When Google quietly discontinued support for QR codes in its Places product earlier this year, many saw it as an early death knell for QR codes, which are barcodes that lead to URLs or information when scanned. But Google’s acquisition Monday of Mountain View, Calif.-based startup Punchd shows that the search giant may not be completely abandoning QR technology just yet.
Punchd works like this: Each time a customer buys a product that is part of a loyalty program (i.e. buy five cups of coffee, get one free) the participating store lets the customer scan a QR code they keep behind the counter. The Punchd app keeps track of how many times the QR code has been scanned, and alerts the user when they are eligible to receive their loyalty reward. Although Google put its weight behind near-field communications (NFC) technology with the launch of Google Wallet, the Punchd buy may serve as validation that the two technologies do not have to be rivals.
In a way, Punchd has come full-circle by selling to Google. According to the deal announcement, co-founders Reed Morse and Grantland Chew made Punchd’s first prototype in an Android operating system development class at Cal Poly University. The company was officially founded in 2010 and went on to be funded by 500 Startups this past spring.
To be sure, the quick turnaround from prototype to sale could signify that the Punchd buy is partly a talent acquisition. According to Punchd’s website, the company has a six person team, five of whom hold either computer science or engineering degrees. But Google has shown a keen interest in the local commerce space, as evidenced by the recent launch and heavy promotion of its Groupon clone, Google Offers. It will be interesting to observe how Punchd’s QR-based product, and its team, will evolve within Google post-deal.