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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poken And The Evolution Of The Digital Business Card

The digital business card is not really a new idea. Over the past several years, it has evolved from the basic level of people including a URL on their physical business cards, to services now like Dropcard where you can send your details automatically by email, to sms based services like Contxts where you can just tell someone to sms your name to a shortcode and get your details (send a text message to 50500 with the word "rohit" to see how it works).

IMB_Poken_highfour Earlier this month at the TechCrunch Europe Awards, a new social networking service won top honors for a new model that may just reinvent how digital business cards work. The company, called Poken, makes small USB devices that carry your personal social network information and exchange it with others through simply touching the devices together (called a "high four" due to the shape of the hand and four fingers instead of five). The device has been a hit in Europe and Japan and is starting to generate some buzz here in the US - having recently been spotlighted at the SXSW show a few months back.

To me, the most powerful part of Poken is that rather than blindly sharing your email and phone number with every person you meet, you can essentially collect their names and social networking profiles through the device (and share yours back) and then decide later if you want to connect with them or accept their contact. If you think about it, this is essentially what people have always done with business cards from events ... collected them in a pile and tossed the ones they didn't want afterwards. Now you can do that digitally.

IMB_PokenJapan The real trick for Poken will be to get enough people to buy the devices to get them to make it viable as a way for people to connect. Their team blog offers some insight on how they might be able to actually do it, with a World Tour in the works and a growing stable of fans of the service. Not to mention, a singing pitch for the device from one of their company bloggers (below). If they can, the Poken may mean you never need to write down a fake phone number or pretend to run out of business cards again.


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Don't you think a major hurdle for poken in a business environment is how "cute" their appliance is? The style is very "japanese school girl" hip.

I haven't heard very much about these, so thanks for posting! I wonder what other companies will think of?

@carlenlea - Thanks for commenting, you're right many of their designs do have that kind of vibe. On their blog and in their Flickr gallery they do show lots of customization ability - and the version that they did in June of this year for a big IBM event was quite professional so I think they have this ability:

Great read. Had to try this out and went with the dragon. I was going to get the box of 12 but WHOA, the sticker shock hit me. For one though, looks pretty cute. And maybe even useful.

Rohit, so glad to read this here because Poken sponsored a number of bloggers at BlogHer and I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about! They had a crew of bloggers in shirts who (obviously) raved about it, but some of them complained that it was frustrating to have the Poken and still find yourself collecting cards (and not having cards to give back).

Personally if you ask me, this was bound to happen.

...just my two cents.

Here are my two issues with the Poken:
1.) It looks silly.

2.) I'd rather use my phone so I don't have to carry something around. check out E. There is a physical device and there is an iPhone app, so all you have to do is swipe someone else's iPhone and you exchange cards. You can actually pick the card you want to exchange with someone else.

3.) I'd be afraid I'd lose my Poken or it would get stolen, and I can't password protect it like I do my iPhone.

I like @renate, but I hate carrying around silly devices that I'm going to have to evangelize forever because no one carries it. Everyone has an iPhone or at least a browser on their phone to use E. It's a much easier sell.

ITs look very complicated, each person has to have the devide, it has to be online shared and updated. Why not just send them your business card or a link to your contact information on your website. If your contact information is so super confidential, you wont use this device anyway.

Dr. Letitia Wright
The Wright Place TV Show

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