Scan Biz Cards Into Your Phone with Google Goggles

Sure you can hire one of those fancy business card scanning services. Or you can get all that juicy, paper-bound contact info into your digital assistant with the very much free Google Goggles. Google Goggles permits searching the Web using pictures taken with your mobile phone. When describing, speaking or typing your search query just won’t cut it, simply open the app, snap a picture, and wait for your search results. You can get it on your Android phone via dedicated app or on your iPhone via the Google Search app.

But Goggles can do more. When you snap a picture of a business card (or any contact info on a page for that matter) you get the option to add it to your contact list. Goggles doesn’t just recognize the image as text, it will recognize it as a contact and open the appropriate action item on your phone. Pretty freaking cool.

Want to see how? Check out the Demo Slam video below. And start snapping.

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Zerply Offers Another Virtual "About" Page For Your Profiles

I have discussed social splash pages or online business cards here in the studio on prior occasions, discussing Flavors.me and DooID, and setting up a page over at About.me as well. My sense of it is “Why not?”, particularly if you are online for networking purposes – these sites offer free hubs to your other social hangouts and help others get to you.

Another relatively recent player in this genre of online apps is Zerply. I was tipped off to it by this recent post by Louis Gray. Where Flavors.me, DooID and About.me are all about the personalized backgrounds and catchy visuals, Zerply looks to be more business-like in its approach, offering templated backgrounds against which you can flash your experience and social connects. Another nice feature is the ability to pull your professional information straight out of Facebook or LinkedIn so there is no need to recreate the wheel here. People visiting your site can learn about you, download your vCard or travel on to your other social haunts – Zerply includes all the major soc net players.

Zerply clearly isn’t the only player in this field, as I note above. Furthermore, Google and LinkedIn and even Facebook offer the ability to create a professional landing page with your background and social links and it would take a lot for a small startup to dislodge these big players. However, my take on these pages is that it never hurts to add your profile wherever you can find a home for it and Zerply certainly offers an easy to build, smart-looking page and another hub for your on-line empire.

Beta now, invite only, but you can request an invite at their URL above.

DooID – Another Virtual Biz Card Option

I really like Flavors.me (link here), a free virtual and visual web page containing a resume of your on-line life. Another option that combines the benefits of Flavors.me and Retaggr (link here) is DooID (link here).

DooID, still in beta, bills itself as an on-line business card, but shares more with Flavors.me’s landing page-type service and non-techy interface. Sign up for your account and you are presented with an easy to use dashboard with options for setting up links to your other web hangouts, contact information, formatting and layout, much like Flavors.me.

However, DooID does offer a couple of distinguishing features. For one, you can set your contact information to private, resulting in a pop up box for visitors seeking a password for access. You can privacy protect information that you might want to offer but not openly promote to the web at large.

Additionally, DooID has a few “add ons” – little widget-like boxes that give additional functionality, such as an email signature, video bio, and map. The paid version gives you more layout options and more add-ons. DooID also includes a VCard link so that visitors can download your information into their own address books. Of course, you can share your masterpiece with the web via the sharing tools:

 

The end result is a slick page containing your pertinent information and links. DooID expands your territory on-line and promotes your brand and content via yet another web connection. All the better because of its ease of use, even for the non-tech-savvy. Check it out and, if you set up a page, link it back here in the comments – would love to see the results.

The Business Card

Just past the outer boundaries of my short-term memory, I posted in the Studio about cutting-edge tools around the antiquated concept of the business card. While it is indeed a concept that has been around for more than a century – back in the very old day, people employed them for personal use as calling cards – recent developments have catapulted them past the present and straight into the future. I discussed some of that cool card tech in that earlier post (link here).

Rather than rehash that tech, I thought it might be interesting to share with you the apps / non-apps that I am currently using to pass my contact information. My tool belt holds three items: Bump; Cardreader; and, some beautiful, old-fashioned, paper cards.

Bump (site link here ) is an app that was suggested in the comments to my original post and I really love it. Until recently, its only limitation was that you needed another iPhone user to take advantage of it. With its most recent update, it works with Android phones too! And since Apple and Google will soon be taking over the world, Bump should become ubiquitous.

From their site, Bump:

is a quick and easy way to connect two phones by simply bumping them together. Exchange your phone number, photos, or compare friends with just a bump.

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There are two parts to Bump: the app running on your device and a smart matching algorithm running on our servers in the cloud. The app on your phone uses the phone’s sensors to literally “feel” the bump, and it sends that info up to the cloud. The matching algorithm listens to the bumps from phones around the world and pairs up phones that felt the same bump. Then we just route information between the two phones in each pair.

It really does work! You can send your own contact information, or you can attach a contact from your phone and send it to someone else. So easy- with very few exceptions, Bump has worked perfectly for me. App store link here.

Check out the demo video below:

Next up is Cardreader (site link here). This is a recent download of mine. For people who still believe in the old-fashioned, paper-style contact herald, Cardreader can get that information into your iPhone with relatively little effort.

Cardreader is essentially a mobile scanner. It works best on an iPhone 3GS, as it makes full use of that phone’s auto-focus function. The tech employed is pretty impressive: it uses a real OCR engine – the ABBYY Mobile OCR Engine. It does not send the information to a web server for processing – all processing is done locally within the app so there are no worries about sensitive contact data being shared.

