The paperless society is here to stay.
Or so said an expert who pulled me aside at a media conference in 1992 just to make the declaration. Another one did the same thing in 2008. And when they were finally done, both handed me business cards - without the slightest whiff of irony.
Facing a digital affront from all sides, the unassuming business card refuses to blink, going about its duties unfazed, much the way a cockroach might survive a nuclear winter.
For years, business professionals have had more computing power in their hip pocket than astronauts have on the space shuttle, but it's not enough to replace the old-fashioned way of exchanging digits at meet-and-greets. Business cards are (still) just easier.
Thus, application developers have found more success trying to support, rather than supplant, business cards, creating apps that can photograph them, automatically digitise them and file them in your smartphone's contact list, so you and your overworked thumbs don't have to take a four-day weekend to data process it all yourself.
Perhaps the best among them is CardMunch for iPhone (Android and BlackBerry support coming soon), which took the unusual step of going from a paid to free service late last month when it was acquired by LinkedIn.
While most business-card scanners can save time, they are error prone at best, even when cards are photographed in optimal lighting with a steady hand. Once the "wow" factor wears off, you realise it takes about as much effort to correct "U)m! Amh Emimxcs" as it does to just type "United Arab Emirates" from scratch.
What separates CardMunch, then, is its fleet of human spellcheckers. Once it scans the photo of the card, it then uploads it to the cloud where "multiple workers" compare the results of the software's automated transcription with the actual photo of the card.
They then fix the typos and send the squeaky-clean contact file back to your phone. CardMunch asks for a 24-hour turnaround time for proofreading, but I got push notifications that mine were pressed and ready within 30 minutes.
CardMunch vows your data is secure, and even states that all their transcribers sign non-disclosure agreements.
Other app features include a virtual Rolodex that appears when you flip your smartphone to landscape mode, and the ability to request to connect with your contacts via LinkedIn with a single tap. It even syncs a copy of your contacts to its cloud servers, should you lose your magic phone forever on some crowded convention floor.
Which reminds me, I'd love to follow up with my two "paperless society" experts. Too bad I lost their cards.
Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at firstname.lastname@example.org