Whether I’m at my office, at the AAO Annual Session, or networking around town, it seems like I always end up acquiring more business cards. However, having physical business cards doesn’t integrate well with how I try to digitally organize my life, so a couple years ago I started using a simple business card scanning app so that contact information was easily accessible when I needed it in the future.
There are many free or inexpensive business card scanning apps available for Android or iOS – the features and pricing change over time, so search in the App Store for current reviews and pricing. The particular app I have used for the last couple years is called CamCard and it’s made by the same company that produces the CamScanner app that Steve McEvoy talked about in a past post. A friend had recommended this particular app and it was an inexpensive option ($0.99 for the full version) with good reviews. I have had a good experience with this app, although there are other good options available as well.
These business card scanning apps use your phone camera as a scanner as shown in the photo below, then they utilize optical character recognition (OCR) software to recognize the text. The ideal outcome is that the characters are all processed correctly and the software properly recognizes the fields (phone number, email, address, etc). In reality, the system isn’t perfect but it is significantly faster than trying to type all the text yourself. As you can see in the scan of my business card below, the app made the following errors:
- It only recognized the first listed name on the card – even my phone knows to put my wife first!
- My office name and logo is on the back of the card, so it was not automatically added.
- The software missed the “4” at the beginning of my office address since it is overlapped with a darker area of my logo.
These are simple to fix, but frequently I don’t worry about minor mistakes if I’m in a hurry because the full image of the card is saved also. If you need to correct it later, you can always reference the photo of the card. I do make sure the name and the company is saved correctly so I can use the search functions in the app. Some other apps will have an actual human double check the character recognition and fields that are filled, but these apps tend to be more expensive and the information frequently isn’t added to your database for a couple days.
Once these cards are scanned in, there are additional features of the app that are nice for organization:
- The app links to your contacts, so you don’t have to directly load the app to call, text, or email contacts that you have scanned.
- You can create custom groups in the app to file contacts under, such as “referring dentists” or “AAO contacts”
- Your business card and contact information can be emailed, texted, or directly exchanged with other users nearby.
- You can add custom notes or photos to the contact to remind you where you met them and why you wanted to save their contact information.
Overall, this is not the most frequently utilized app on my phone, but it has dramatically helped me to quickly organize an area of my life and practice that I wasn’t organizing well before.