A micro QR code is a more compact and simplified version of the traditional QR code. Much like its larger counterpart, this tech is used for storing data, though in smaller quantities. Designed for use cases where printing space is limited, these solutions have found applications in various industries.

Micro QR codes share similar attributes to the standard ones: black squares, a white background, and a grid pattern. They encode alphanumeric characters, binary data, and even kanji symbols. What sets them apart is that they only feature one finder pattern and accommodate minimum data. Sounds intricate? Read on to discover technical specs, benefits, and specific applications of micro QR codes.

Technology Behind Micro QR Codes

The tech that powers micro QR codes comprises four major components: data modules, a finder pattern, a timing pattern, and a quiet zone.

Besides the above elements, micro QR codes differ in size and offer distinct error correction levels. They also have varying data capacities for specific character sets. Let’s explore these characteristics in greater detail.

Micro QR Code Data Modules

Data modules are black and white square dots arranged in a square grid pattern. Their combination makes up a micro QR code and allows for its scanning.

Data modules encode information as binary values. Black ones represent binary 1, while white modules stand for binary 0. Mixing these values into a unique pattern lets you embed numeric, alphanumeric, and other specific characters into a code.

Micro QR Code Finder Pattern

The finder or positioning patterns are central points of a QR code. They resemble larger black-and-white square modules, unlike the smaller dots that comprise the data modules. Positioned at the QR code’s edges, these patterns ensure scanners can correctly identify and read the QR code.

Since micro QR codes accommodate less data and are smaller than standard ones, they only need one finder pattern. Traditional QR codes leverage three in comparison. This pattern is typically placed at the upper-left corner of the micro QR code.

Micro QR Code Timing Pattern

The timing pattern consists of alternating black and white modules: one column on the left and one row on the top of the micro QR code. The intersection of these vertical and horizontal lines ensures the scanning device syncs correctly and swiftly determines the QR code’s size, symbol version, and density.

A standard QR code has multiple horizontal and vertical timing patterns. Micro QR codes, on the other hand, usually rely on a single timing pattern for horizontal and vertical synchronization.

Micro QR Code Quiet Zone

The quiet zone is an empty margin space around other micro QR code components. It creates a buffer between the code and its surrounding elements and makes it easy for scanning devices to identify the QR code’s boundaries.

A quiet zone border for traditional QR codes must be at least four modules wide. Micro QR codes, as more compact solutions, typically require a clear margin space of two modules.

Micro QR Code Error Correction Levels

Error correction is a Reed-Solomon algorithm-based process that lets scanning devices read poorly printed or damaged QR code data. This mechanism helps scanners reconstruct missing information and ensure accurate decoding.

Micro QR codes offer several levels of error correction. Read on to study them in greater depth.

Micro QR Code Versions of Error Correction

Micro QR codes support three error correction levels: L, M, and Q. Each of them corresponds to a different degree of recovery capacity. Let’s look at these levels more precisely:

  • Level L (Low): Can restore up to 7% of encoded data.
  • Level M (Medium): Can recover up to 15% of encoded data.
  • Level Q (Quartile): Can restore up to 25% of encoded data.

There’s also an H or High error correction level. It allows scanning software to recover up to 30% of data. But it’s only available in traditional QR codes.

Micro QR Code Data Capacity

The micro QR code’s data capacity determines how much information can be encoded within this small 2D barcode. The amount of data you can embed depends on several factors.

First of all, the chosen character type affects the data capacity. Other factors are the selected error correction level (L, M, or Q) and the grid size.

Data Capacity for Various Character Sets

The micro QR code’s data capacity depends on the character type:
– **Numeric data: **Micro QR codes can accommodate up to 35 numeric characters.
– **Alphanumeric data: **Micro QR codes can store 20 to 25 letters and numeric digits.
– **Binary data: **Micro QR codes can encode around 15 bytes or 128 data bits.

That’s a smaller amount of data compared to traditional QR codes. Some standard codes can store over 7,000 numeric digits, 4,200 alphanumeric characters, and 2,900 bytes.

Micro QR Code Options

Micro QR codes come in four different size options. They are called M1, M2, M3, and M4 and correspond to varying grid dimensions. Let’s get each of them straight.

  • M1: 11×11 modules.
  • M2: 13×13 modules.
  • M3: 15×15 modules.
  • M4: 17×17 modules.

Compared to these minimalistic micro QR codes, the smallest standard scannable ones are from 21×21 modules in size and beyond.

Micro QR Code Standards

The core standards for Micro QR codes are ISO/IEC 18004, JIS X 0510, and AIM ISS QR Code. Let’s explore each in depth.

  • ISO/IEC 18004: Defines the micro QR code’s specifications and specifies the encoding, decoding, and error correction procedures.
  • JIS X 0510: Follows the ISO/IEC 18004 standard and ensures alignment of Japanese micro QR codes with international practices.
  • AIM ISS QR Code: Focuses on information encoding rules for standard and micro QR codes.

An ISO/IEC 23941:2022 standard introduced in May 2022 concentrates specifically on rectangular micro QR codes or rMQR. It outlines the symbology specifications and data capture and identification techniques.

