x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

How to stay card-sharp about business

The Life: Business-card readers for smartphones promise to both digitise contact information, and expedite the demise of the Rolodex.

Smartphone apps listed on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry stores can quickly digitise a stack of business cards. Jeff Topping / The National
Smartphone apps listed on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry stores can quickly digitise a stack of business cards. Jeff Topping / The National

If the Rolodex is slowly becoming obsolete, the growing popularity of business-card readers is partly to blame.

Dozens of these smartphone apps are listed on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry stores, attracting millions of downloads between them.

They allow users to take a picture of a business card, which is then automatically transcribed by the app and added to the smartphone's contact list. One of the most high-profile apps is CardMunch, which shot to fame after being acquired by LinkedIn for a reported US$2.4 million (Dh8.8m) last year. The free app, which is currently only available for Apple devices, can quickly digitise a stack of business cards. The results are checked by its army of human spellcheckers, with a promised turnaround of under 24 hours.

Other popular business-card readers include CamCard. One advantage of this app is it allows you to store your contacts in the cloud so they can never be lost, the developer claims.

Such apps help solve a cruel but age-old problem of networking: deciding whether someone is important enough to remember.

After a conference or business trip, it is not uncommon to return to the office laden with cards. These either clog your Rolodex, or it take hours to manually enter the information into your electronic contacts book.

One is invariably forced to prioritise which contacts to keep - and therein lies another problem.

You might meet a high-flying chief executive, whose number you faithfully store on your mobile phone but whom you never call again.

Likewise, that random middle manager you met at a trade show in 2006 may have turned out to be an invaluable contact - if only you hadn't binned their card.

Business-card readers may help solve such problems by making it painless to digitise stacks of cards.

But, despite using some smart digital technology, they are still based on people using paper business cards. When those are eliminated altogether, the death of the Rolodex will, surely, be unavoidable.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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