iPhone Life magazine

This Device Lets You Scan and Manage Business Cards With Your iPhone

The WorldCard Link ($39.95, Pro $69.95) is an iPhone tripod for business cards. Mount the iPhone on the front of the device and business cards on the back, and once configured, the app takes a photograph of a business card, performs OCR, and places the data into the app. From there, it's easy to put the contact into your local contact databases on the iPhone, which then makes it available to iCloud, Google, or a file storage system like Dropbox. Use all of these with PenPower's own proprietary contact management system. The WorldCard Link comes in different versions for iPhone 4/4s and iPhone 5.

Hardware

The unit itself is very flat, making it ideal for travel. No longer do you need bulky, USB-driven scanners. With WorldCard Link, the iPhone's camera becomes the scanner. A non-working lightning adapter holds the iPhone 5 in place (on the 4 the connector charges the phone if connected to USB). And that's it. 

Flip up the card holder, attach the phone via the connector, and then let the software take over.

Unlike Cardscan's options, which require a PC and USB-powered scanner, this device weighs next to nothing. All it does is prepare an area that optimizes iPhone's camera for card capture.

Note: Make sure you keep the penpower logo on the flip-up card holder in good condition as that is what the app uses to orient itself.

Software

The app, The WorldCard Link app- Instant Business Card Reader is available in the App Store, but it won't work unless it is enabled with the enclosed software key that comes in the box with the WorldCard Link dock. If you bought the Pro version, you also will need to install and authenticate the Windows or Mac version PowerPen's contact software. Most Apple users, or those using Google, shouldn't need the contact management software. I looked at the PC version and found it primitive compared to Apple's contacts, Microsoft Outlook, or even Google's online contact management features.

The coolest thing about this hardware/software is the dock mode. Place the phone in the dock, open the app and tap the "dock." Once the camera focuses on the "penpower" sticker, you can start putting in cards. The app will take a picture every time it recognizes a new card.

The app also accepts cards or contact information from the camera, photos, an email signature (cut and copied from an email) and from a QR code. Once you have a card or two or twenty up, the apps "card holder" permits access and editing. If you want to add a scanned card to your iPhone contacts, scroll down to the bottom of the editing screen and tap "Save to iPhone Contacts." You can even assign the scan to a group.

If contacts come from images, the image related to the contact field appears on the screen (name, email, company, etc.,) so it is easy to verify the data.

I find the software works best if you don't use the iPhone's flash when capturing, which can wash out some of the areas of the card and make them less readable to the optical character recognition (OCR) engine. The software fails to recognize parts of complex cards, especially those that are highly graphic. Like all OCR products, this one isn't perfect, but the ability to see a card's image related to a field is powerful, as has been shown by the popular feature from its competitor, Cardscan.

I don't know what it is about scanning business cards that creates such need for control of software. Penpower, like Cardscan, insists on serial number entry and registration. Hopefully Penpower will use the iTunes model and give away its updates as they become available unlike Cardscan, which charges for upgrades to new versions. To me, once you buy hardware, you should be entitled to software updates to support it for at least the life of the hardware, if not longer.

Conclusion

Overall, I really like the WorldCard Link as a standalone scanning option. I brought it to the last conference and scanned all the cards I received into the app the day I received them and was able to start sending emails immediately. People certainly use just the iPhone to capture cards, but then they have to spend time entering their own data. WorldCard Link makes that all happen automatically and with fairly good accuracy. If you still collect business cards, then the WorldCard Link should be the next purchase you'll surely pack for every trip.

 

 

 

 

 

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Daniel Rasmus's picture

Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future and Management by Design, is a strategist, industry analyst, and business correspondent for iPhone Life magazine. Prior to starting his own consulting practice, Rasmus was the Director of Business Insights at Microsoft Corporation, where he helped the company envision how people will work in the future.

Before joining Microsoft, Rasmus was Research Vice President at the Giga Information Group and Forrester Research Inc. Rasmus also is an internationally recognized speaker. He blogs regularly for Fast Company and on his own blog, Your Future in Context. His education-related work can be found at Learning Reimagined.