The Institute - June 2021 - 62

IEEE Member
Masahiro Hara,
inventor of
the QR code
are damaged, others can make up for
them, according to an article about
common QR scanning problems on
the QR Code Generator blog.
When the team began testing
its new code with a UPC scanner,
the device could not read it. Text
surrounding the code interfered
with the scanning. Hara had to find a
solution because text was necessary to
identify the car parts.
He found his answer one morning
while riding a train to work.
" I was just looking out the window
when I noticed a tall building standing
out from its surroundings, " Hara said
in an interview with NHK World for
the episode on QR codes. " That scene
stuck with me, and I realized the code,
too, needed a special symbol-something
to make it stand out from the
surrounding text. "
While experimenting with different
The QR code is now an IEEE
Milestone. The IEEE Nagoya [Japan]
Section sponsored the nomination.
Administered by the IEEE History
Center and supported by donors,
the Milestone program recognizes
outstanding technical developments
around the world.
From barcodes to QR codes
Before the QR code, Denso used
UPCs to track automotive parts in its
factories and warehouses, according
to an entry in the Engineering and
Technology History Wiki.
Because many of the boxes had
several bar codes on them with
different information about each part,
the scanning was slowing down the
production and distribution process,
according to an NHK World-Japan
episode on QR codes.
To ease the employees' workload,
Hara, who at that time was one of the
company's engineers, set out to create a
system that could store more information
than the existing bar codes. The
IEEE member brought together a team
JUNE 2021
of Denso's engineers and began developing
a new type of code in 1992.
To fit more data into the new code,
Hara took inspiration from the 2D
bar codes invented in 1987 by engineer
David Allais at Intermec. UPCs
used only the horizontal axis to hold
information, but 2D bar codes used
both the vertical and horizontal axes.
Hara also was inspired by the
board game Go, according to the NHK
episode. In the game, pieces are placed
at intersections on the board. Even if
the pieces are a little off the intersection,
the players still know where the
pieces are. Hara applied the idea to
the QR code. The pixelated parts on a
QR code are doubled so that if some
frames around the code, Hara and his
team tried different black-to-white
ratios (the widths of the contrasting
areas), trying to make one unusual
enough to stand out. The team created
a database of black-to-white ratios by
scanning images from newspapers,
then developed software that would
analyze the data.
After three months, Hara found the
ratio of black to white needed for the
QR code was 1:1:3:1:1, according to
the TV show, and created a box using
that ratio. The box was placed on each
corner of the QR code-which allowed
the scanner to successfully read it.
" The most important thing about
[the QR code] is that this technology
has been adopted all over the world, "
Hara told The Institute. " We are
honored the QR code is now an IEEE
Milestone and are very proud that the
technology is utilized in various fields
and that they are contributing to the
development of industry. "
" The most important feature
of a QR code is that it can
be read five times faster than
a typical bar code. "

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