LinkedIn Tip: Digitize Business Cards with CardMunch

LinkedIn is re-launching CardMunch, an iPhone app that scans business cards and turns them into contacts you can connect with on LinkedIn. Here’s how it works, along with some new features.

Professionals acquire a mountain of business cards from conferences, networking events and other meetings, but those cards can often be difficult to organize and find when you need them.

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LinkedIn is aiming to help solve this problem with the re-launch of CardMunch, an iPhone app that scans business cards and turns them into LinkedIn contacts.

LinkedIn acquired CardMunch in January and has recently rebuilt the app from the ground up with a number of new features.

Here’s how it works: The app uses your iPhone camera to take a picture of business cards you want to save. The images are then sent to Mechanical Turk, an Amazon service that outsources various tasks to people across the Internet.

This data transfer is a point of criticism for some users, some of whom have reported wait times of 45 minutes to up to 12 hours before the business cards are processed. (In LinkedIn's defense, the lag time could be attributed to unusually high volume associated with the re-launch since people physically input the card information.)

After you receive the information from your scanned business cards, LinkedIn maps the info to your photos of LinkedIn contacts, common connections, past work experience and education. If a contact doesn’t have a LinkedIn page, you can invite him to connect on LinkedIn.

[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com’s LinkedIn Bible.]

Other features LinkedIn has included in the re-launch of CardMunch include the ability to browse your digital rolodex of business cards with a swipe of a finger, add notes on-the-go while waiting for your card to be processed and full-text search of your contacts, by name, address or notes.

The application also backs up and syncs all your contacts to your CardMunch Web account and phone, and you can choose to store your contacts in the app or your iPhone address book.

While CardMunch is useful when organizing business cards, there is still room for improvement.

For example, CardMunch could be more useful as a feature built into the LinkedIn iPhone app, eliminating the need to have two separate applications. And while having business cards processed by real people is efficient because the data it returns is usually correct—especially for large-batch uploads—it would be useful to have an optical character recognition feature for scans that you don’t mind correcting, so they could be inputted immediately.

The CardMunch app, which cost $2.99 plus 25 cents per card before the LinkedIn acquisition, is now free and well worth the download—especially for people with a large rolodexes. Unfortunately, the app is only available via Apple's App Store in certain countries.

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