Poken as a digital social business card for conferences?

April 17, 2009

in Networking, Tools

The Poken is a small cute electronic gadget resembling a USB key that according to the small Swiss company that created it can become your social business card.

It is based on RFID technology and it allows you to share your online social profiles like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace or instant messaging contact like MSN (much more services are added frequently through Poken’s powerful API that does not require the company to make a partnership agreement with the websites involved).

A Poken in Milan

A Poken in Milan

The Poken resembles a japanized creature with a white four-fingered hand. To connect to a friend you simply have to do a “high-four” between two Poken’s little hands. A light will blink showing the result of the connection and the data communication lasts about one second (it can hold up to 64 profiles at once inside the memory of the Poken). It even has a “discreet mode” so that you can fake a connection with people you don’t really want to share your information with.

When you connect it to your computer’s USB port, you’ll be able to sync the profiles you’ve collected on doyoupoken.com and see a timeline that allows you to track your connections with people (who was that guy I met last week at the so and so event?).

Poken is not a social network but a physical tool that allows you to connect online with people you meet in real life, bridging the gap between both worlds. Then you won’t have to manually add online those people you exchange data with.

If it were widely available, it could be a tremendous tool for networking at conferences, where you meet a lot of new people… but it’s a matter of critical mass: if few people have it you won’t enjoy the benefit of it and will have to rely on your traditional paper business cards.

I think Poken can be successful in some restricted environments (tech events, geek barcamps, etc) where many attendees might have one. Otherwise you are carrying an extra gadget that is mostly useless though cute.

Pokens are globally sold at doyoupoken.com or shops and can be bought in 12-pack (about XX USD 180 CHF) or single (about XX USD 24.90 CHF.).

In Italy I bought mine directly (and faster) at www.poken-it.com. According to Elena Franco, famous Italian blogger and social media expert that manages sells Poken in Italy:

“The fact that this is a hardware tool means that you can have different ones connected to the same person but with different contact information relative to specific functions (think of a business-Poken, friends-Poken, etc) to diversify your own contacts network. Usually, sharing your profile through the cellphone is more complex and bound to make mistakes. In the following months there should be some new tools that will make it more interesting for marketing and events activities”

Marco Massarotto with his Poken

Marco Massarotto with his Poken

Marco Massarotto, founder & CEO of the Internet PR company Hagakure says that “according o me Poken is a perfect example of how is social interaction evolving thanks to digital technologies, independently if Poken or some other similar protocol will prevail in the future. Today it is being used by early adopters but is expanding really fast”.

The creators say that although you have to carry an extra gadget in your pocket, they address better the issue of replacing the business card. The exchange of contact information could be made with existing devices like PDA or cellphones through infrared (I used to do so in the late 90’s with my Palm IIIxe) or bluetooth but no real standards have emerged to solve the hardware/OS/application fragmentation. I think that the day that most cellphones and portable devices will be connected to the internet (like in Japan) there will be a bigger chance for a multi-platform software application to emerge independently if you have an iPhone, Google Phone,  Nokia N70 or a netbook… as usual, time will tell.

Meanwhile I will continue carrying my paper business cards (together with my own Poken in another pocket).

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