Silicon Beach: Business Cards Are So 2008

Tweetups are great for social networking, but what's not great is the business card clutter the next morning. At that point, you're possibly hung over, sifting through card after card, and you don't know who in hell was who. Then you think: What's the point if I'm just going to throw the card away and DM you on Twitter, anyway?

Enter Poken, the brainchild of a company headquartered in Switzerland. This cute little USB looks like a Japanese cartoon character. You wear it around your neck like a lanyard, minus the typical name badge. A new model, the Poken Pulse, looks like a USB stick and features 2 GB of storage space.

Poken plays with the idea of a token but invariably calls to mind a Facebook poke. Each of the cartoonish Pokens has four fingers you press against someone else's to make contact. A magnetic pulse and glowing green light lets both of you know you've successfully exchanged the same kind of information you'd normally find on a business card, plus more.

It's kind of like that sex scene from Barbarella when the high-five puts both partners in space-age ecstasy, except that the Poken "high-four" is perfectly appropriate in public. For power networkers, this kind of social technology could be potentially orgasmic -- just think of the time saved for the more important things in life.

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The process is pretty easy and makes sense. Get a Poken, log on, and create a profile. Poken others in real life, insert the device into a USB port, and manage your contacts online at Doyoupoken.com.

The problem is that not enough people have Pokens or similar gadgets yet. But as folks get used to this type of digital information exchange, no doubt the devices will change the face of networking in the future.

Juliet Keane and Vanessa Swanepoel are sisters who resell Pokens at Pokengirl.com, based in Broward County. Both gals have backgrounds in technology. Earlier this year, they were intrigued by Poken when they saw an exhibit at SXSWi, the annual technology and social-media gathering in Austin, Texas. They wanted to go into business together, and selling Pokens seemed like a good fit.

"It's not meant to be another social-networking site," Vanessa says over the phone. "But it is meant to manage all the contacts you meet out there in real life. When you log in to Poken's site, you'll have a timeline with contact cards. You can keep them or discard them. If you ever change anything on your contact card, everything gets refreshed."

iPhone's BUMP application works similarly, but only from iPhone to iPhone. Also, it has an unfortunate name. Seriously, iPhones are sleek, but who wants to bump uglies? And besides, you never know what kind of phones people have until they whip them out.

"It's an icebreaker and takes the edge off networking," Vanessa says. "It's the new handshake. Besides, putting a face to the name is nice. If you meet a bunch of people in the same evening, you can recognize them the next day."

And this is true, especially if you've had one too many. Just think of the applications here -- fetish parties or speed dating? Well, in that case, sometimes there are people you don't want to remember.

Get to know more about Poken this Tuesday, September 29, at a Boynton Beach tweetup or follow the sisters on Twitter (@pokengirl). Pokens retail for $19.95 and $34.95, depending on the model, at Pokengirl.com.

Note: This is not a paid endorsement; yours truly does not own a Poken, but has seen the device in action and as always, loves it when technology is fun and makes life easier.


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