Can you remember the days where businessmen would carry around their precious black leather filofax with a strong firm grip, which contained all their important and hard earned business contacts that was as much a statement as their fine choice in suits? Of course you can and now we are in the digital age of storing information we have a slight problem. Business Cards are still unfortunately as the name suggests just bits of card with business information printed on.
One day I am sure we will only need to carry around a single business card, so any person who wishes to share contact details can scan something that is nothing more than a bar-code or even better a universal application that will transfer your details to other devices regardless of the manufacturer. Until we reach this vision of heaven, we have to rely on our trusty collection of business cards, but I know there must be a better way of adding the information to an iPhone without manually tapping away on a touch screen. Introducing the WorldCard Mobile App.
WorldCard Mobile uses the built-in camera to take a new image of the business card, which it will then scan within the software using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR will detect the printed characters used on the business card, transforming an image into editable text. Once this is deciphered, the application will then attempt to separate the blocks of information into fields on a contact card such as name, address, fax, email, job title and so on. Every business card layout is different, so it is quite a challenge for it to assign the fields correctly, but somehow it manages very well.
Once you have loaded the WorldCard iPhone App, you can select either Camera or Photos. You may have already taken a photo of a business card and in this case you would select ‘Photos’, however we will follow the Camera option as this is the more likely route you will take.
As you would expect the camera on your iPhone 3GS appears and now you simply take a picture of the business card. It is a good idea to make sure you are in a room with a reasonable amount of light and that the image is in focus. This will ensure the OCR will have the best possible chance of deciphering the information on the image and converting it into editable text. On the next screen you can adjust the image rotation and even select the language, which currently includes English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. It is now time to select the ‘Recognize’ button and in a flash the text from the business card appears in the appropriate contact fields.
Tapping any of the fields will display the scanned area of the business card at the bottom of the screen, which is handy for reference if it has entered any incorrect information, allowing you to quickly adjust the text as required. If a part of the text is missing, you can hit ‘Browse’ and alter the scanned area using a blue box that you can drag and resize on the screen. When you are totally satisfied with the information, you can either merge with an existing contact or export to create an entirely new one that will appear on your standard iPhone’s contacts list.
As far as accuracy goes, WorldCard Mobile achieves a pretty high standard, although inevitably with any OCR software, there will be obvious and not so obvious mistakes you must check for before you add the information to your iPhone contacts list. The letter ‘t’ can be recognised as ‘r’, ‘l’ as ‘i’, ’2′ as ‘z’ and so on. It is not difficult to amend the details and with the scanned area of the business card displayed when you begin editing, it is a real time saver.
The statement “It is not what you know, but who you know” has a lot of relevance here and now you can scan and convert your business cards to usable contacts within your iPhone. The process isn’t a perfect one, but OCR software never is, yet the time saving nature of having a business card reader and just tweaking the odd detail here and there is far simpler than manually adding the information.
If you meet a lot of new people in your line of work and the inevitable exchange of business cards is part of the process, you would be wise to invest in a business card reader such as the WorldCard Mobile App reviewed here.
It is important to note that I reviewed WorldCard Mobile on the Apple iPhone 3GS. If you use the iPhone 2G or 3G, you require additional gadgets to improve photo quality. For iPod Touch, the only way to scan cards is using any saved photos stored on the device due to the lack of a built-in camera.
Apple iTunes Store: WorldCard Mobile – business card reader & business card scanner