Will NFC Tags Replace QR Codes?

Quick Response (QR) codes seem to be everywhere – ads, posters and even coffee cups. The codes took off in 2010 as smartphone use accelerated. Two years later, the “scan” of QR codes is at the peak of popularity, but the “tap” of near-field communications (NFC) is hot on its heels.

Near-field communications allows devices in close proximity to communicate with one another with a simple tap, enabling activities ranging from entertainment, to gaming to social sharing.

In order for NFC to become the standard method of redeeming coupons, promotions and additional content, manufacturers will have to include the technology in more devices.

Smartphones have come a long way since 2010, but NFC technology is only available on some of the latest models such as the DROID RAZR MAXX HD and the DROID INCREDIBLE 4G LTE. Forrester Research predicts that more than one-quarter of U.S. consumers will have NFC-enabled smartphones by 2016 as more manufacturers include the technology in handsets. 

On the other side of the equation, developers are exploring the possibilities of incorporating NFC in their apps. As more apps employ NFC, it could eventually replace QR codes for many businesses. 

Today, NFC is most commonly used with mobile payment apps like Softcard* Mobile Wallet. However, the potential of NFC technology could lead to convenient transportation solutions, authentication and identity management, and interactive shopping experiences. Businesses will be able to market themselves through unique experiences like placing NFC tags in ads, flyers and even in stores so customers can interact with their brands.

While the technology is not yet ready to replace QR codes entirely, if Forrester is right, NFC’s time is coming in the next few years.  

Shopping and exchanging information will look a bit different than we know it today.

*UPDATE: Google and Softcard have completed an agreement that will leverage the best technology from both companies to create a more robust mobile wallet for consumers. The mobile payment system will keep the Google Wallet name. Read more here.