Poken electronic device takes the place of paper business cards

PokenOne of the first things I did when I was laid off as a newspaper editor a year or so ago was get some business cards printed. Nothing fancy, just my name, e-mail address, Web site and cellphone number so potential employers could find me.

Now, as I continue trying to become New Media savvy, I learn about Poken, a social business card that bills itself as a "bridge between your life online and offline."

It's a small gadget to hang around your neck or keep on a keychain. It holds a USB port and keeps a digital file of whatever information you want to share: e-mail, Web site address, Facebook page, Twitter name, LinkedIn name and info from other social networks.
When you find someone else with a Poken who you want to share information with, instead of exchanging business cards, you hold your Pokens together and they share information through an electronic transfer. It's like a high-tech handshake. The units have small hand sensors and come in either cute styles or look more practical like a typical USB.

The problem, however, may be finding someone else with one of these cute do-dads around their neck to share your contact information with.

"This product is no use if other people don't have it either," said Alan Keane, communications executive for Poken, in an interview with WalletPop.

With a cellphone, laptop and whatever else you carry around during the day, remembering to keep another electronic device on your person is something else to overload your brain with.

Poken is big in Europe and Japan, with more than 500,000 units sold since it launched a year ago, Keane said, and the push in North America started just a week ago. So maybe it's too early to tell if these will gain steam in the United States and if one is worth $19.95 ... and most importantly, if you will find others in the U.S. who re going Poken.

The company's early goal in North America is to get small groups of people to adapt it.

"Poken is building small communities of people in the U.S. to adopt Poken as a new means of exchanging information and in turn these communities will spread the good word of Poken and eventually we hope that Poken will be the preferred way of exchanging contact and social networking information," Keane wrote in an e-mail exchange.

For people 15 to 25 years old, Poken is appealing as an accessory, whereas people over 25 typically use it for business contacts, Keane said.

At least they're easy to use. After registering at poken.com, you insert it into the USB drive on your computer and sync all of the Poken colleagues you met.

I'm going to try one out and see how long it takes to run into someone with it. After all, if social media gurus are encouraging people to give up their business cards, I might as well give it a try.

As Keane pointed out, Poken is becoming common at business conferences where companies can give them out to employees as a fun way to make contacts and keep in touch.

The days of asking for a paper and pen to write someone's phone number may be over. It's kind of sad to see it disappear. Asking a girl "Do you Poken?" however, may result in a slap in the face that may lead many high school boys back to pen and paper.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at
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