How does the QR code steal the market of Beacon in China? Sep 15, 2021
When WeChat shake is at its most popular, the information from around strangers or the messages pushed by Beacon can be obtained with a simple shake of the mobile phone. In the museum, if visitors want to know more about the collections, they can listen to the voice navigation and view the graphic introduction with a shake of WeChat. While bringing a convenient experience to the visitors, WeChat shake also increases the pleasure of the tour and allows visitors to learn more about the history. As the shake function is gradually weakened by WeChat until it is closed, the Beacon shake was once the most popular function, which is now overtaken by the QR code. Whether the scanning code to pay or the scanning code to follow the store, the QR code has been the necessity of people’s daily life in China. With the opportunity of analyzing the development history of Beacon and QR code, let us explore why Beacon applications have gone from prosperity to decline, and QR codes can come from behind in China.

1.  Apple iBeacon — gone viral in the indoor positioning market

In 2014, iBeacon technology was launched by Apple, which is a micro-positioning technology based on Bluetooth Low Energy. Through the iBeacon technology, the signals can be received from other iBeacons within a certain range. When the mobile phone is close to a Beacon device, the Beacon signal can be sensed by it.
iBeacon technology is different from previous Bluetooth applications. It can intelligently receive information without pairing to complete the corresponding function when it reaches a certain receivable range. Beacon technology based on Bluetooth 5.0 has the feature of low power consumption which can meet the needs of long-term use. With its strong appeal and publicity ability, Apple has formed a mature and commercial beacon indoor positioning system through continuous optimization and iteration of indoor positioning technology.


2. WeChat shake — a flash in the pan

Beacon technology, which emerged abroad, was picked up by WeChat in China soon, and then the WeChat shake function was launched. The seemingly insignificant function has started an offline marketing storm that has gone viral for several years. At the beginning of 2015, the shake function based on Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon technology was released by WeChat. As a new offline function, businesses can provide personalized marketing, interaction and information recommendation services to surrounding users within the signal coverage of iBeacon devices. It connects users with offline space and provides offline merchants with a way to connect users nearby.

Turning on the mobile phone’s Bluetooth and Wechat shake, the user will get information such as peripheral discounts and services through the "peripheral" item that automatically appears on the phone with a shake within the signal range of the iBeacon device.

At that moment, Shaking to know strangers around, as the most popular application of WeChat Shake, played a pivotal role in the social field of WeChat strangers. Many users downloaded WeChat to experience the freshness and mystery of Shake. WeChat tried to accumulate more users. During the Spring Festival Gala, WeChat attracted people from all over the country to shake and grab red envelopes. There was a spectacle of hundreds of millions of users grabbing red envelopes. WeChat once dominated the download list in the Spring Festival Gala, and quickly precipitated a huge user base.

As WeChat user stickiness increases and the user base tends to stabilize, the shake function is gradually weakened. Because the cost of installing a large number of Beacon devices for information promotion is not cheap, the business cost is higher, the Beacon equipment is less invested and smartphones have not been popularized, the promotion effect of WeChat Shake is not ideal. Merchants gradually abandon the promotion method of WeChat shake.

After understanding the application history of Beacon technology at home and abroad, let's take a look at how the QR code that needs to be scanned wherever we go now arises in China?

3. QR code started in Japan and flourished in China

A two-dimensional code is a pattern that uses a certain geometric pattern to be distributed on a plane according to a certain rule, black and white, and records data symbol information. Among dozens of two-dimensional codes in the world, the QR code invented by Denso company in 1994 is the most widely used one in China. The QR code has become an international standard, and Denso has opened up its patents in the early stages of development. As a new information storage, transmission and identification technology, the QR code has attracted the attention of many countries in the world since its birth. The United States, Japan, and other countries have not only applied the QR code technology to the management of various certificates, but also applied the QR code to the automatic management of various reports as well as bills, cargo transportation, and industrial production lines.

With the continuous improvement of China's market economy and the rapid development of information technology, the domestic demand for the new technology of QR code is increasing day by day. In daily consumption, residents are accustomed to using cash to pay. Subsequently, WeChat and Alipay vigorously promote QR code scanning payment. At the beginning of the promotion, there was no service charge for collection, payment or inter-bank withdrawal, and the payment only needed to open the camera to scan the code. It saves the trouble of carrying cash, finding cash, and identifying counterfeit banknotes. Go shopping only needs a mobile phone without money, which greatly facilitates the user's payment operation. With the continuous improvement of QR code payment experience and payment security system, merchants of all sizes are willing to scan code transactions. The rapid rise of QR code payment has changed the daily consumption and payment habits of people, and has given birth to the rapid rise of QR code-based peripheral services for merchants.

