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Face-to-face social networking? Nticing

Finally, we may be seeing the end of the business card.

I always forget to bring my business cards to the events and conferences I attend. On the rare occasion I do remember to grab a small handful from my desk drawer, actually handing them out seems … so out of date. If I don’t even like carrying my own cards around, why should I expect someone else to want it? They smudge, they wrinkle (who wants to hand out a finger-printed and bent, tiny white card?) and they’re a bit of a hassle.

Plus, how many do they ship you in a box? A million? Who actually goes through all those? And information changes, you need to get another million shipped out to you and before you know it, you’re sitting on 5 million crinkled-up cards that no one (including you) actually wants.

When I attended the MIT EmTech Conference this week, I remembered to bring along my necessary (professional contact) evil. To my surprise, when I registered I did not get the usual name card on a promotional lanyard – I was handed what looked like a remote control (on a lanyard). When turned up to face me, it vibrated and beeped to life – displaying a brightly lit options screen and introducing itself as an nTAG.

Slightly bulky but surprisingly light, the nTag is built around the world’s first interactive name badge and provides a communication solution for the events and meetings industry. According to the site, the nTag (created in 2004 by Rick Borovoy and George Eberstadt) “pioneered face-to-face social networking solutions via wearable technology.”

Equipped with an electronic agenda, a messaging system, event information, your personal profile and contact information, and a way to wirelessly share this information nTAG to nTAG, you can practically say goodbye to your registration packet and business cards. And those “hello my name is” stickers? Never again. When you get within conversation-distance of someone wearing the nTAG, his name flashes up on your screen with the option to add as a contact.

On top of all that, the reusable devices eliminate all the waste (paper and time) of events packets.

All in all, the nTAG was useful and fun. I didn’t have to hand out a single business card (even though I’m dying to get rid of them) and I could update my profile and check out my contacts during the … umm … slower presentations.

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Old business cards are great for restaurant/store fishbowl drawings. When sharing contact information with people now, I just "beam them" via PDA. That way, all my contacts are updated immediately. And, when someone hands me that tiny piece of paper, I simply enter all the pertinent info into a quick contact, save it, and hand back the card or pass it on to someone else in the room. That way, I get to pick and choose with whom I'll share my "private" data.