It is a classic business conundrum. You have been out at a tradeshow or conference for several days. You arrive back in the office with voicemails to return, email to triage and a stack of business cards of contacts and potential clients as tall and lofty as your quota expectations after a bluebird year.
What to do, what to do?
A wise man told me once that it does not matter what you know, but rather who you know. What if that critical “who” is in that pile of business cards? I have too much to do just catching up to put all that info into my contacts file or CRM software.
Also, knowing someone does me no good if I can’t actually reach out to them!
The idea is simple. You take a picture of the business card with your phone’s camera and the BCR app does OCR on it and stores it for you.
Okay, too many acronyms! Business card reader does optical character recognition. It is particularly impressive that it does it in 21 different languages. The actual magic happens when you when you look at what ABBYY has done with your data.
First of all, BCR makes really good guesses about where things should go based on text cues that are in place. It recognizes addresses and titles and company names and it puts them in the right place. Email addresses, mobile numbers all tucked in their corners and shined up with polish.
ABBYY BCR will even flag the stuff it’s not sure of in red for you to review it. When you are going through this process it will zoom in on the portion of the card it is questioning so you see something like this.
The baseline app is very simple with a button to take a picture, a button to open and process and existing picture and a button to look at your saved cards. Once you have confirmed that a card is accurate you can save it in your local contacts or even export it as a VCF, or send someone a copy of a card.
Also, you can choose whether or not a card gets imported into your phone contacts. Maybe you pick up something that makes sense for somebody in another office. You can select that card and send it via email or SMS and the person on the other end gets a text reduction of the info, a VCF card and a JPG of the business card. Very cool. If you spring for the professional version (not cheap at $89.99) you can even link cards directly to Sales Force.
The software is pretty smart, but it can be thrown by cards that are very dense with information. Twitter handles also confuse it a bit with that additional @ symbol and there is not a place to store them within the software. Granted this is not a standard field in contact forms, but I bet it will be soon.
Interestingly, when you are looking through the cards in your cardholder area, it breaks down the information into tabs. These are normal phone, email, address but there are some nice touches. If you click on the address it automatically opens it up in your preferred mapping program.
There is a place to put notes (nice for trade show conversations) and a social tab that will try to find the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for the person on the card via search on those portals.
ABBYY BCR can make really short work of a stack of business cards. It needs good light to work well, but when it has it, the OCR is impressive. To me, it would be a great trade show tool even during a show as I am terrible at keeping up with paper. Since it allows you to make some quick notes it can be every bit as effective as scribbling on the back of that business card…more so if you then leave the card in the hotel room!
At $4.99, BCR is right in the middle of the price scale and gives you a lot of functionality for not a lot of money. If you are on an Android phone their is even a Lite version that you can try out for next to nothing.
It is a slick piece of code that does nothing but make your life easier. What’s not to like?
ALSO, ABBYY is kind enough to provide us with a couple of free codes so you can try out BCR as well. Leave a comment below on why you need this and we will pick a couple of random entries so you can scan away to your heart’s content!
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