Sunday, 18 May 2014 10:40

Review - CardNet for iOS

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Easily store and organise business contact information with this handy organiser, that includes business card scanning and OCR functionality.

The world of business is the world of contacts, networking, sharing, collaboration and just general "who you know." The key to managing contacts, and the inevitable plethora of business cards obtained during any event, is a good system. In years long gone by the Rolodex was king, its paper cards filed in a rotational stand. In this modern era, it is the smartphone - ever-present, online, and connected to multiple information sources.

Yet, even so, managing that information at hand can still be a daunting task. This is where good software tools to manage contacts comes in. CardNet by Khaled Alateeqi and available on the iOS app store aims to meet this need.

CardNet is a contact management tool with a twist; as well as traditional contact filing, editing, searching, grouping and sharing, it allows you to scan actual physical business cards via your phone camera and OCR them. This creates a contact with details populated, accompanied by an image of the business card. This makes it a snap (pun intended) to empty your wallet of numerous cards obtained at a conference, turning them into readily-usable contacts to power sales and networking.

The app is free but it is this OCR component which monetises it. You get five free OCRs with the app, and then pay $0.99 for every 20 more, making it essentially 5c per OCR. For busy executives the cost of your own time in maintaining, storing and typing contacts exceeds the prospect of merely taking a photo of a card and having the app do all the work for five cents.

Nicely, CardNet allows you to make your own digital business card and then share it by shaking the app at another CardNet user. You can also share via more traditional means.

The app has a clean and attractive interface - screenshot here - and is pleasant to work with.

There are some downsides which I hope the developer will correct in the next release. First, and most frustratingly, the app begins with an empty contact list. It does not make any request to work with your phone's existing contacts. You can add these existing contacts but the option to do so is hidden behind the settings menu and even then only allows contacts to be added one-by-one; a laborious process which I gave up on after selecting a few. This really is a flaw and until the developer fixes it means the app cannot be your one-and-only contact tool.

Secondly, the app requests you to sign in before you can begin. You can sign in via Facebook or you can make a CardNet account. However, it is unclear why you need to sign in at all. The app's description suggests CardNet is an online network and presumably your contacts are being stored online. I am uncertain what privacy protection there is, or if this is merely to ensure your fellow CardNet users always have your latest details in the same style as Plaxo. Disappointingly, at the time of writing, the app's listed support web site - https://cardnet.com - is not responding.

Nevertheless, the app shows a lot of promise and the OCR facilities for managing physical business cards are terrific.


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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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