QR Codes formed from contrasting color umbrellas, held aloft by people, seems to be a popular activity in East Asia. See for example previous QR Codes in Taiwan and the ex-world record “human” QR Code in Shenzhen, China. On April 28 Coca-Cola in Zhengzhou City, China set a new world record “human” QR Code of 2,503 square meters (approx 27,000 square feet) when 2,499 employees and their families held up their red and white umbrellas (images below). The four Chinese characters in the center of the QR Code translate as “I love my family” which is the company slogan for the local Coca-Cola enterprise. The QR Code itself resolves to a download of WeChat, the predominantly Chinese mobile text and voice messaging communication service with over 355 million active users.
Yesterday’s Vecernji List, Croatia’s national newspaper, had an interesting QR Code on the front page (image below). Scanning the code can win readers cash prizes between 10,000 and 50,000 Kuna ($1,800 – $9,000) entirely at random. The promotion which lasts for a week is designed to raise the newspaper’s profile and to increase last years poor sales of smartphones in Croatia. Pass this onto your friends and if you get lucky remember you heard it here first!
The UK’s Royal Mint announcement yesterday that there is to be a new pound coin gives me the opportunity to resurrect an idea I had 3 years ago. As always the reigning British monarch’s head will be on one side of the coin but the Royal Mint is to run a public competition to choose the design for the reverse of the coin. My idea is to put a QR Code on the new coin. The QR Code would resolve to a server operated by the Royal Mint and then redirected to wherever they chose. The Royal mint would then auction weekly leases on the QR Code redirect. With 1.5 billion pound coins (currently) in circulation this could be attractive to many businesses, particularly if they run a promotion with a competition. For example “Scan the pound in your pocket to enter the Pepsi grand challenge”. There are three things I particularly like about my idea. Firstly if a competition goes viral everyone with a pound coin can enter immediately. Secondly people may get used to scanning a pound coin once a week just to see what’s there. Thirdly, last year the Royal Mint’s return on capital was 0.5% but with a new revenue stream from QR Code leasing this could be increased by a significant factor.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) issued a notice on Friday that halted virtual credit card products as well as payment operations using QR Codes. The bank cited safety risks but it is more likely to be the central bank’s concern that it was loosing control of consumer credit services to Internet companies. The ban affects both China’s largest listed Internet company Tencent and e-commerce firm Alibaba who own Alipay, an online payment escrow service that accounts for roughly half of all online payment transactions within China. The PBOC is asking the companies to submit detailed reports on their procedures. The PBOC keeps very tight control of China’s monetary policy and tends to over regulate financial institutions. When the bank has found a framework to control the rapid growth in China’s online financial services we can expect virtual credit card products to return but almost certainly with restrictions. It is probably no coincidence that the PBOC notice comes just a few days before China CITIC Bank planned to issue one million virtual credit cards (using Alipay Wallet) with the creditworthiness of applicants based solely on the consumers’ online shopping histories.
The Roppongi district of Tokyo, Japan is an area of foreign embassies, night clubs, trendy stores and now a restaurant called QRBAR. Customers enter, find a place to sit and using the ZNAP app scan the QR Code on the table top. A bar list appears on their mobile and the drinks they select will be delivered to their table. At that time a waiter brings them over customers can pay using the same app. ZNAP is becoming a very popular mobile wallet in many countries and was recently trialled successfully at a rugby match in the UK where 80,000+ fans could use ZNAP to pre-pay for food and drinks at six bars around the stadium, reducing queuing time. ZNAP has its headquarters and research and development center in Hong Kong with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Rome and Milan. There are hundreds of mobile wallet apps but this is one to watch.