Making QR codes more useful

  • Greater potential of QR code still untapped
  • OunchTag promises more 'oomph' to merchants and users

THE QR (Quick Response) code was first invented and used by automotive giant Toyota in 1994 as a way to track its vehicles during the manufacturing process, according to Wikipedia.
The two-dimensional information code, akin to the more popular barcode, has been largely used in a niche manner for the past 20 years. In recent years though, it has surfaced in the consumer space, largely driven by the proliferation of smartphones whose cameras can easily scan these codes.
Making QR codes more usefulHowever, the full potential of the QR code has not been tapped, says Choong Kar Fai (pic), CEO of Omniphics. He believes that in most instances, QR codes are only used to link users to a website URL or merely to a company's homepage.
"Imagine passing a banner with a QR Code that offers a 'buy one, get one free’ deal. You scan the code, and that takes you to a merchant's website. You then try to navigate around to look for that deal but get frustrated after a while because the website may not be optimized for mobile usage or because the information is hard to get to. You give up.
“This represents a lost opportunity for the merchants to tap potential business," he says.
In response to this limitation, Omniphics developed a specialized QR code that complements a backend software system that will deliver much more value to merchants by addressing this failed "call to action" opportunity, he said.
The system, known as OunchTag, is designed to lead a user who scans a QR code to a customized mobile-optimized webpage, which will then allow him to easily navigate and for him to initiate a call to action.
"Take for example a bank which is offering a new credit card. The bank advertises the QR code on its banner. A user stumbles upon this banner, scans our OunchTag instead of the standard QR code, and his smartphone then directs its native browser to a customized website we have developed.
"On this website, he will have a simple menu with options to find out if he's eligible for the credit card, information on the features of the card, and even an option to enter his personal details, which would then be submitted to the bank for verification.
“With our OunchTag system, every scan will make it easy for users to act upon their decisions,” says Choong.
He believes the OunchTag's greatest value is helping merchants and advertisers consolidate all their information and make it accessible to all, and doing so in a fuss-free manner that would take away barriers against adoption.
OunchTag will also improve a user's experience, Choong claims. 
Making QR codes more useful"Let's say a user sees an interesting advertisement and he wants to share it with his friends. He could take a picture of that ad but that's not as nice as having a digital print of that ad sent to you.
“With the OunchTag system, he could scan the code and immediately get a digital version of that ad, and share it with his friends. He can also interact with the ad, all with a scan."
Merchants and advertisers will also be able to track the users who have scanned the OunchTag, which will help them measure and plan their ad campaign more effectively, Choong says, adding that the system was being tested by a local retailer to see if it can enhance metrics collection and gain more intelligence for its ad campaigns.
Asked what his business model is for the OunchTag system, Choong says that he plans to charge clients based on a subscription model.
"For example, if an advertiser wants to use the system, he will be charged a fixed fee and he will be able to upload his ads to our servers. He can then run campaigns using the OunchTag and we will manage the system,” he explains, adding that not only advertisers but even retailers and merchants can use the OunchTag system.
On how much these services would cost, Choong says his company is charging US$99 per month for the generation and usage of each OunchTag. For resellers, the rate is US$79 per month.
“For users who generate large amount of OunchTags, for example banks and multinationals, we have an unlimited package per month,” he says, declining to reveal exact pricing.
“Our OunchTag system currently hosts public advertising advertisements and thus we don’t face any privacy issues. However, our system also has the flexibility to work with sensitive information that is stored in data centers approved by clients, and not on our own servers.”
On how long his company has taken to develop the OunchTag system, Choong says one of his programmers began working on it in the second half of 2011.
"I've a small company -- seven people in all. I used to help run my family business, which is related to IT, but I've always had the passion to do something on my own,” says Choong, who is self-funding the OunchTag project.
He says he's confident of capturing the market as there are many companies such as banks that have a lot of printed material like brochures that they send out to those in their mailing lists.
Instead of sending physical copies, they can have the option of using the OunchTag to get a digital copy of their brochures to their customers, he adds.
"If people can find value to whatever that's being advertised, they would want to scan the OunchTag, and get to the information," he says.

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