Micro QR Code Examples

Micro QR codes can take various forms and places, from product labels to circuit boards. It’s possible owing to their compact size and efficient data encoding features. Look at the following real-life examples of these codes:

  • Product labels: Micro QR codes store serial numbers, manufacturing dates, or essential product details.
  • Identification badges: Micro QR codes can contain employee details or access permissions in corporate settings.
  • Circuit boards: Micro QR codes may be used on circuit boards for easier component tracking.
  • Electrical items: Micro QR codes can be placed on electronic products and provide details on serial numbers or technical specs.

On top of that, micro QR codes are suitable for use in the automotive industry. Companies can print them on the automobile parts for easier identification and tracking.

Micro QR Code Size

The micro QR code’s size ranges from  11 x 11 to 17 x 17 modules. Thus, it can be as small as 1 x 1 cm or about 0.4 x 0.4 inches.

Yet, such a tiny QR code may be difficult for devices to scan. That’s why it’s preferable to make it at least 2 x 2 cm or roughly 0.8 x 0.8 inches in size. The maximum printing dimensions of a micro QR code are up to 5 x 5 cm or almost 2 x 2 inches.

It’s also crucial to consider the оptimal scanning distance since your QR code’s dimensions depend on it directly. As a rule, it’s best to aim for a 10:1 ratio between the scanning distance and the micro QR code’s size.

Scanning Micro QR Codes

Micro QR codes can be scanned through smartphones, tablets, dedicated barcode scanners, or any other smart device with a camera. Yet, only some built-in QR code readers support micro QR codes.

You can ensure your device’s ability to decode micro QR codes by installing specialized scanning software for a fast and reliable experience. If you are using barcode scanners, make sure they are compatible with micro QR codes.

Generating Micro QR Codes

To create micro QR code, you can leverage online generators and software tools like MyQRCode. Here’s a quick guide on how to generate it:

  1. Open a chosen micro QR code generator,
  2. Enter the necessary data (a URL, short text, contact info, etc.),
  3. Design your QR code’s pattern and quiet zone,
  4. Optionally customize color, size, and error correction level,
  5. Generate a micro QR code.

Once you create a micro QR code, print and review it to find out if its size and appearance suit your usage purposes. Besides that, check if your code is easily scannable and provides accurate information.

Benefits of Micro QR Codes

The main benefits of micro QR codes are small size and improved scanning efficiency. But there are more. Let’s review each of them in detail:

  • Space efficiency: The micro QR code’s compact size allows you to print them even on the smallest surfaces.
  • Faster scanning: Micro QR codes are easier to decode since they contain less data.
  • High readability: Owing to error correction, micro QR codes can be read from any angle.
  • Tailored error correction: Micro QR codes provide three flexible error correction levels.

Besides the above advantages, micro QR codes are well-suited for curved and non-flat surfaces. You can print them on objects of various shapes and be sure of their scannability. 

Limitations and Challenges

The key limitation of micro QR codes is limited data capacity. While it’s a benefit for specific use cases like product labels, it’s a drawback for applications that deal with larger amounts of data, e.g., a QR code for restaurant menus.

Micro QR codes won’t suit complex data sets as well. If you want to encode images, videos, or PDF files, opting for standard QR codes is best. The latter are available in MyQRCode.

Let’s review several use cases and determine the optimal scenarios for leveraging micro QR codes vs. standard QR codes.

QR Codes in Different Use Cases
Use CaseQR Code Type
RestaurantsStandard QR code
Business cardsMicro QR code
BillboardsStandard QR code
RetailStandard QR code
LogisticsStandard or micro QR code
Product labelingMicro QR code

Recapping the above points, using traditional QR codes for menu, billboards, retail, and other large-scale purposes is wise. Meanwhile, micro QR codes find their niche in smaller-scale applications.

Application Areas

Micro QR codes are widespread across different industries and find applications in logistics, B2B, healthcare, and beyond. Let’s see how exactly they are used.

  • Logistics: Used to track packages, inventory items, and shipments.
  • B2B: Employed in invoices and inventory management.
  • Retail: Used in product labels, PoS transactions, and inventory management.
  • Healthcare: Utilized on medication packaging, patient wristbands, and medical equipment.
  • Manufacturing: Used for detail identification, serial number tracking, and technical specs sharing.

On top of that, micro QR codes can be used in event ticketing. Owing to their small size and quick scanning capabilities, they offer an enjoyable experience for event attendees.

Compatibility of Micro QR Codes for iOS and Android Devices

Smart iOS and Android devices are generally compatible with micro QR codes. However, their built-in features do not cover the ability to scan such codes. That’s why you’ll need a specialized reader or QR code maker for iOS and Android apps.

QR scanner applications are available on both the App Store and Google Play Store. You can choose those tools that support micro QR codes to decode the necessary information.

Main Differences Between a Micro QR Code and Other QR Code Types

The micro QR codes differ from other types of QR codes in size and data capacity. See the comparison in the table below:

QR Code TypeData CapacitySize
Model 1 and model 2Moderate to highVariable, small to large
Micro QR codeLow to moderateGenerally smaller
rMQRModerate to highRectangular, small to large
iQR codeHighVariable, small to large
Frame QRHighVariable, small to large

Compared to all other types of QR codes, micro QR codes are the smallest and can accommodate a lower amount of data. But these peculiarities are what make them stand out as valuable tools for specific applications with spatial constraints and demand for efficient data encoding.