Since I started blogging about QR Codes I am often asked how long will QR Codes last? This is usually followed by what will replace QR Codes? What the person usually wants to know is should they invest any effort in QR Codes? Why don’t they wait for the replacement for QR Codes? I don’t pretend to be a fortune teller and predicting the future of any technology is usually a risky business. Take for example IBM Chairman Tomas Watson’s famous missed prediction when he said in 1943, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” There are however, ways to look at a technology’s life cycles and make an educated guess on the potential of a new technology.
The Technology Lifecycle
All technologies have a lifecycle. They are invented or born, grow, mature then fade off and die. The lifecycle may be very long, for example the automobile is over 120 years old, while other technologies can be very short. The lifecycle of many technologies, especially those based in software, can be very short while some technologies never really get off the ground and never mature. The typical technology lifecycle, as defined by Everett Rogers, a sociologist who coined the term “early adopter,” has five distinctive life stages:
- Bleeding Edge: When a technology is new and hasn’t demonstrated its value. Early adopters who pick the right technology can win big while those who make the wrong choice will lose. Everyone talks about how they wished they backed Apple in the early days while no one mentions Kaypro.
- Leading Edge: The technology has proven itself and is rising in the marketplace. It may be difficult to find knowledgeable personnel and solutions to implement and support the technology.
- State of the Art: This is the mature stage of the technology; it works and is accepted as the right solution. This is when most people are using the technology.
- Dated: The technology is still good and robust but a replacement leading edge technology is readily available. The early adapters will abandon the technology for the newest thing while late adaptors will be hanging on.
- Obsolete: The technology has been replaced by the new State of the Art technology and the only ones sticking to the old technology are the Laggards.
The Lifecycle of QR Codes
It is often hard to identify each of these stages until after the technology has become obsolete. In fact one of the dangers is for early adaptors to assume the exponential growth of the technology will continue when, in fact, it always peeks and declines. How fast this happens is different for each technology but it does happen. If I were to assign a stage for QR Codes I would say we were leaving stage one and moving into stage two. My optimism for QR Codes is based on:
- QR Codes solve the problem of getting users from the physical world to the online world.
- The technology needed to make QR Codes functional, Smartphones, is rapidly moving into the State of the Art stage.
- QR Codes are platform agnostic, any QR Code Reader application can read QR Codes on iPhones, Androids or BlackBerries.
- Once people and marketers learn to use them they are an easily deployed solution.
When I think of Technology Lifecycles I think of waves and a surfer sitting on his board waiting for the next wave to ride. By experience and intuition the surfer needs to determine if the next surge will turn into a wave that can be ridden or to wait for the next one. The surfer has to make a decision to catch the wave or wait. If they catch the wrong wave they will wipe out and may miss the perfect wave. If they wait for the perfect wave they may miss an opportunity for some perfectly good rides and if they are overly cautious the sun will set while they are still sitting on their board.
Where do you think we are on the QR Code Technology Wave? Are you going to be an early adaptor or wait for the next technology? I would like to hear what you think. Let me know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: flickr Creative Commons: Opals-On-Black
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