ScanBizCards Business Card Scanner

ScanBizCards empowers iPhone weilding sales professionals and other networkers with a portable means to scan business cards coupled with the ability to quickly and easily follow up on leads. At only $5.99, the app is far less than the cost of a dedicated desktop card scanner or leasing a badge scanning service at a trade show. Yet, ScanBizCards is still able to deliver the speed and accuracy needed to quickly OCR or “read” a received card, edit the scan results if needed, and add the contact to your device’s address book.

The app does a great job scanning. The process is fast, I found it typically completed in under 15 seconds. A progress bar informs you what percentage of the scanning process is completed. While it is scanning, the app outlines the portions of text that it is reading so you have a sense as to the accuracy of the scan. You don’t have to worry about orientation of the card’s image either, the app automatically detects this and will rotate the card as appropriate prior to the scan. Certainly we all would likely have varying opinions as to the accuracy of the scans and many factors that I touch on later have an impact, but for the most part, I found that I usually only have to adjust a few characters on a few fields with most scans. My estimate, a 90% accuracy and above is typical.

The power and benefits of ScanBizCards does not stop with simply scanning cards. The developers, Patrick Questembert and Danny Panzer, realized that the more important need of following up with a new contact could also be facilitated by the application. So, there are a number of things you can do with the card after scanning. You can send a pre-configured follow-up email with just the press of a button. Send a meeting request or schedule a follow-up call just as easily and have it sync to your calendar. You can even issue a LinkedIn connection request directly from the app. Now that’s convenience! Patrick and Danny realized, as well, that many times a follow up is initiated from other systems, like an email program or customer database, so you are easily able to export all cards or just a group of cards to a spreadsheet for backing up or transferring the card info.

ScanBizCards has a number of nice subtle touches that allow the user to locate and take advantage of the captured data. For instance, you can create and edit groups to store your scanned cards. You can switch to an iTunes-like, cover flow view for a virtual Rolodex. There’s an option to email the card’s text and image to an associate who may be assisting you on the account. Furthermore, you can initiate an action like an email or phone call simply by tapping on the respective field on the card’s image or an icon appearng with the card. Finally, the app is not only able to add new contacts to your iDevice’s address book, you can add a card image to an existing address book entry by accessing advanced options after the scan.

Probably the best feature is one that’s not so visible. The developers have been posting updates roughly every week or two since the first release and each new version has had at least three new features or speed improvements. I chatted with them a bit and learned that there are some great new capabilities coming in version 2.7 and beyond that will be especially attractive to those who use the app on both the iPhone and iPad.

Finally, an important note to keep in mind about document scanning. Even desktop scanners are challenged with reading text off of a busy background, text that is too similar in color to a background or a card that is worn. When taking a photo of a card, lighting and shadows can also cause problems. Don’t expect a miracle from this app. Take steady photos in natural light when possible and realize that quality is going to be a lot better with the iPhone 3Gs versus the 3G and original iPhone. I actually photograph all the cards I want to scan with the iPhone app, JotNot, which cleans the image and saves it to the Photo Library. Then I bring the photo into ScanBizCards to scan it. The JotNot step is not necessary, but it’s a quick and painless enhancement to the process of getting great scans. It helps that there’s a free version of JotNot that provides the basics needed for later scanning with ScanBizCards.

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