Remember the Casio digital diaries which were a digi-fashion statement way back in the 90s? A brilliant concept that enabled you to store the details of all your contacts including their names, phone-numbers and what not. However, gradually as time passed by, the concept and the device started fading away.
Amongst the many reasons that caused the slow death the key reason was the emergence of a stronger alternative to the consumers in the form of cellphones. While, the diary still scored over cellphone in some of the features the socially conscious consumer just wanted to have a single device. ‘Convergence’ which is quite often heard or referred to these days was still a necessity back then.
Fast forward to 20 September 2010 i.e. today where I just finished reading Kapil Ohri’s latest write-up on afaqs.com which talks about Poken – a USB enabled pen drive type social business card device. The device allows users to exchange their contact details and social networking profile within a few seconds. Poken was originally launched by a Swiss start-up in 2008 and is being marketed/sold in India by a Hyderabad based company.
Here is how Poken works:
To begin the process, the user needs to first plug the device into the USB port of his computer, connected with the Internet. Once plugged, the device automatically directs him to Poken.com, where he can create his virtual business card and feed in information such as name, designation and other contact details.
The underlying concept
When you press the USB key the embedded RFID reader/transmitter does the rest of the work in exchanging information
At the outset, I think it is a brilliant concept and works very well whenever you attend conferences/seminars and meet a bunch of people. Keeping a track of so many business cards can be a real problem at that time.
But here are few ‘User-Adoption’ problems with this concept and the device:
- Device dependency: If I go to a conference where I meet about 100 folks and ’40’ of them don’t have the Poken USB device then I go back to the old school strategy of exchanging business cards.
- Overhead of managing multiple devices: Remember, Aircel’s Peek? A dedicated hand-held device that allows you to check your emails. A pretty cost effective way of checking your emails. But then why would you want a separate device in the first place?
- Penetration Problems: The distribution problem looks very similar to the Reliance mobile issue. In-order to take its real advantage the other user also needs to have the same device. With the scale that we’ve in India, the distrubtion and shipment of this device would be put to real test.
- Cultural Differences: India as a market is fundamentally different when compared with the Western world. It is because of our tastes, upbringing and buying patterns.
When you look at iPhone and the single biggest problem that it solves, you realize it is ‘”CONVERGENCE”. Instead of carrying a camera, mp3 player, usb stick and a phone it packages everything into one and this what today the massive consumption segment is looking at.
I think this is what really needs to be done, if we were to make this concept a success story in India at a large scale level:
Shun hardware, think software: I don’t know whether it is possible or not, but if there could be a smartphone app. which does exactly what Poken does but on a mobile phone, we could be clearing a lot of mess. I know that the international version of Poken does have mobile phone-app. I know that My Name is E, their Dutch friends also have an iPhone app but then my audience is Indian. iPhone India users constitute just a small percentage of the entire mobile phone population. Instead we should be looking at the nokias, the lavas, micromaxx, the blackberrys and possibly the Aircel powered phones to build a cross mobile apps which allow seamless exchange of information.
Alternatively, we could be looking at high end camera phones to do the job by taking pictures of business card and actually converting/keying them into the application’s database.
Off-course my thoughts are primarily based on what I’ve read and heard a bit about these innovative products. I haven’t had the opportunity to use Poken or any other device and my opinions could change. An alternate school of thought brings the example of USB devices. Even though a mobile phone does the job of ‘USB-sticks’ but we still use both of them 🙂
What about you? Would you be using this device? Would love hear your thoughts !!