Passbook and iBeacon for a 21st Century Business Card

I’ll be in San Francisco during WWDC next week (though without a ticket). This is the only time of year I ever think about business cards, and this year I decided that paper business cards suck and it was time to do something cooler.

Instead I’ll have an electronic card distributed via Passbook. Electronic cards are hardly a new idea but (on iOS) they usually depend on both people already having the business card app. With one of those I can’t give you my card unless you already have the app or I can convince you to download it. It’s the dark side of the network effect. Using Passbook nicely sidesteps this because anyone using an iPhone already has the app (people who don’t use an iPhone can have a paper card to stick into their horse’s saddle and peruse by the light of their oil lamps later on).

Being in Passbook means I can do something cool that’s not possible otherwise– I can make the card iBeacon-aware. During WWDC I’ll be carrying an iBeacon. If you have my card on your phone, the card will pop up on the phone’s lock screen when I’m nearby. Want to find me? Get my card and your phone will help. The iBeacon I’m using is a Particle from KS Technologies, which I’ll be glad to show off.

A couple of other things I did to try and make the process as cool as possible:

  • There’s a bar code on the card which encodes the card’s URL. Passbook can scan this code (use the “Scan Code” button in the top right corner) and download the pass. That means I can pass the card to people by having them scan the code from my phone. Scanning isn’t a fantastic experience but it beats the hell out of trying to convince them to download some third party business card app. If you have an iPhone running iOS 7+ handy, you can scan the code right off of the image at right to get the card.

  • The links on the back of the card are all live (at least they are when you open the card in, Apple for some reason doesn’t enable them from the lock screen). If you want to send me a text message or email, the link is there. No need to retype this stuff or even copy/paste it, just tap once.

  • One of the backside links downloads vCard that includes all of the information in the pass. Rather than clutter up Passbook with my card, you can download the contact info and automatically add it to your contacts list.

Unfortunately there’s a known bug in iOS 7.1 where iPhones lose their ability to detect iBeacons until they’re restarted. That’s unfortunate but, then again, next week is WWDC. With any luck we’ll have an update that fixes this in a few days.