Save Paper at Your Startup, Part 1: Business Cards

by Ahmed Gabr, December 30, 2012

Office Paper

This series of articles provides advice on how to cut down on the use of paper in the modern workplace. In startup working environments, many of us have reached the conclusion that unless necessary, paper is a source of clutter while being a detriment to the environment.

In this post, I'll address ways to get rid of business cards and turning them into digital images organized for easier search and communication with friends and business contacts.

One goal many ways

Some technical solutions for turning paper business cards into digital images are easy and cheap, like using the digital camera of your mobile phone; other, like a business cards scanner, are more costly and complicated, but tailored for the job.

Your mobile the easiest and least costly

According to a study by Statista, mobile phone sales have seen exponential growth with a smartphone boom continuing for nearly 5 years with sales are close to 30% of total phone sales in 2012 as compared to 12% in 2008. This number is still likely to increase up to half the overall mobile sales, after 2014. Fortunately, there are several smartphone applications that can help digitize business cards. 

CamCard Application

This application costs $7 and is available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

(Note: we've tested the application on iOS 6 on an iPhone.)

CamCard iPhone App

CamCard allows you to photo-scan business cards with your mobile phone; it then recognizes the card's name, phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, and transforms this data into a digital business card on your phone.

This application’s special feature is that it enables you to add the data taken from the business card to your phone's memory, Address Book, or many of the Cloud services like Gmail that help you save your contacts.

Business Card Scanners

Another available option is are specialized (but expensive) scanners for saving business cards. These pieces of equipment are suitable for companies and other bigger business environments that handle large numbers of business cards or want to save such data in more specialized databases or on common platforms that a large number of employees share.

These solutions provide a more efficient way of recognizing card content, and they save digital copies of the recognized data to specialized databases, exchange services, the Outlook application and several other options.

Many brands are available on the market like WorldCard, CardScan, and IRIScan Anywhere. Some of them work through the USB port of a computer while the others are wireless. While the application’s cost is limited to a few dollars, the more specialized devices range between $100 and $400 USD.

Qr Code

Or be digital from the beginning?

In an era when your signature at the end of an email constitutes a partial alternative to the business card, some ideas offer an easy altenative to wielding a hard copy business card, or at least offer a combination of digital and paper information. One tactic is the QR Code, or quick response code, which is easy to create using one of several free applications that create a square shape that can be sent as a digital image or printed on a paper business card. The QR Code contains specific signals that contain the same data on a business card, and is readable using a smartphone QR scanner application. So if you’re designing a new business card, think about adding a QR Code to grab some attention while making it easier for your new acquaintances to access your data.

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Ahmad is a writer and a tech analyst, passionate about technology and electronics. He is the founder of GadgetsArabia, the first tech blog in Arabic and the Editor-in-Chief of Swalif.Net.