Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is a mature technology with wide business use. Essentially, it lets users extract text from an image so it can be manipulated in a word processor or database. In other words, it turns an otherwise difficult-to-use image into meaningful content. So, what are some of the more popular uses of OCR?
OCR in Business
In business, there are a myriad of potential scenarios.
Document and Form Recognition
Extracting information from a printed document or form might arguably provide the most benefit from OCR. Let’s look at one mock scenario. You need to renew a vehicle registration with your state government. The required from likely has a plethora of useful information: your name, address, vehicle identification number, the vehicle make and model and year, whether you’re an organ donor or not, and so on. If collaboration is correctly done, using OCR and databases, this single form can allow for smog check verifications in California to automatically be assigned to a vehicle. It can notify organ donation charities that you’re a donor, and so on.
This same collaborative efficiency can play out in various business scenarios. For example, HR can conveniently capture applicant information and populate their databases to save for existing or future openings. A mortgage provider can digitize all loan paperwork and collaborate to process with related service providers, such as an escrow company, insurance companies, and more.
Import Business Cards
It’s an age-old business tradition, to exchange business cards. But, people no longer catalog business cards. Computers long-ago allowed people to input a person’s business card information into their contact software. Today, it’s even easier than that. OCR software lets you snap a picture to automatically populate the business card software into your contact database.
Widely Used in Banking
If you’ve used your bank’s app to deposit a check, you’re familiar with the benefits of OCR. Today’s banking apps let you snap a picture and OCR commonly turns the check’s content into data. This allows auto-population of the deposit amount, date, payee, etc. into the bank’s database for prompt processing. Today’s ATMs also do the same thing.
There are many industries that continue to heavily rely on paperwork and healthcare is one of them. But, as more healthcare organizations continue to adopt the electronic healthcare record (EHR), OCR will play a critical role. There are insurance forms, ID cards, privacy statements, doctor’s notes, and much more that goes into each patient’s individual record.
Using OCR to extract such information from documents and forms also enables greater efficiencies. For example, a written prescription can be sent over to a pharmacy via an app that might read the prescription using OCR, saving the patient and pharmacy time.
To have to manually enter receipts from an employee’s expense report can be a time-consuming task for any organization’s accounting department. The same is true for any paper or PDF invoices they receive. OCR can add immense efficiencies for such tasks, which can easily and significantly cut processing time.
You’re at a lecture, perhaps in a classroom or trade show, where the presenter is jotting down notes on a whiteboard. You could copy what is being written word-for-word or you could just snap a picture. Or, you missed a meeting and your college took written notes. You snap a picture of the notes. Instantly, in either scenario, with OCR, you can have the notes to be used in a word processor. OCR-based apps for these scenarios happen to also be quite good at some cursive writing.
OCR in Consumer Use
More and more, there are also consumer use scenarios.
Next time you’re traveling to foreign lands, consider using a translation app such as Google Translate,TripLingo, or Microsoft Translator. Some of them will let you snap a picture of street signage or a menu and translate it for you. OCR is behind this too.
OCR in Broadcasting
The technology is even being used in broadcast television, such as noted in SportTechie.
We can find patterns in the images themselves. We can figure out ‘OK, so that’s Tiger Woods in 1997.’ We can figure that out, go through all of the footage, and find all of the clips. We can look at the broadcast transcript and use that to correlate the video clips with the time codes. We can do optical character recognition on the video so when the broadcaster put up the onscreen graphics we could actually go back and read those and interpret them as text. And that can go back as far as we want, depending on how high quality the footage itself is.
While many places have digitized the process of receipts in sales transactions, there are still some cases where you will get a printed receipt. You can digitize these receipts to better save them as records. Sometimes, you may even need to submit receipts to employers as part of an expense report. If you use OCR, you can easily recall old receipts, whether its for claiming a warranty on an item you purchased or for tax season.
The potential uses for OCR are many. Businesses have benefited for some time and now many more consumers are too. Have you experienced any of the above OCR uses? Have you experienced any other OCR uses not mentioned here that you found helpful? Share with us below.