Moo, a company that specializes in elaborate business cards, has announced it will sell NFC-enabled cards that can be programmed to share data wirelessly with smartphones.
The idea is kind of like encoding data in the checkered grids known as QR codes, which phone cameras can scan to extract contact information. Near-field communications (NFC) uses small chips with labyrinthine antennas that activate and transmit stored data when hit with a radio signal from a smartphone or other NFC reader.
That means, if all goes according to Moo's plan, tapping an NFC card against an NFC-equipped smartphone would transfer contact information or other data without any need for typing or scanning. Of course, many phones, including Apple's new iPhone 5, don't have NFC.
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"Starting today, any pack of business cards you buy from Moo will come with a little extra -- a free NFC-enabled business card," Moo said on its blog yesterday. The cards will come with some basic data but can be reprogrammed to share whatever people want. "Soon we'll be releasing an app for Android which will allow you to update what your card does."
The company said it is beta-testing the cards this year and will sell them in early 2013, but didn't announce prices. However, Moo said the cards would be part of its high-end Luxe business card line which, at $35 for 50 cards or $200 for 100 cards, aren't cheap.
With paper business cards, nobody has to beta-test anything, and they are easily recyclable. But NFC cards can be reprogrammed with new information whenever a person likes, Moo said. For example, an update could be used to point to new real-estate listings or an artist's latest work.
From a practical point of view, the product's appeal is limited without widespread adoption of NFC in smartphones. And once that adoption occurs -- it is common in higher-end smartphones these days -- people can just tap their phones together to exchange contact information.
But really, this isn't about practicality for the most part. When people are looking for something more than just the company logo and contact info, they're often paying for novelty items to try to get people's attention. Digitally active business cards is one way to accomplish that.