It emerged in neighbouring Japan in 1994, but from its introduction to China, the QR code (quick response code) took off so fast that nowadays it is almost omnipresent in the socioeconomic life of this country.
People from other parts of the planet arrive here used to asking for the names of new friends on social networks, their phone number to widen their address books and paying in cash or by credit card.
However, they discover that in China these and other operations are practically a rarity on the verge of extinction and that they are carried out by simply scanning QR codes with a mobile phone.
In fact, the first thing that one needs in order to “exist” in the Asian giant is to have a smartphone and a WeChat account. WeChat morphed from being a simple instant message application to being a multiuse network that integrates the functions of Facebook, Paypal, Whatsapp, IMO, Instagram or other digital platforms used in the rest of the world.
This essential step even precedes, without dispute, the process of migratory regularization when you wish to settle in China.
The popular WeChat gives you a QR code of your identity that allows you to establish new contacts, linking it to a bank account in order to make purchases. As such it is transformed into a kind of mobile wallet.
There are two ways of paying. With the first variant, the seller scans the personal module and the client immediately receives a notification of the amount they must pay.
Meanwhile, with the second option you find a drawing printed on paper in front of the till of all kinds of businesses, on the passenger seat in taxis and even on the street stalls selling fruit, vegetables, sweets or crafts.
By scanning it, it digitises the amount you owe. You accept and the operation goes through. Official statistics show that more than 520 million people are making online payments.
The QR code is everywhere. It accompanies ads, promotional clothing, packaging for every-day items, credentials, news media, publications and websites, among many other things.
It gives access to up-to-date information about institutions, businesses, desired products and gives directions to places (indicating the shortest route) all thanks to its integration with the phone’s GPS system.
More and more artists are offering downloads of their new songs or information about their new releases using this technological tool.
With the arrival of the Lunar New Year on the 16th of February, millions of people will use it to send red envelopes. This is a tradition specific to the season that involves gifting money to friends and family.
The domain of the QR in China extends even further these days. A citizen inscription campaign is under way for the use of the virtual identification card that will be installed on mobile phones and will prevent having to carry the original on you.
The digital document will have the same information and use as the traditional one, but it will require facial and code scanning in order to corroborate the authenticity of the personal data.
In addition, this month in Beijing the transport authorities released the sector’s first promotional centre that will function via the aforementioned digital system.
Concurrently, METROpolis came into effect in the city of Shanghai. This is a metro ticket that also works by means of a personal QR reader at every station.
Because it works well, the initiative will spread to other regions in the country. The code is the common thread in the increasing variety of intelligent and employee-less businesses that are in fashion in the retail industry in China.
The new trend is the recent opening of mobile and self-service shops, markets or cafeterias.
Scanning the individual QR on a phone allows entrance to the premises and the purchase of products on offer. A second confirmation is carried out upon exit, stopping you from leaving the premises in the case of an error.
According to experts, in the future only facial recognition will be necessary in order to have access to this kind of shop, estimated at 100,000 and in continuous expansion across the country after Amazon introduced such a self-service concept in 2016. In the face of the almost unstoppable advance of QR, China’s Central Bank said that from next April it would regulate the people’s payment by this means in order to prevent fraud, unfair competition and other risks.
This entity will require different commercial institutions (both public and private) to obtain the appropriate permits in order to carry out said operations.
It will also issue standard rules on the use of the method and will order the application of more effective measures that ensure the security and confidentiality of personal accounts, as online thefts are also gaining strength. (PL)
(Translated by Sarah Claman) – Photos: Pixabay