Solution – Dynamic QR Codes

In principle, the solution is relatively simple: replace the information in the QR code with an address to a web server and let it display the information. This way, the QR code does not have to change at all. In other words, you decouple the QR code from the actual data. If you now want to change the data of the QR code, you only have to adapt it on the web server and everything is ready to go. It’s that easy to turn a static QR code into a dynamic one.

Is there more?

With Dynamic QR we go one step further. Firstly, we have strictly separated forms and QR codes. This makes it possible to exchange the form for a QR code without having to adapt the QR code. So it is always a dynamic QR code, but beyond that we see the interesting dynamics after the user has entered data. Here we offer the possibility to process data with actions. For example, data can be sent to another system via a webhook. In addition, a mail can be sent based on the information that the user has entered.