Friday, 15 March 2013

Cardboard is so passé

Here's a card I had (much) earlier...
Business cards are very useful things, even if you have to be a little careful with your etiquette when handing out and receiving them in the Far East. But in some ways they are a bit of a pain - because they don't naturally interface to our electronic world.

For many years I have been typing the information from business cards into my computer and then discarding them. (See what I did there? Discarding.) But that, frankly, is tedious and there should be something better when we walk around with camera-loaded smartphones. Sure enough, there is - but in a strangely hybrid fashion.

There have been scanners, and more recently apps for your phone to do OCR and automatically read the text on them, for a while, but they have always been a bit hit and miss, particularly as the formats of business cards can be wild and wonderful. But I've just put an app on my phone that is as close to perfect as you can get. You have to be a member of Linkedin to use it - but apart from that small effort (no effort in my case as I was already a member), it's free.

Called Cardmunch it's starts off with the usual approach of taking a picture of the business card with your phone's camera - but then the aforementioned hybrid mode kicks in. Rather than use dodgy OCR it ships the image off to a real person, who reads the card and types in the information. Okay, it's not quite as instant as OCR, though when I tried it, the data was available in about five minutes. And the person on the other end can make a mistake - but all the evidence is that this approach is significantly more reliable than even the best scanner software.

Once you get the thumbs up, you can optionally send a link request (if the person is on Linkedin) with a single touch, and similarly it just takes a couple of touches to get the person's details into the address book on your phone (and if it's linked like mine, your computer as well). Business card to electronic contact with about 10 seconds of effort. Can't be bad.


  1. 'fraid I'm still on a pretty ordinary phone so I like cards. I can also write on the back where I met the person which assists my memory.

    No iPod, No iPad either - gosh

    I must get round to discard these habits of a lifetime.

  2. I couldn't manage without a smartphone these days, Peter - it's a great business tool. But doing this also means that the person is in the address book on my computer so I can, for instance, send them an email without having to find teh card and type the address in.