Seiko Smart Business Card Reader

Jul 23, 2001

The Bottom Line Scanners perform many functions some disguised as many other products. A digital camera is really a scanner, because the image is captured by a sensor array, like a scanner's.

The Seiko Business Card Reader is a scanner that uses a software package specifically designed to read business cards and either send the data to a contact manager or create one. The device itself is fundamentally a scanner and as such has mult-functions which can be addressed by imaginative, creative uses of the bundled software. I will tell you about the standard package and let your imagination have free reign for the other functions.
Seiko is a familiar name in business and personal precision and electronic products.

The Seiko wristwatch that I bought in 1968 for about $30 still keeps very accurate time and looks like new. If that is an example of Seiko product value and performance, their Smart Business Card Reader should be a great buy for those with a large business card collection and a need to organize and access them electronically.

Just feed a business card into the Seiko Smart Business Card Reader (SBCR) and it is scanned into a database that is amenable to most Personal Information Manager software as well as many of the popular palm top computers and of course, your desktop or laptop. Once in the database, the data can be manipulated in typical database fashion.

The minimum requirements for installing the Smart Business Card Reader are: 386 PC, 18 M hard drive space, 8 M RAM, Windows 3.1 or 95, mouse, parallel port and CD-ROM drive. The installation on my 586/133 running Windows 95 took just a few minutes. The hardware data cable attached to the parallel port and the power supply transformer plugged into my power strip. The total elapsed time for hardware installation was under two minutes. With the software installed, clicking the Smart Business Card Reader Icon brought up the program. Following the clear instructions in the manual, I then selected PREFERENCES, then clicked on the SCANNER icon. This displayed the SCANNER PREFERENCES dialog box where I clicked on TEST then SETUP. Here I set my port name, LPT2, address 0278 and checked the “bi-directional box. I then inserted the calibration card in the unit and selected CALIBRATE from the screen. This completed the software setup and took less than two minutes. I then reopened the program, inserted a business card, clicked on the SCAN icon and the card moved through the reader. The orientation of the card does not matter as long as the printed face is towards the unit. The scanned card image then appears, as does the SBCR application window where the optical character reader has scanned the card and distributed the data to the proper field. You may then edit the data fields to ensure that the scanner did its job. When all is correct, you select the Verified box. There is also a bottom panel where you may place notes or categorize the card data. Here is where you may enter customized information about the person, company, product or anything else you may want to record.

When all is as you desire, you can export the information to a Personal Information Manager, a database or both. Once the information is in the database, you can manipulate, sort and associate to your hearts desire.

There are all sorts of useful features within the SBCR software itself. You can use all of the common Windows editing tools including zoom and drag and drop. The best usability features fall under the heading of locating, finding and sorting the huge stack of business cards that we all seem to accumulate. Sorting may be done by: company, first/last name, category, state, scanned order or just about any other field parameter within the data base. Cards may be displayed in the Image Album, by choosing image album from the VIEW menu. This fills the screen with images of the scanned cards and selecting one with the cursor displays the text information in the lower area of the screen. This is one method for searching for a particular card. More direct methods are available. The main program screen has a set of arrows much like that of a tape player that allows you to move through your set of scanned cards in the sort order. Each step displays the text information. There is also a “locate” window, into which you type a parameter such as a name, title, company, state, etc. and the list that meets the search criteria is brought up. Now you have a much smaller set of cards to search through. Obviously, if the search criterion is unique, you will have found the one card that you were looking for. There is another feature called TAG, where you may tag certain cards for a particular purpose, for example, to send a special offer. The set of tagged cards itself then becomes a sort criterion.

The ability to send the card database to a Personal Information Manager opens up all the PIM capabilities, so you may send E-mail, snail mail or do any other task that your PIM allows. This of course includes printers and label printers.

The SBCR is of course fundamentally a scanner, albeit a special purposes scanner. The OCR used is from Caere Corporation, a leader in OCR software, so Seiko made a wise choice. The OCR ignores graphical information on the card and picks up the text. There is however a scanned image of the card in a graphical format available, so that when you select the Image Album as described above, you do indeed see the card in its original form including logos and art work.

Without a doubt, the SBCR is the way to handle business cards. Say, “Goodbye” to the Rolodex. The SBCR sells for about $200 and is a great way to import business card data into a PIM or other database. It even brings an element of fun to an otherwise onerous task. I can recommend this Seiko device for all those who need to electronically manipulate the data on their collection of business cards. The device works flawlessly and if my ancient Seiko watch is any measure, the SBCR will outlast most careers. In the off chance that you need help with the installation or operation, a toll-free number is provided. The manual is comprehensive, clear and well illustrated, so that there should not be any installation or operational problems.

Additional information can be obtained at their web site, or call 1-800-688-0817.

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