How QR Codes will change BI Forever

What's BI? BI is Business Intelligence, or essentially getting intelligence and visualizations like pie charts and bar charts on your data. It's the next step in what you do with your Excel files. Microsoft provides Power BI features within Excel (such as Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map), as well as the full standalone Power BI Service (with Power BI Desktop and Power BI Mobile applications to run on the service). Power BI Service, Power BI Desktop, and Power BI Mobile are all free! Power BI Service uses a Freemium model where you'll eventually need to pay for the Power BI Pro service if you're "going big" with your business.

Let's start with a brief Power BI plug and then dig into the scenarios and unpack the potential impact.

See step-by-step instructions on how to start using QR codes in Power BI.


So What's the Impact?

Essentially it’s someone handing you a report. Not in email. No discovery. You don't have to go searching in email,, or SharePoint. They are physically handing you a report into your phone or mobile device. And they don’t have to be present to make that transfer with you!


The big question for all of this is security and user access. As is shown in the comments of this blog post, security is handled in Power BI permissions (likely built on Azure Active Directory). But assuming you have the right permissions in place for the right audience to access the report, then you can have some pretty amazing scenarios…


Example 1: Factory Lobby - You’re sitting in the lobby. You pick up a pamphlet. It starts gushing about all these stats about how great the factory is there. You have a hard time believing their stats or even understanding them. You see the QR code. You scan it with your phone. It pops up Power BI Mobile on your phone, and rather than just reading the pamphlet, now you’re sliding the controls around in Power BI and exploring the data. You go back and forth between reading the pamphlet and then exploring the associated data on your phone. In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 2: Company Meeting - You’re in a meeting. The presenter is showing data, but wants you to explore independently. They include a QR code on their deck. They also might pass around a paper with the QR code on it. Or maybe even pass around their phone with the QR code on it. You scan the code on their phone or the paper. That instantly brings up the data on your phone, for you to explore independently. I could see this one where the permissions are more closed, to just the company employees or the members of a particular team.


Example 3: Business Card - You hand out a business card. On the back of your card is a QR code. You hand it to a hiring manager. They get curious and scan your QR code. It pops open Power BI Mobile, where they can explore the data of your job experience and portfolio achievements, helping prove that you’re the best candidate for the job (and definitely the most memorable candidate for the job). In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 4: School Report - Your 13 year old daughter writes a report about ice skating rinks in America, and how those rinks have expanded, grown, and shrunk over time, and how that change has been reflective of the economy changes. On her report, your daughter includes a QR code to the Power BI report. The teacher scans the QR code and enters a world of data they can play with, that backs up the report. In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 5: Book - When writing about some data in your book, you decide to include a QR code. Your reader scans the code and gets an instant example of data that they can manipulate and that helps explain the lessons or concepts that you’re teaching/training your reader on. In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 6: Car Sales - This example comes from the blog post (they have a shorter version). You run a car lot and have used cars for lease/sale. On the sticker/info card attached to each card, you have a QR code. The customer scans the code to get a Power BI report with a rich history of what that car has been through! In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 7: Factory Machines - This example comes from the blog post (they have a shorter version). On each factory machine, there is an info card with a QR code. You scan the code to get the live data feed of that machine's statistics! In this scenario, the permissions could be restricted to just the company's employees or the members of particular teams.


Example 8: Posters - You see QR codes in posters and flyers all the time. Why not put some data behind them? For example, you're at work where you make Software X. Your company wants to show you that your Software X has better performance and productivity statistics than all the other competitors. So the poster shows some of those statistics. Then you scan the QR code to be able to play with the stats and to get a more recent update of those stats! In this scenario, the permissions could be restricted to just the company's employees or the members of particular teams.


Example 9: Restaurant Table Tent - So this one isn't much of a stretch from Example 8. You sit at a table at your favorite restaurant. A table tent (laminated cardboard standing up on your table to advertise things) is sitting there. While you wait for your waitress (which is ironic that you wait for someone who's waiting on you), you read the table tent. It tells you stats about how healthy the different food is. That catches your attention. You scan the QR Code and dig into the data on those stats, which help you select your meal! As you can imagine, this scenario works for posters, pamphlets, flyers, and table tents in every kind of retails and food environment (there would be thousands of similar examples). In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


Example 10: Grocery Store Price Tags - Imagine this. Every price tag in your favorite grocery store has a QR code on the price tag and price/item sign (whether replacing the UPC barcode or simply next to it). You walk up and scan the tag for a gallon of milk. Instantly a new world of data about that milk opens up on your phone! You get health information, you can see a "journey map" of the farm the milk came from, the processing factory it went to, the bottling factory it then went to, the refrigerator warehouse it went to, and finally the store. You can see all the dates of its journey. You even can see stats, like the other items people are buying, along with that particular brand of milk. And it all comes to you like a flood! All that data is available to you on every single item! In this scenario, the permissions would be open to everyone.


In other words, this can be a game changer for BI. I think the biggest and most disruptive game changer that Power BI has is the fact that it’s free and uses the Freemium model. But I think QR Codes, the Power BI Development Center (and all the API features), and Q&A search… those are also all game-changers and innovative features that give Power BI an advantage.


QR Codes? So What???

It's not a perfect story, so let's look at the other side of the fence. What's missing?

Well, I love how they end the blog post:

"This is just the first step! Stay tuned for more Power BI mobile features that bridge the gap between the physical world and your business information."


Well that mysterious promise sounds like it could be anything! My first thought is that we'll have holographic bar charts and pie charts! =^)

But alas... the complaints in the comments of that blog post are probably more likely to be the features being considered when they're looking to bridge the gap between the physical world and business info:

  1. "Ability to scan a barcode and access the details of that product would be compelling."
  2. "Meanwhile, the android has no landscape yet." - Response: "We are working on Landscape for Android, stay tuned!"
  3. "NFC is much easier to use as it does not require fooling around with capturing the QR code with an app that has to be loaded and operated which often occurs in adverse lighting, shaky hands and other circumstances that make using QR codes clumsy for me and others I have discussed this matter with. No Wi-Fi required either."


So we're not sure of which directions Power BI Mobile will head in (the Android one sounds likely). Regardless of the directions they head in, this QR Code feature is a fantastic start! And each of those 9 Example scenarios I listed above can become even more powerful as they unlock new features!

If you have any ideas of what they should do, check with the Mobile BI Ideas page to see if your ideas are submitted. If they are submitted, vote for them! If they aren't submitted, then submit them and get others to vote for them!

Power BI Mobile Ideas page:


There you go! BI for the masses!

   - Ninja Ed


Comments (5)

  1. I added Example 9. It was the most obvious, but it needed to be stated explicitly.

  2. Jim Bannon says:

    It is taking years longer than it should for folks to "Get It" when it comes to the Power and Creativity possible with these "Ugly" QR Codes.  Who ever leveled that complaint about UPC Bar Codes?  No one!  And they are ubiquitous – being used for checkout and inventory control.  QR Codes capabilities promise 10X the use case opportunities.

    Walmart is again "Leading the Way!"…/when-walmart-touches-their-pocketbook.html

  3. Thanks Jim. Is Walmart implementing a big QR code rollout?

  4. Jim, I used to work at a grocery store and have put some thought into this.

    I just added #10 as an example of one practical application I imagined it being used for.


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