Scanning Business Cards into Your iPhone

While walking the trade show floors, it’s amazing how many business cards can be picked up in less than an hour. Sitting down and typing all that information into your iPhone address book is usually too daunting, so most people never do it.

Now there are ways of doing it with almost no effort whatsoever. We’ll explore what I’ve found to be the quickest and most accurate way of doing it – without typing. I’m referring to CardMunch.

Card Munch is a free app for your iPhone 4 or better. Sponsored by LinkedIn, this is a free app and the scanning service is still free. I originally worried that they would start charging for it, but so far they have not.

I think I see the value for them, however. With all those cards being scanned in by people around the world, LinkedIn is getting up-to-date contact information on a huge database of business owners, executives and more. Actual humans are doing the transcription from photo to listing, so the accuracy is very, very good.

After downloading the app to your iPhone, it’s a simple matter of taking a picture of a business card. Tapping the screen focuses your phone’s camera on the card and then tap the camera icon. If the card looks in-focus on your screen, just hit “Submit.”

Usually, the transcribed record loads back to your phone within minutes. (I have waited hours on occasion, however.) Newly scanned cards go into a “recent scans” section so you’ll have the opportunity to further process them.

When you check out the transcription, you’ll notice three icons in the centre of the screen. Clicking the right arrow button will transfer that record into your iPhone address book. Simple as that – you’re done. You also get the option to forward the information to someone, to resubmit the card or to delete the information.

However, there’s more functionality waiting for you if you’re interested. On the left is a “Connect” icon. This will send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. In the middle is an envelope icon that will open an email addressed to this contact.

Interestingly, if the person is already on LinkedIn, then his/her profile will be available for review right at the bottom of the screen. You’ll see the other person’s connections that you have in common as well as their experience, education, recommendations and company website.

There are other competitors out there and you might like to check them out as well.

Google Goggles might be a service of interest to you. Taking a picture of the business card with your camera, the application then does an immediate OCR of the information found on the card. Pressing the “Add to Contacts” icon, will open an address page and transfer as much information as it could recognise. Surprisingly, I found that the application had trouble reading the largest fonts on the card… typically the company name. I had to type them in repeatedly.

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