I used to consider business cards pretty much of a nuisance. Collecting tiny pieces of paper just to copy the same data to a mobile phone or contact manager didn’t seem to be practical to me.
But recently I had to change my mind: sometimes you are in a rush and have to quickly exchange contact information. Writing down the information is definitely not an option; typing it into your phone, PDA, laptop is often not practical and exchanging data via bluetooth works 1 time out of 5 (try it on the iPhone :P ).
Even in 2008, alas, in many cases the old solution is much better than the new ones. Is there any way we could take the best of both worlds?
Maybe: the back side of most business cards is often blank. We usually use that space to write some notes, or additional information. But what if we used a part of that blank space to store the contact details in some machine-readable format?
We could use (part of) the back of the card to store an encoded representation of the information which is printed on the front. As an example, the image below shows my contact information in QR-code.
My phone (a Nokia E71) comes out of factory with a barcode reader which uses the built-in camera to decode printed codes, and there are a lot of other similar programs for other devices and for the iPhone as well.
With business cards like these, we’d still be able to share our details as we do now, but importing contact details to our mobile devices would just be as easy as snapping a picture.
The only downside, in my opinion, is that QR codes are not so pleasant to the eye. ;)