The situation is getting out of hand. Next to my desk an old first-aid box contains what I laughingly call my “meishi (business card) filing system.” The system is simple: simply dump new cards on top of the old ones and spend half an hour frantically rifling through the clutter when I’m looking for a contact. But, an app called WorldCard Mobile that allows users to load meishi information directly into their iPhones may be the answer to my prayers.
The free lite edition of WorldCard Mobile has just been released in Japan last month and is capable of handling information from both English and Japanese business cards. By taking a photo of a business card on your iPhone, the software will then read the text and load it directly into your address book. You are then free to edit (or delete) as you see fit. Use is limited to one address a week with the Lite edition, but users who find the service useful might want to upgrade to the unlimited full service, which costs ¥2,300.
While WorldCard Mobile is not a Japanese technology, there is a homegrown solution to dispensing with the need to store meishi. Many people are now choosing to have QR codes printed on their meishi. This option has the additional advantage of working with cell phones other than the iPhone and allows users to access their business contact’s website by simply taking a snap of the code.
Of course, if you could avoid the cost and environmental impact of having to print meishi in the first place, it would be so much better. Enter the Poken. Launched in Japan last year, the Swiss gizmo allows users to digitally exchange contact information and has proved popular here. Once the cutely shaped Poken’s touch, information is exchanged, after you take it home and link the device to your computer via USB, you can read information about the person you’ve just met on the Poken website. It’s also capable of linking in with social networking sites like Facebook, Mixi, et al.
While the brightly colored cute Poken are likely popular with a young demographic, my money is on QR code business cards or WorldCard Mobile to revolutionize the business card culture. The respectful exchange of cards is deeply engrained in business culture, and it’s unlikely you’ll see high up businessmen exchanging Poken high fives in the near future. Taking a snap of a business card is more likely to fit in with corporate culture and could add an extra layer to the complex meishi etiquette already in place. One thing’s for sure: clunky objects like the meishi rolodex are going to become a rare sight in the offices of the future.