Open the Cardreader app, and it shows a list of contacts with images to the left. The little “i” at the bottom opens up the settings, where you can access FAQ and Instructions, set shake protections, set dictionaries, toggle image enhancement, camera lock, perspective card view, and reset settings. There is a little business card icon at the top right. Click on that icon and the camera opens. Camera view is overlaid with the words “top” and “bottom” so you can allign the card properly. Take a picture of the business card you want to import (you also can select one from your iPhone photo album). The data is read through the OCR processor and you are given the ability to edit and save. When done, the information and picture are synced with the address book and stored in contacts.

As if this wasn’t cool enough, you can browse visually through your address book using the built in 3D card view feature, which looks suspiciously like iTunes Cover Flow. This feature alone might make the app worth the $5.99 price.

I have taken several card pictures with it. The more challenging the card layout, the greater the likelihood of errors requiring correction. I have to say that I am mostly impressed with the results. Below is a picture of a card I took that sucked up the information flawlessly – no edits necessary:

My feeling on Cardreader is that it is a fantastic implementation of iPhone technology that serves a very useful purpose for business professionals. App store link here.

Last but not least, I want to show off my new paper cards. I performed some crowdsourced investigation of the opinions shared by my social media friends and came up with this fantastic on-line printing company, Moo Cards (U.S. site link here). Moo prints custom business cards, mini cards, post cards and greeting cards using your uploaded artwork or one of their scads of gorgeous designs. Speaking of gorgeous, let’s talk about their card stock and print quality. It is to die for. The web interface worked beautifully (that has not been my universal experience with online printers and photo production) and service was fast and perfect. And they are a very reasonable price for full-color, two-sided graphics.

I cannot rave enough about these cards. I created my information graphic and uploaded it. I then selected a series of 11 diferent backgrounds from their design library. My cards arrived with glorious color, each with a different design on the back. Although my image below does not do them justice, this will give you an idea of how beautiful they are:

My “card” arsenal is now complete!

What are you using?

Bringing The Business Card Into the Modern Age

Beautiful Legal Card Designs from Business Card Designs

Beautiful Legal Card Designs from Business Card Designs

The business card. It has served such a multitude of functions over time. It is both an announcement and a reminder of your presence in a profession. The design of the card “clothes” you with a certain style. From the staid Times New Roman font on slightly textured creme stock to wild and funky holographic designs, the card says as much about you as your attire.

Now you can show the world your tech-savvy nature using virtual cards. Like everything else, technology has touched the modern business card and there are all sorts of new ways to announce yourself and remind your audience about your sphere of influence. There are different tools depending upon your own preferred methods of communication.

Of course, most people are familiar with the vCard, a file format standard for electronic business cards. vCards are most frequently attached to e-mail messages, but can be exchanged in other ways. Short for Versitcard, vCards were  first developed as long ago as 1995. vCards offer the means for incorporating the sender’s information into your electronic contacts list and are still widely used today.

But why stop at the primitive vCard? There are scores of new ways to capture this information. The iPhone offers many free apps for keeping and transmitting business card information, including SnapDat, beamMe, FreeContact, myCard Free, BeezCard Lite, Handshake, Fliq, and Dub. Check out this article by Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable describing and comparing the various apps and offering screenshots. There are paid apps with increased functionality as well. Newcomer iBCard will allow you to transfer a very real looking business card via the iPhone’s bluetooth connection or email.

Contxts affords the ability to share business card information via SMS text messages. Cool! TxtID provides a similar service.

DubMeNow has a virtual business card app for iPhone and Blackberry with added support for LinkedIn.

Or you can create and maintain an on-line business card and virtual Rolodex with web applications such as SpartX. With Retaggr, you can create an embeddable card with links to all of your on-line outposts.

You can expand your web information presence with such personal streaming sites as OnePage, Google Profiles or Chi.mp. These options really serve as outposts for aggregating your on-line presence and do not really offer true business card functionality, such as the ability to store the virtual cards of others. However, if you are most interested in maintaining a single spot for all of your on-line activity where you can direct interested contacts, these sites are the way to go.

You can even Tweet your business card using twtBizCardto send, you just need to add #twtbizcard to a @reply!

Do you like to email your card, a la vCard, but want for something a bit more up to date? Try DropCard or WeaveMet – combining the power and ease of both email and SMS for a monthly fee.

Since business cards are as ubiquitous as cell phones, why not combine the two to create an instant virtual card network? MyNameIsE does just that. Taken from their site:

E enables you to collect your accounts – on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and every other network of your choice – in one spot, and share them in real life by using any mobile phone or Connector.

You decide which profiles you share: E allows you to make an online ‘business card’ for every occasion. This way, you’ll be able to share business info with business contacts, and private info with private contacts.

When you exchange your card via this service, you will automatically connect with your contact via all the chosen social networking sites as well. You can create different cards for different contexts, and set the desired connections accordingly. Use the phones’ internet connections or a proprietary device called, obviously enough, the Connector, to exchange information. Changes to contact information get pushed straight to your existing contacts automatically. This service looks absolutely fascinating to me and clearly seeks to push the business card into the future!

Bottom line? If you want to look modern and all techno-geeky like, consider some of these great electronic options to connect your card to the world!

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