What is a Poken?
To be honest, I first encountered Poken on a business trip to Japan in December of 2009 and assumed the technology was Japanese because of its “cute” factor. At first I didn’t really understand exactly what it was until I saw it in action before my own eyes.
In essence, similar to the iPhone Bump application, Poken allows you to wirelessly exchange your contact information and social profiles with those that you meet instead of exchanging business cards. Their corporate homepage has an excellent overview of how Poken works.
A detailed description of how it works would go something like this:
A Poken is characterized by those cute plastic icons, like the one in the photo, sporting a four-fingered hand that has a sensor in the middle. When you meet someone who also has one of these devices and you would like to get their contact information, all you have to do is touch your devices together so that the exchange of information can be done. A green light would indicate that the transfer was successfully done. After this, you can connect it to your computer’s USB port to download the contact information.
Poken comes complete with its own website where people’s information can be shown like a business card. It’s like an ID picture that comes complete with the user’s image, address, phone number, email address, and of course the social networking accounts that they have.
The cheaper version of Poken, like the one in the picture, allows you to store up to 64 people at a time. An orange light will show when the memory is full. And in case your contacts change their profile information at any given point in time after you “High Four” them, these changes are automatically reflected in your database on the website.
If you are active in social media, and you go to a lot of social networking events, Poken is for you. Here’s why:
1) It’s a technical product that allows you to wirelessly exchange business card information. This means that you don’t need to carry around nor exchange business cards. It’s good for the environment and saves you money! Furthermore, the information stored on a Poken is linked to a website where all of your personal and social network information can be stored, so you can exchange a lot more information than what it is on a mere business card.
2) It allows for some “skinship” person to person engaging to help solidify the relationship. Sure, you may shake hands with someone in a business environment when you are introduced, but often at networking events there is no skinship. You don’t even do any finger touching when you exchange business cards. Poken allows you to symbolically give each other a “High Four.” It’s an experience that really can help bond a relationship, especially if you are in an environment where only a few people carry them!
3) It’s a great conversation piece at a networking event, especially if you’re an early adopter! If you end up buying a Poken, make sure you buy a strap so that you can wear it around you like a necklace. Many people are certain to come up and ask you what you’re wearing. It’s a great way to have others start
4) It’s also potentially a good personal branding device showing that you are ahead of the curve. If you’re the type, like me, who waited in line for more than 12 hours to get the iPhone4, you’re also the type that should be buying a Poken, especially if you’re involved in social media and/or network a lot.
Here is a video I took when I had someone first explain this device to me, in Japanese no less! You should get a feel for both how it is used as well as for its popularity in Japan:
If you’re looking to check out the latest, greatest, and coolest Pokens, please make sure you visit the websites of J&J Multimedia LLC, START POKEN, or even Amazon for a feel for the varied designs that exist.
With all my enthusiasm for this digital business card, I must say that there is one disappointing factor about it: Like a lot of other cool Web 2.0 technologies and products, it only has value if others at networking events also have them. Furthermore there is stiff competition from the Bump application on the iPhone, especially since Bump just announced LinkedIn integration. But for an application that is platform-agnostic and doesn’t rely on phone or WiFi signals, the time has come for everyone to start adopting this cool and social technology.