You might not think that a business card scanner is for you, after all they are usually rather bulky, rather expensive and unless you are a business person travelling around and shaking hands with suits then you won’t have anything to scan in the first place.
However, while the cost and size thing is usually true, when we received the tiny 106 x 52 x 25mm USB powered ColorPage BR600, the world’s smallest card scanner, and discovered that you can find it online for a tad under £30 we had to sit up and take notice.
The truth is that, thanks to those dirt cheap internet business card services and card printers located at railway stations and airports, huge numbers of people are carrying them now. It is no longer just a business thing, and more a "look at me I am just like a posh old Victorian lady" type of affair.
Of course, whether you are a professional salesman collecting dozens of cards every week, or an amateur Victorian lady collecting a couple a month, you could always just add the details to your contacts database manually and be done with it. But why should you when you can let a machine slave do it for you, especially at this price?
Well, a couple of reasons spring to mind after using the somewhat ironically named ColorPage scanner (it doesn’t scan in colour at all, just greyscale): reason numero uno is the fact that of the 100 business cards of all shapes and sizes, designs and styles, that we scanned only 91 of them were automatically transferred into the Cardiris 3.5 BCR software contacts database.
This is because 2 of the cards were simply too big, the scanner accepts a maximum card size of 54.19 x 90.42mm which shouldn’t really be a problem as very few business cards are larger than A8, we were just unlucky to have met with some huge egos in our travels.
A much bigger problem is the fact that if your card is "over designed" in that it has lots of patterns or colours or pictures it just confuses the OCR software which doesn’t find any text.
At least, if it does find text it gets it wrong. This was particularly noticeable with cards that featured heavy striping and, for some reason, the colour green as a background.
Reason numero duo is that the software wasn’t that brilliant at recognising URLs and business names from corporate logos.
However, to put that into perspective, that was only a 9% failure rate of which half were scanned but the details needed a little manual tweaking, which leaves 91% of our attempts scanning perfectly, with all the necessary contact details being transferred into a contacts database in no time at all.
Each card took approximately 10 seconds to scan and transfer all the details via the OCR software. Not exactly a slow performance it has to be said, especially considering this is just a USB1.1 device. Talking of which, there is no external power source, no batteries, to worry about adding weight or bulk to the scanner as it draws its power through that USB connection.
Given that the thing is so small, so cute in its blue livery, and does a none too shabby job for the money, we have to say that we were a lot more impressed with this than we thought we would be.
If you find your wallet, handbag, desktop filling up with business cards from business or personal contacts and you are simply too lazy to type the details into your address book, then this £30 digital slave might just be the answer.