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Summary:

Hopefully soon we’ll all stop using business cards in favor of more direct and persistent connections, but for the time being, a new startup called CardMunch today launches a handy paid iPhone app that quickly transcribes and organizes those business cards on the go.

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Hopefully soon we’ll all stop using business cards in favor of more direct and persistent connections, but for the time being almost every time you go to an event or a meeting you end up with a stack of cards. A new startup called CardMunch today launches a handy paid iPhone app that quickly transcribes and organizes those business cards on the go.

Here’s how it works: you open the CardMunch app, point your phone camera at a card for about three seconds, and it goes up into the ether. Human card readers from around the world transcribe the card, and it’s returned to you later that day direct to your phone address book (right now it’s just a few seconds later, but as more people start using the app CardMunch guarantees it will keep turnaround time “within a few hours”).

Today the app goes on sale at $2.99 for 10 credits, with a free version (a separate app called CardMunch Free) giving five free card transcriptions as a sample. Down the road, credit packs work out to about $0.25 per card. Android and BlackBerry apps are on the way.

One neat thing the company does is understand that your phone address book might not be the right place for business cards from people you hardly know. The company does integrate with the iPhone address book, but you also have the option to store each business contact in a separate CardMunch addressbook and export contacts as .vcf (vCard) files.

CardMunch CEO Bowei Gai says his company’s price point is similar to services like CloudContact and Shoeboxed where you mail in your cards, but CardMunch guarantees 100 percent accuracy and turns cards around more quickly and conveniently. He thinks his workforce of transcribers around the world can currently handle 50,000 cards per day.

CardMunch is based in Mountain View, Calif., and backed by K9 Ventures.

By Liz Gannes
  1. If you’re on Android, Google Goggles does the same basic thing for free.

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    1. Cool, I’m excited to try that (just got on Android). How accurate has it been in your experience? I heard it is a little iffy.

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      1. Liz,

        I’ve played with Google Goggles extensively. It’s one of the most poorly implemented software when it comes to business card transcription. Imagine getting a bunch of poorly-OCRed text without any context as to what the text is for (phone? address? title?). If you can get your hands on an Android phone, please do test it out and compare it CardMunch. :)

        @Paul, every worker has signed our NDA and has gone through our training. CardMunch as a company does not sell your information to third party. Integrity comes before anything else in our business, we can’t afford to lose our customer’s trust.

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  2. Nice – I get charged for the app, then the transcribers collect the data and sell it to lead-generation sites.

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  3. If you don’t want to share the details with the cloud and strangers, check out WorldCard on the iPhone. It’s like 5 bucks in the app store and it’s gotten many dozens of business cards into my address book. If the OCR gets anything wrong (weird fonts, difficult colors, whatever), it’s also easy to expand or contract a highlighted portion to rescan or edit the text yourself.

    http://worldcard.penpowerinc.com/worldcard-mobile-iPhone.html

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    1. Another recognition app, not exactly a game changer. You’ll still need the business cards in the first place, and in fact they are more prolific than ever before thanks to printing innovation. We are adding qr and 2d codes to cards, and augmented reality as well. So the innovations are more impressive when applied to the tangible product. I will be sad when we are all waving tablets at each other… The tech is good, but don’t lose sight of how civilised behaviour works.

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  4. @Zatz

    If people want business card transcription app that doesn’t work accurately, they can use Google Goggles for free. Why would they waste $5?

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    1. My results using Goggles hasn’t been very good. But I’ve had very good luck scanning business cards with the WorldCard app and merging the info into contacts. There are some fields that are occasionally misread, but it’s a snap to rescan that portion and/or clean up. That $5 saved me tons of work and time. It also seems like a more secure/private and economical solution than the one you propose. If I want something entered for 25 cents a card, I’ll hire my niece.

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  5. Google Goggles on Android is about as accurate as previous physical business card scanners I’ve used. If you have a poorly designed card, small fonts,background images or even poor lighting its tough to read on any type of scanner. Not bad mouthing CardMunch just stating a fact that Goggles is available on N1 Android now and that all biz card scanners have problems.

    I’ve entered about 3 dozen cards using Goggles over past couple of months.

    Goggles works and its free and standard on the Nexus One. Beyond that it can identify images, helps with 3D bar codes in the market place, etc.

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    1. Yeah I used Goggles too when I was still on Android, it was neat and nice to use especially the bar codes. But one thing I noticed is how it often gets a couple characters wrong for business cards.
      I remember it messed up my last name “u” become “v” and the email address was a bit off.

      Tried CardMunch this morning and you guys seem to be on the right track. Saved an hour of my day to get rid of 20-30 cards, for the cost of a Starbucks drink. Plus you actually got my name correctly, I’m satisfied!

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  6. Hey everyone! If you’re looking for an iPhone business card reader you should also check out our app: Econtact Pro.

    It’s a lot like CardMunch, but we do 100% manual transcription for about half the price per card and we use a private office to transcribe the cards.

    We’ve been around for a while, but we just released a new iOS4 update. Give it a try, tell us what you think: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/econtact-pro-best-manual-transcription/id346478177?mt=8

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  7. These solutions are static, contact details change all the time. Keyin has a different approach in that the business/card owner maintains their own vCard (Electronic business card) that is hosted on the keyin server. They then link the vCard with their business card by printing their keyin code on their business cards.

    Anyone wanting to add the business card to their contacts just “keys in” the keyin code and the latest contact details are downloaded in vCard format. Even better – they can subscribe to the business card, so when the contact details change they will be notified and receive a link to the up-dated vCard.
    Check out this demo video of the new keyin AutoOpen: http://bit.ly/aKwQwF
    The keyin iPhone app is not yet available (WIP).

    Keyin codes are like domain names – you can choose your own to match your branding, as long as it’s available, so get yours quick.
    Try it for free with a Standard keyin code (not personalised) … there is nothing to lose and a lot of convenience and time to be saved!

    http://www.keyin.biz

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  8. Human card readers? Interesting. So it’s somewhat manual then. But i guess the upside of this is human transcribers are less likely to mistake a ‘u’ for a ‘v’ and other stuff like that.

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