Saturday, April 23, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: CardMunch makes getting contacts from business cards remarkably easy

Today’s post is about personal productivity rather than marketing services, but the problem it solves is so ubiquitous I hope you’ll find it useful.

CardMunch is an app (recently acquired by Linked In) that makes it point and shoot easy to build a database of contacts from all those business cards gathering dust in your drawer. We all know that there are card readers out there, but they can be inconvenient, a little pricey, and some have significant accuracy issues. They can also offer odd quirks, like the use of proprietary DB platforms only.

The accuracy issues have been exacerbated by the fashion of making credit cards more creative and visually interesting. Two sides of contact info, or unusual arrangements of data, or perpendicular/angled text, all pose significant challenges. Certainly in the marketing services industry the tendency to be more creative in the presentation of info on a business card is even more common.

CardMunch solves those problems with a combination of image recognition and human QA. To use the service, you simply take photos of your business cards with your iPhone. The app handles the rest. An image reader identifies and transcribes the contact into a database, and then the image and the database entry are passed to a team of people who review the record created and make any necessary corrections.

Records are collected in a contacts database on your phone that can be viewed in a “cover flow.” You can also connect your records to Linked In with a single click. When you synch your phone, you will also be synching your contacts, which helps make your new database of contacts even more useful.

You can collect records in two separate databases, one business and one personal. That’s an important feature, in my view, given the number of business cards one collects over the course of a month.

The human element of this service is a critical part of the work flow because even a high degree of accuracy – like 90-95% - means that there can be serious errors in virtually any record. A transposed digit, or a misread digit, for example, makes an entire record useless. CardMunch’s approach completely prevents this problem.

Here’s a short video explaining it all.

Overview of CardMunch in 21 Seconds from CardMunch on Vimeo.

The service offers 5 card reads for free. After that, you can buy credits in the app or on their website. At the time of this writing, the service was offering free credits to get its start – my suspicion is that when they shift to a pay model, the costs will still be rather reasonable.

The service was launched on iPhone, with plans to expand to Android and Blackberry quickly. Speaking as an Android user and a Linked In junkie, the expansion can’t come soon enough! My groaning, overstuffed card file will be even more pleased when it happens.

Thanks to ad:tech for publishing this first.

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