Are the Saudis the QR Code kings of the region?

The Magic Kingdom always seems to get a bad reputation when it comes to adoption; everyone else always seem to think that Saudi Arabia will be the last to the party. However, on my last trip to Riyadh a couple of weeks back I was pleasantly surprised to see QR codes at the airport and throughout the city.

I’m sure that even if you can’t recall what QR codes are, you will have seen them in magazines or on posters. QR codes (the QR stands for quick response) are optical machine-readable labels which resemble bar codes. QR codes have become popular in consumer advertising in the United States, Europe and Asia due to their ease of use and the ability to guide/track a consumer’s actions through the technology; smartphone users (that’s most of us nowadays) can use QR-code scanner apps to open a website which relates to the advertiser and its products. For an example of a QR code have a look below; the code is even branded.

A branded QR code from the BBC (credit:

In Riyadh’s King Khalid Airport the mobile operator Mobily is using QR codes on its advertising boards to direct traffic to product microsites. Riyadh Municipality is also using QR codes to help the public identify street names and places. Similarly, Jeddah Municipality has started rolling out a QR code tagging system for its streets. To quote from the English-language daily Arab News article.

Visitors and residents will be able to learn of a street name, location and GPS coordinates by taking a snap shot using their smart phone reader.

“The signs have already been mounted at number Jeddah’s districts,” said undersecretary for projects and urban construction at the Jeddah mayor’s office Ibrahim Kutub Khana. “This includes Basateen, Muhamadia, Naeem and Salamh. These new signs includes a property’s GPS coordinates, street name and location inside the district. To make locating and navigating in Jeddah more easier and convenient visitors and residents.”

By pointing their smart phones at the QR code tag, all the information is stored inside a database. The information can be accessed through satellite positioning systems.

Plans are also under way for installing additional new signs in more of the city’s districts.

Not only are advertisers using QR codes, but the Saudi government has managed to implement a system for two cities, each with a population of seven million people. How’s that for a regional first? Let’s hope other advertisers in the region follow the Saudi lead and start using QR codes in their advertising/content.