Many of you reading this issue of Tanks & Terminals will have noticed that it landed on your desks packaged with Hydrocarbon Engineering, its ‘parent publication’, so to speak. Tanks & Terminals is the latest in a long line of supplements that Hydrocarbon Engineering has spawned over the years, including World Pipelines and LNG Industry, which have both gone on to become industry leaders in their respective fields. If you’re not already receiving these magazines, you will have likely missed an interesting Comment from the Senior Editor of World Pipelines, Elizabeth Corner, which I have taken inspiration from here (if you’d like to read Elizabeth’s original piece, you can sign up for a free trial of World Pipelines; details at the bottom).
In her Comment, Elizabeth recalls the rise and fall of QR codes throughout the years. As many of you will remember, there was a time not so long ago when QR codes seemed to be everywhere. Our magazines would be full of advertisements inviting readers to scan QR codes to find out more about the latest products, and we used QR codes throughout our magazines to encourage readers to visit our websites or download our apps. Over time, we realised that our readers were not using the codes – it seemed that the vast majority of you preferred to type a URL into a search bar, or click on a link, rather than open a code reader app, position the QR code correctly, scan the code, and then navigate the website.
However, here in England, the QR code has made an unlikely comeback. Prior to entering our second lockdown on 5 November, QR codes were an everyday part of all of our lives. Everyone in England and Wales has been encouraged to download the ‘NHS COVID-19’ app, which is used to monitor the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to contact tracing, the app has a ‘venue check-in’ feature which allows users to scan a QR code to check-in to a venue that they are visiting, whether that be an office, restaurant, pub or shop. Aside from tracking our movements and keeping us all a little safer, QR codes have also found a myriad of other uses during the pandemic. For example, they can be used to download menus at restaurants, and pharmaceutical companies are now developing COVID-19 testing apps that can display a user’s health status via QR codes in order to determine if they are healthy enough to board a plane or enter a building.
In short, the QR code has finally found its niche. But why did it take so long? Well, sometimes a good idea is ahead of its time. Previously, QR codes simply weren’t that useful in everyday life. Users had to download a dedicated code-reading app (rather than just use the camera on their phone, as we do today), and data connections weren’t as reliable or as widespread as they are now. Even if you did use a QR code, it was likely that you would be taken to a page that wasn’t optimised for mobile devices. Times have now changed, and the possibilities for QR codes seem endless once again.
In this issue of Tanks & Terminals, Matrix Applied Technologies has written an article outlining the importance of timing for any new technology (p. 9). Using the early adoption of welded aluminium internal floating roofs as his subject matter, Jeff Heath explains how technologies and processes often advance over time to become indispensable (much like the QR code today).