Near field communication (NFC), quick response (QR) and visual recognition (VR) codes all aim to help homebuyers gain quick access to property information. But which is best for real estate professionals?
In recent months a number of prominent real estate groups have trumpeted the launch of various NFC, QR and/or VR initiatives, with each announcement emphasising the benefit to consumers hungry for quick access to property listing information.
Probably the most well-known is QR codes, which stands for ‘quick response’ code. This technology, which has been used by the car industry – enabling car components, which were tracked, to be scanned at faster speeds - since the mid-1990s, has recently become popular with companies due to the rise of smartphone usage amongst consumers.
Eleven out of fifty Fortune companies already incorporate QR codes into their marketing strategy, while 68 per cent of QR codes are scanned with an iPhone, according to a survey in 2011 by mobile marketing campaign firm queaar.com.
Real estate companies have been quick to implement QR codes across their media. QR codes allow buyers to scan and save property information quickly and easily, however it requires an external app to be downloaded first, which according to CEO of WhiteSkyLabs, Barbara Meister, can deter some consumers.
“There is a misconception with QR codes,” she said. “You need an additional tool to use the code properly, and this has never been explained to a lot of consumers.
“Hopefully in the future it catches on better so that the majority of consumers understand how they work and it can become an industry standard.”
LJ Hooker CEO Georg Chmiel said QR codes are too confusing for consumers.
“Marketers wanted QR Codes to succeed, because they allowed them to track the source of every single lead.
“QR codes are too off-putting and confusing to ever be successful,” he claimed.
“They were destined to disappear as soon as photo recognition became possible.”
Mr Chimel was referring to his company’s embrace of VR codes, or ‘visual recognition’ technology.
“Our photo recognition technology, by contrast, is designed to make things easy for the consumer” he said.
“We leapfrogged directly over QR codes to the future. We are the first real estate company to make property hunting easy with photo recognition technology in our smartphone app.
“Just use our app to take a snapshot of any photo of an LJ Hooker listing, and you will go right to the webpage.
“This technology is so obvious and easy that I doubt any portal or major agent network will still be using QR codes by the end of 2013.”
However, Ms Meister believes the technology is still in its infancy and must be developed further.
“VR is at a very early stage in its development, I wouldn’t even call it an effective solution at the moment. It’s a bit like speech recognition – we have the technology, but it’s not up to scratch for consumer use yet.”
VR also faces the same challenge confronting QR codes, in that consumers must download external content before being able to interact with the code.
But NFC, or ‘tap it’ technology, skips this hurdle by using inbuilt hardware that doesn’t require an app.
Douglas Driscoll, CEO of Starr Partners, expects the innovation, which links a buyer through to the online listing by simply tapping the signboard with their phone, to replace other codes.
“In my opinion, NFC represents the future of delivering information to real estate consumers and will be commonplace within a few years” he said.
Phones that have the NFC chip built-in include several Samsung, HTC, Sony and Nokia handsets, along with the iPhone 5.
“NFC property viewing makes the once time consuming task of coordinating a first property viewing with an agent redundant,” Mr Driscoll said.
The technology works using radiofrequency identification. The antenna (passive tag) emits a frequency to the smartphone (active tag), transmitting information such as a URL. The information is then displayed immediately on the users screen.
“It’s so convenient and quick, that anyone with a new smartphone can take a virtual tour. In effect, every NFC enabled for sale board makes that home an open house”. But of course, house hunters who are driving around the area would have to park to tap the signboard.
Ms Meister admitted that each type of technology has its flaws, but it should be up to the agent to decide which is the best suited to their area.
“I don’t think they will replace each other, but they will substitute for each other in different areas.
“So if you can’t park and tap the sign, or if it’s on a regular walking route, then the agent would choose the appropriate technology for the situation,” she concluded.