I'm back from the lively Embedded Systems Conference and, as you'd expect, I have collected many business cards. So, what do I do with them?
A few years ago, the all-knowing pundits were predicting the end of the business card. When you met someone, you'd simply point your PDAs at each other, and the equivalent of the card information would effortlessly and seamlessly beam between the two units; no physical card would be needed. Obviously, that didn't happen.
So my choices are: throw the cards out (foolish); put them in a pile for “later” manual entry (well-meaning but procrastination has its price); or use one of those card scanners and OCR software to load the card data into my contact database (these work “OK”, but is a pain).
I have a better proposal for the industry, and it's simple, elegant, and low-cost. Print the information that is on the card front on the back, using one of the standard 2D bar codes used by UPS, Fedex, and similar. Then, you'd pop the card into a scanner, which could easily read the information. All that has to be done, in advance, is for the industry to agree on a standard field format for the data, so the fields of the encoded information would map to the fields of common contact database programs.
The incremental cost of printing a 2D code on the back of the code is near zero. Those who wanted to enter information manually still can do so, and those who don't want to could invest in a card scanner (under $100) and their cards would be readable quickly and reliably.
What do you think? Once again, sometimes you have to think “out of the box” and not assume that more and better software for OCR, more processing power, and “smart” programs which can somehow adapt and learn how to read all the different card styles is the answer. A simple format standard and no-cost 2D printing would be more effective!
Bill Schweber , Site Editor, Planet Analog