Still networking socially by swapping real, physical business cards? Really?

Here we are, on the verge of the year 2011. We’re still handing each other little 2 x 3 inch bits of cardboard, plastic, bacon, silicon wafer, teak, bamboo…we obviously haven’t nailed down a “business card” protocol that everyone uses to add one another to our respective address minders in our phones and private clouds. No, we still do that manually, or we have a little business card scanner that OCRs the information and tries to get each field shoved into the correct pigeonhole.

We use our fancy smart phones to send IMs, text messages, images, files, blog entries, recipes, secure emails, free iOS apps. We even do have a gaggle of applications that will temporarily connect to trade contact information. Does anyone use them?

With business cards, there are two camps. One camp lets the cards pile up in a basket on or near their desk, with nary a clue after a couple days who anyone is. The other camp writes notes on the card, keys the information into their contact list, and muy pronto tosses the card into the trash. (There’s another little group that enshrines the cards in binders, but I haven’t run into many members of this camp.)

Really, all you want is someone’s contact information, so you need a business card scanner app for your smart phone. You should provide a nice virtual business card that just appears on the screen of your smart phone, so that someone else’s business card scanner can capture the image. That image doubles as contact information in case you lose your phone.

They also want to remember why they talked to you, so hopefully you have your cloud presence at the ready.

Looking at the iTunes app store, I see 44 business card capture/scanner/OCR apps. Some of them attempt to do the optical character recognition locally, while others send the image to a cloud server and return the data analyzed from the card image.

Comments for each application range wildly; you’ll see a pack of 4 and 5 star ratings mixed in with a bunch of 1 and 2 star ratings. One problem I see immediately is that there’s usually no way to tell what device these customers are using: I’ve seen occasional complaints about the iPhone 3G camera not working well enough to OCR captured images. I suspect that the difference between high and low ratings are due to the cameras. The iPhone4 probably works well with these apps while the iPhone 3G doesn’t. Without asking the reviewers, there’s no way to really tell. From reviews up on the net, some apps minimally require an iPhone 3GS to work at all.

For all I know, all the apps work fine with iPhone 4, have a difficult time with the iPhone 3G and work marginally well with iPhone 3GS, as a function of the camera resolution.

Here are some product reviews. I think big important web sites like MacWorld intentionally refuses to date their review postings to keep the eyetracks coming.

MacWorld: iPhone business card scanners

Touch Reviews: ScanCard – Business Card Scanner for iPhone [Quick Look]

Gear Diary: ABBYY Business Card Reader- iPhone App Review


About crenelle

Writer and coder; lives on Vashon, a small forest moon orbiting the planet Seattle.
This entry was posted in Machine Ballet and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Still networking socially by swapping real, physical business cards? Really?

  1. Greg W. says:

    I actually use a system called Cardscan, that comes with a little proprietary scanner that sits on my desk. The OCR is great, it exports to damn near everything, it stores a backup file online, and it saves images of both sides of the physical card. The app starts automatically, the minute I jam a card into the scanner. I get cards from all over, and this thing really helps keep the info in a useful format. It also has categories, which you can edit, and a free-form notes area.

    BTW, since last year, my cards have had a 2D barcode that lets anyone with a smart phone scan my info into their contacts directly.

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