Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's a lot more than just a Business Card Reader

The customer is always right.

The customer is always right!

The customer... ah nonsense. The customer doesn't know who reads this blog, and I do. And that's why I get paid the small, but welcome bucks.

The customer wants me to tell you about the benefits of the benefits of the Scan2Contacts business card reader and software offering direct porting to a Microsoft Outlook database.

Ok, yawn - but there were a lot of other applications, so I poked around.

Once I realized this tiny, lightweight, high-resolution scanner could talk to MANY different database and image management packages, my ears perked up.

IF Microsoft Outlook is the application your job requires you to use, the fact that this product can take a
business card and turn it into a fully populated database record in one step IS good news for a lot of people. But it's not the most interesting potential application, and certainly not one I could speak about.

They have solutions for many applications, with complementary peripherals and developer support for those who have thought of applications they have not.

(I have not overlooked some of the more Orwellian potentials - but I'm looking at positive applications of these technologies.)

scanshell 800nThe key technology is this small, USB-powered portable scanner which can integrate with many different software packages, so when you get it, realize this is not a "one trick pony." There is no "dedicated" hardware-software match-up, though they bundle many common solutions together, and it will work with any TWAIN-compliant software.

For a modest additional investment, you can get a package that allows you to do several things - scan business cards, ID cards and driver's licenses, checks, coupons and gift certificates, even capture images of embossed plastic cards, such as credit cards.

This is ideal for many sorts of niche businesses, where a clear, unassailable and complete record of every individual contact is either required or damn prudent; In particular, this means professional photographers, law firms, Realtors, medical clinics, defense and other federal contractors, even schools. And yes, you can integrate signature support.

A few weeks creating specialized databases, and this company could make my wife's life as a special educator enormously easier, by making it possible to create, store and retrieve IDEA-compatible records that while electronic, will have legally binding signatures. With the right database plugins, it would be possible for these records to be encrypted and accessed either through mag-stripe, barcode or even embedded Digimarc(TM) digital watermarking.

But let's get to me, and why I'm spending time on this. I'm a graphic artist, and image management is the one big nightmare thing that I don't wanna do. I want a simple way to manage images and ideas that is no more difficult than saving it to some random directory.

I have databases that don't smoothly handle images, and image management software that doesn't manage associated information in any useful way. As a result I generally don't bother with either, resorting to the electronic version of heap-depth oriented random relational pile management.

An organizational scheme needs to be easier to navigate than the chaos it's intended to replace, while being as usefully flexible and intuitive as my creative chaos.

I sometimes need to scan things, I often need to relate images together. I'd love to be able to connect both with a particular client with the ability to export data to billing and time management software. I was able to download a software package from them ( and it gave me a good idea of their user interface design. I like it, it's intuitive and, as far as I can tell, I would probably be able to create a personally tailored database with all the modules I need in just a minute or two.

I can't think of the number of times when I've been handed a business card, letterhead or even an old ad clipped from a newspaper as the only source a client has for a logo or graphic. Sometimes it's even a scribble on the back of a business or index card. So while I could sure use a pure business card system it would be a partial, rather than a total solution.

Businesspeople who use the Levenger system of index-card management really need to have this brought to their attention. And as a note for future development - handwriting recognition would be a very helpful addition to the SnapShell repertoire.

Being able to scan checks, invoices and receipts for accounting is a very impressive bonus.

And this little dingus does all these things out of the box - including scanning both sides of a card directly to my TWAIN-Compliant software. (Photoshop, that is.)

Now, sometimes I need to scan something bigger than a card - but I have a full-sized scanner. However, if I wanted to go totally portable, I'd go for this bad boy:

Scanshell 3000DN is a high-speed duplex scanner which offers simultaneous high image quality capture of both sides of the scanned document.

It is the perfect solution for scanning insurance cards, driver licenses, ID cards, photos, business cards, bank checks, full letter, legal sized documents and even embossed cards.

The Scanshell 3000DN is equipped with high speed USB 2.0 standard interface and requires no external power supply. It is TWAIN and WIA compatible.

With its light weight, small footprint and simple connection, the Scanshell 3000DN is a unique and convenient solution for simultaneous double side scanning for both desktop and mobile use.

This one allows me to scan a head-shot or a photo with notes on the back into my database in ONE pass, without fiddling or futzing about. And it's so small that paired with a laptop, there's still room in a backpack for camera gear.

For my particular needs, I often do a quick manual sketch which I then refine in Photoshop, or take a photo and elaborate upon it. I often think it would be nice to have a simple way of documenting and annotating the entire process. It would be particularly useful for documenting the time taken on each major step, as well as variants and different paths toward an outcome. And it would be very nice to be able to do all this sitting under a shade tree with a sketchbook and a laptop.

Did I mention Digimarc recognition? Now, as it happens, there are plug-ins for various image creation and management packages using Digimarc and it's widely used by graphic artists, photographers and resellers to keep track of and defend their intellectual property rights. Imagine being able to just automatically extract that information to a database. Imagine knowing for sure where you got an image, who it was shot by, when it was shot, and what it's usage permissions are, and who you need to contact to negotiate usage.

Suddenly, you realize that every photo-editor in the universe needs this, and the smaller the publication, the more they need it. Most don't KNOW they do, yet, but trust me, they do. This goes double and triple if adult images or product shots are involved. Images of particular naked people and particular, identifiable products have oddly similar legal issues and indexing requirements. Make of that what you will.

So, guys, you REALLY need to book a booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2008.

Thanks to some particularly onerous record-keeping requirements for the adult industry, something exactly like this is an absolute requirement to avoid business-killing fines. You have out-of-the box solutions already - as others do, I'm sure - but with the developer tools packages and enough lead time, you could have a specialized compliance package ready to go, while the flexibility, portability and price-point of your gear will appeal to other developers and people who already have systems in place.

And of course, while you are doing a ton of business, you are at the Sands Expo center, in Las Vegas, with plausible deniability - and it's a business deduction!

Now, aren't you glad I didn't just do the minimum post?

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