The digital business card is not really a new idea. Over the past several years, it has evolved from the basic level of people including a URL on their physical business cards, to services now like Dropcard where you can send your details automatically by email, to sms based services like Contxts where you can just tell someone to sms your name to a shortcode and get your details (send a text message to 50500 with the word "rohit" to see how it works).
Earlier this month at the TechCrunch Europe Awards, a new social networking service won top honors for a new model that may just reinvent how digital business cards work. The company, called Poken, makes small USB devices that carry your personal social network information and exchange it with others through simply touching the devices together (called a "high four" due to the shape of the hand and four fingers instead of five). The device has been a hit in Europe and Japan and is starting to generate some buzz here in the US – having recently been spotlighted at the SXSW show a few months back.
To me, the most powerful part of Poken is that rather than blindly sharing your email and phone number with every person you meet, you can essentially collect their names and social networking profiles through the device (and share yours back) and then decide later if you want to connect with them or accept their contact. If you think about it, this is essentially what people have always done with business cards from events … collected them in a pile and tossed the ones they didn't want afterwards. Now you can do that digitally.
The real trick for Poken will be to get enough people to buy the devices to get them to make it viable as a way for people to connect. Their team blog offers some insight on how they might be able to actually do it, with a World Tour in the works and a growing stable of fans of the service. Not to mention, a singing pitch for the device from one of their company bloggers (below). If they can, the Poken may mean you never need to write down a fake phone number or pretend to run out of business cards again.