What will they think of next? Paper business cards double as USB flash drive

Agents can link intelliPaper's swivelCard to website, seen when it's accessed

Gerald Richards, an agent with the Utah brokerage The Franklin Group, has the most luck prospecting at bridal shows if he hands out fliers geared towards first-time buyers. But printing and lugging around all that paper can be a nuisance for the 68-year-old.

online poll by Opinion Stage

That’s one reason why Richards is excited about a new type of business card that’s set to hit the market this fall.

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IntelliPaper’s swivelCards can be folded up and inserted into any device’s USB port.

SwivelCard, which is being funded by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, is a “smart business card” that can be plugged into a computer to transmit Web content. Produced by intelliPaper, swivelCards use the company’s patented technology to convert regular paper into a USB flash drive.

Recipients can fold the card into a paper stick that they can insert into a computer or other device equipped with a USB port, and be directed to a Web address. Card owners, meanwhile, can track when recipients use the cards and even change the Web addresses that recipients are directed to.

Pricing depends on how many cards you order and what features or size you’re asking for. But for the minimum order quantity of 200, they cost an average of $2.09 a pop.

For now, you can place orders only by contributing to swivelCard’s Kickstarter campaign, which has already raised $65,000 and will finish up in about a month. Those orders should ship by mid-October.

Richards plans to link his swivelCards to online copies of his fliers. That’ll save him the hassle of carrying stacks of paper to events, and allow him to introduce people to a technology they’ve never seen before, he said.

“For a first-time homebuyer, I can give them a card and have that card take them to my lender’s site and get prequalified, and then take them to a homebuying program to show them the steps of buying a home,” he said.

SwivelCard’s USB functionality is just one application of several technologies that companies are using to bring business cards into the digital age.

They include QR codes, which let you snap a photo of a barcode to visit a Web address; near-field communication (NFC), which lets you import or transfer information by holding your phone close to a business card or phone; and “conductive ink circuitry,” a technology the startup TouchBase is using to produce business cards that offer functionality similar to NFC.

But QR codes haven’t caught on, and though NFC holds promise, Apple devices don’t support it yet. TouchBase’s application of conductive ink circuitry is compatible with Apple devices, but like QR codes, it requires the use of an app.

But is the grandfather of data-delivery methods any more useful for business cards?

Maybe.

While swivelCard’s paper flash drive — which also uses conductive ink circuitry — doesn’t enable the exchange of information on the fly, it also doesn’t require the use of an app.

What’s more, said Chad Smith, vice president of sales at intelliPaper, “flash drives are a consistent universal medium to deliver digital content worldwide.” In other words, we’re all very comfortable using them.

If paper USB drives aren’t going to cut it, intelliPaper can also build NFC tags and QR codes into swivelCards for an additional fee. That way, customers get the whole “smart business card” shebang.

Smith also claims that swivelCards’ analytics and programming functionality set it apart from other high-tech alternatives (though TouchBase’s product seems to offer similar features in this regard).

Not only may you program swivelCards to direct recipients to any website, a card’s owner can continually change the Web destinations a card directs a recipient to.

So if an agent handed a card to someone and wanted the person to see a listing instead of a video greeting, for example, the agent could quickly make that change from a back-end system.

That back-end system also offers analytics capabilities.

If  you noted to yourself that you gave card No. 56 (each card has an ID number) to John Allen, you would be able to monitor how often, approximately from where in the world and through what delivery medium (USB, QR or NFC) John Allen used the card.

“You can see what’s happening with your cards, who’s plugged it in and how often,” Smith said. “Now you can do a true follow-up campaign.”

Richards, the Utah agent, sees a range of other possibilities.

Agents could synchronize the card with a micro site, so that every time the client plugged in the card the client would see the latest properties matching their search parameters.

Richards is also excited about the possibility of integrating the cards with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, functionality that Smith said intelliPaper could set up.

Such integration could allow an agent to monitor the activity of card recipients who visit a website that’s integrated with the agent’s CRM, like the micro listing site envisioned by Richards.

A CRM integrated with swivelCard could also fire off calls to action to agents every time people who are stored in their CRM use swivelCards.

IntelliPaper is using the Kickstarter campaign to help finance the “development time needed” to produce the back-end component of swivelCard.

“We wouldn’t have thought of half of that stuff — all that feedback coming through Kickstarter is changing what we want to do,” Smith said.


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