Are business cards on the way out?

By Julia Keady

The humble business card is still here, though not for lack of people trying to replace it. Here are some new digital contenders.

The humble business card is still here, though not for lack of people trying to replace it. Back in the 1990s, the business card CD-ROM was going to change the world. You can still get them, but they are not exactly common. Nowadays there's a growing range of digital contenders.

Apps, texts and gimmicks

There's the now familiar v-card, where you text across your details to the other person's phone, and they then figure out how to import it into their contacts. There are dozens of iPhone and Android apps like Bump and CardFlick that employ your smartphone to send your card as well as receiving others. The problem is that the other person has to have the same app to make it work.

If you really want to get snazzy you can go for dedicated devices like a Poken - small digital devices that exchange information by touching one another. Of course, the other person has to have one too, so it's probably a good gimmick to give people at a conference but not likely to replace the business card just yet.

Business cards for the digital world

The problem is that none of these ideas can rival the simple business card for portability, cost, ease of use and functionality. There are now many different options for how your cards can look and feel, with different materials and designs. However, the real challenge is still figuring out how to integrate the physical business card seamlessly with your digital identity. One answer is QR codes - small square barcodes that trigger your smartphone to access a web address. Another idea is NFC-enabled card that has a computer chip embedded in the paper card and can transmit to any NFC (near field communication) enabled device.

Another exciting idea is the video business card - a business card with a built-in screen, battery and speakers that plays a promotional video. They are still too cumbersome and expensive for general use, but with the incredible rate of advancement in battery and flexible-screen technology it may not be too long before we see them become the norm.

Of course, this may all become obsolete with the advent of wearable technology such as Google Glass and face-recognition services that can immediately connect you to someone's LinkedIn or social media page. We may see a time when you give someone your details by simply touching your thumb to a person's phone or key tag device, either through fingerprint recognition of an embed chip under your skin. No doubt such technology will come, but it isn't time to throw out your cards just yet.


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