The QR code can not only be used for payment but also has the characteristics of automatic carrying, automatic transmission, low cost, reliable reading and so on. It has the potential for a wide range of applications. The economy and reliability of QR codes are being understood and recognized by more and more people. When checking a train ticket, the steward only needs to swipe the ticket with a QR code to verify the authenticity. In terms of food safety, the use of QR code technology can not only trace food, anti-counterfeiting verification but also facilitate the management of production and operation enterprises.

In terms of media publishing, the QR code technology combines text, pictures, audio, video and other media elements with information playback and storage technology, which promotes the transition of print media to the era of commercialization and IoT and realizes the real-time interconnection between newspaper and mobile phone, TV and network.

More and more industries rely on QR code technology to build an intelligent decision-making and control network system, including procurement, production, sales, distribution, marketing, service, management and other links. It involves all aspects of production and operation such as manufacturing, quality traceability, logistics management, inventory management, supply chain management, monopoly management, and collaborative marketing. It is of great significance for the industry to optimize industrial upgrading, innovate technology, and improve management and service levels.

4.  Beacon and QR code. QR code is more popular in China

Payment habits

Due to the comprehensive domestic mobile network and wide coverage of the scan code payment market for small and medium-sized merchants, coupled with the fierce competition of acquiring institutions and unified bank card settlement services, scan code payment such as WeChat and Alipay has become an unshakable payment habit in China. Cash payments are becoming increasingly unpopular, and even the government needs to issue documents to stop merchants from rejecting cash.

In foreign countries, due to the relatively sound financial supervision system, credit card applications have become very mature. Whether it is small or large payments, they are more used to using POS machines. Although scan code payment is not as popular in the West as in China, cashless payment with a credit card has long been covered. With such an equally convenient payment method, the QR code is difficult for people to accept a new way of payment that has not been guaranteed in security.

Usage habits

Chinese people are not used to turning on the Bluetooth function of mobile phones. The current Beacon devices are all based on Bluetooth connection. Users rarely leave Bluetooth on all the time except when they ride a bike. It is said that people are worried about the increase in power consumption by turning on Bluetooth. The development of Bluetooth low energy has reached version 5.2, although actual measurements have proved that the power consumption of turning on Bluetooth is minimal, it is difficult for people to change this fixed impression in a short period of time. Bluetooth cannot be turned on all the time, which causes inconvenience in connecting and using Beacon devices.

Software usage habits

Now domestic mobile phone software applications are overwhelming, and the verticality and integration of each software function are very high. People are very reluctant to download and install too much mobile phone software, and they are very disgusted with the need to install corresponding apps to receive business information.

Beacon services need the corresponding software to achieve. Using WeChat to scan the QR code and get the mini-program, the rich services of the merchant without installing software can be enjoyed. Therefore people are more willing to use the QR code.


5.  Comparative analysis of Beacon and QR code

Beacon technology is based on Bluetooth Low Energy, which can use AES128 and XOR encryption to encrypt broadcast data with high security. Beacon automatically pushes information to mobile phone within range, without special communication angle requirements, so it has a good user experience. However, a large number of Beacon devices need to be deployed to ensure functional effects, and there are certain requirements for obstacles. The corresponding app needs to be installed and opened to display information, which is more troublesome.

The cost of the QR code is extremely low. It only needs a QR code image, which is convenient for merchants and customers to paste and use. But the QR code has relatively simple graphics, poor security. It is easy to be cracked, or covered as a fraudulent QR code for illegal activities against users. Wechat can scan the QR code to open the small program without downloading the app. It is very convenient to open and close, takes up less space on the phone.

Therefore, is the application of QR code and Beacon technology in the domestic market shifting from one to the other?

6.  Prospects of Beacon applications

Beacon and the QR code are not the opposite. There are quite a few domestic applications that organically combine the two. At the beginning of the rise of shared bicycles, the password was obtained by scanning the code or entering the vehicle number. With the Beacon market continues to mature, the shared bicycle mode of using QR code scanning + Beacon positioning has become the mainstream. The Beacon device on the shared bicycle broadcasts location information, and the vehicle information can be obtained by scanning the QR code, then the corresponding unlocking instruction from the background can be obtained to unlock the bicycle. It not only ensures the security of unlocking communication but also records the location of shared bicycles in real-time, which is convenient for operators to manage. Therefore, the convenience and cheapness of QR code can be organically combined with the Beacon positioning function, which depends on the actual application.


There are uncountable Beacon application cases in the market, and various technical information about Beacon can be searched online. Looking around the world, the huge application demands of Beacon technology have attracted more and more manufacturers to invest in research and development. RF-star Technology has played a role as a pioneer in the IoT industry. The advantages of RF-B-AR1, such as simple operation, complete supporting tools, visual configuration parameters, and extremely easy usage, help customers shorten the project schedule and make the product enter the market quickly. At present, the domestic Beacon applications are becoming more and more mature, and the overall indoor location industry chain is going to the improvement. Relying on the advantages of low power consumption and low-cost Beacon, RF-star Technology has opened a broad prospect for indoor location applications.

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