Business Card Reader II with Cardiris 3

If your pile of business cards is starting to compete with your G5 tower in height, you might want to look into other ways of organizing your contacts. One such way would be to use Iris’s Business Card Reader II (IBCRII), a small scanner that takes advantage of optical character-recognition technology (OCR) to import and manage business cards on a Mac.

The scanner is light and only the size of a slightly-bigger-than-average mobile phone, which makes it ideal for travel use. It connects easily through a USB-port, and since installing the accompanying Cardiris software and the calibration is done quickly, you are able to start scanning almost immediately. Apart from you having to select what country the card comes from, the scanning and recognition process is done automatically.

Once a card is processed, the information can be exported to all common address book applications such as Apple’s Address Book or Microsoft Entourage, or in vCard or text formats. All of this worked well, and the information reached is target with a simple mouse click. Cardiris also offers support for other scanners, which allows you to import a large batch of cards at the same time.

The ICBRII’s troubles start when it comes to processing the scanned cards in the software; it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the OCR technology is still in its infancy. The scanned cards appear in Cardiris, where the application is theoretically supposed to recognize the correct fields to put the card-holders’ personal details. Even if the actual process of scanning takes only a few seconds, you’ll find yourself wasting considerable time in adjusting the results.

The scanner did OK with straightforward business cards featuring mainly text, but even there it encountered problems. There were almost always at least one or two lines that were put in the wrong fields, or small spelling mistakes that needed to be corrected (especially dangerous when it comes to email addresses). The real problems came when the IBCRII was exposed to cards following a less-standard design, or cards that were graphic-intensive. The software barely got a letter right in these cases, and those few words that were picked up were almost always placed in the wrong fields. Even if these cards are less common than those with more-standard designs, it is still relatively large part of the market where the IBCRII is virtually unusable. I wonder what my friend who runs a coffee-shop would think about being named “Beer Manager” by Cardiris?


The ICBRII could be a handy tool if your work involves a never-ending flow of new contacts, as scanning the cards and exporting them to address book-software is very quickly done. But at £159, it is probably not something to be overly reliant on, since the scanning process still results in too many errors.

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