Traditional content capture in the enterprise used to consist of digitizing paper-based documents into images by scanning them and saving them to storage. While this was a step in the right direction for archiving back then, it’s still very limiting. Whether paper or a JPEG file, the content was essentially locked in. One could only view it. Today, we’ve progressed to be able to extract usable information from an image in a way you can also manipulate. We’re also able to capture documents from anywhere at any time. We’re not locked into a flatbed scanner on a tabletop as the only means. But, what does it mean to be able to do mobile content capture?
There are a few ways today to accomplish mobile content capture. Usually it starts with a portable device that can capture an image. Thus, smartphones and tablets are popular devices to use. Laptops (especially those that can convert to tablets) can also be used. With a flatbed scanner, it would pass a light beam across the document to capture it. With a smartphone, tablet or laptop, a built-in camera is used to snap a picture of the document.
One of the most popular mobile capture applications nowadays is for online banking, specifically for depositing check. Most of us have done this. You get a check from someone and need to deposit it. Saving yourself a trip to the bank, you use your smartphone and the bank’s app. Taking a picture of the front and back of the check is practically all that’s needed. Your bank mostly takes care of the rest, including figuring out the deposit amount. This brings up an enabling technology that is at the heart of why mobile content capture is booming: optical character recognition (OCR).
A Bit About OCR
Here is part of the definition from Wikipedia:
OCR is the mechanical or electronic conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text, whether from a scanned document, a photo of a document, a scene-photo (for example the text on signs and billboards in a landscape photo) or from subtitle text superimposed on an image (for example from a television broadcast). It is widely used as a form of information entry from printed paper data records, whether passport documents, invoices, bank statements, computerised receipts, business cards, mail, printouts of static-data, or any suitable documentation. It is a common method of digitising printed texts so that they can be electronically edited, searched, stored more compactly, displayed on-line, and used in machine processes such as cognitive computing, machine translation, (extracted) text-to-speech, key data and text mining. OCR is a field of research in pattern recognition, artificial intelligence and computer vision.
In quick summation, OCR extracts text that is part of an image to be converted into content that can be manipulated in a word-processing or other application. Now that image that used to only be able to be seen has more serious business implications. Being able to convert the content of an image transforms industries. So, your smartphone or tablet is now a powerful content capture tool for a variety of applications.
The applications are almost limitless and go well beyond online banking. For example, in accounting you can use it to digitize receipts. Now you can tag data in a receipt to easily associate and call up relevant data. So, for example, you can now see how much was spent with a particular vendor, or how much sale tax you paid over a period of time, or even what items you bought the most or the least. The ability to extract text from images to make it useful is already being used across whole industries: finance, healthcare, government and more.
With the capability to capture content from anywhere at any time also comes the ability to conveniently access it from practically any device at any time. This has lead to workforce productivity gains. In fact, one survey found approximately 80% percent of the global workforce (around 3 billion) is performing physical or deskless work daily. Mobile devices are at the heart of this revolution and content capture and access is essential for it to prosper.
Employees today use three or more devices to perform their work during an average day. There are plenty of solutions available to help enterprises take advantage of mobile content capture. Another technology to consider in mobile capture is the use of barcodes. Portable devices have given barcode technology a strong resurgence in their use.
Summing It Up
The days of scanning an image just for storing it or seeing it are long gone. Today, technologies exist to capture content from an image and convert it to meaningful and useful information. It has transformed efficiencies in data use. Now, smartphones and tablets have again transformed content capture. Mobile content capture has led to transformative workforces that are capable of productivity like we’ve never seen before.
At the heart of these changes is the ability to convert captured content via technologies such as OCR and barcodes. Whole industries, such as finance, government and healthcare, understand how helpful this can be and have big plans to make sure they’re a part of it too.