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Integrating OCR & Capture Technology in Mobile Devices

3 Mar, 2011 By: Dean Tang, CEO, ABBYY, ABBYY imageSource

Integrating OCR & Capture Technology in Mobile Devices

What’s the value-add?  That is the most common question from manufacturers,
dealers, resellers, distributors, and vendors when they investigate Optical
Character Recognition (OCR). The answer is that there is a ton of value --
especially when the technology is used alongside mobile devices. After all,
we’re in an age where mobility is king. We must look at mobile OCR as a natural
extension of our information processing infrastructure and truly integrate the
technology into our businesses.

The modern mobile phone has evolved from a bulky single function device that
couldn’t fit into our back pocket, to a small 3G or 4G enabled device with
high-speed internet, SMS messaging, touch screens, and a plethora of other
applications and capabilities. Back in the 1990’s, mobile phones were used
strictly to make and receive telephone calls.  However, over the past two
decades, very few industries have seen the level of innovation and change that
the mobile phone market has. Today, high end mobile phones, referred to as
Smartphones or even Super Phones, are not just telephones, but personal
organizers, e-mail gateways and  gaming devices. They come equipped with a
multitude of other features and capabilities like Internet connectivity,
Bluetooth, MP3 playback and GPS location.

Today’s smartphones feature large, highly responsive touch screens, and
enhanced cameras are becoming the norm. Combined with the smartphones’ large
screens, HD capabilities and connectivity, these advanced, built-in cameras are
perfect for mobile data capture due to their high mega pixel counts and optical
zoom. In fact, iSuppli expects digital camera sales to peak by 2014, and then
begin a steady decline in favor of camera phones. Fueling this prediction was
the research firm’s finding that consumers have become content using their
camera phones. They enjoy the flexibility and on-demand sharing of images,
leaving them to discard traditional digital cameras.

The cameras found on smartphones have become tools that can easily digitize
and convert data into useful information anywhere, anytime, and in any language.
Sound like a tall order? By combining OCR with today’s sophisticated smartphone,
you can capture actual data from images and documents no matter where you are.
This enhances workplace functions by simplifying data extraction and expediting
services. So what does this mean for you, the manufacturers, dealers, resellers,
distributors, and vendors of imaging products?

Complimentary Extensions

When looking to create applications that leverage mobile OCR, it is important to
understand that the applications are not a replacement to already established
document processing software or hardware. Instead, they are complimentary. They
extend the data processing environment to the furthest reaches of the
organization. This means developers must design applications to work alongside
printers, copiers and scanners for mobile accessibility. There is huge market
potential to develop mobile applications that allow the industry and resellers
to port services to mobile platforms. Mobile OCR SDKs allow developers to
integrate highly accurate OCR technologies into applications easily and cost
effectively. Mobile OCR applications can be developed to allow users to quickly
transform mobile photographs of documents, notes, newspaper clippings, business
cards, timetables and other text into data that can be easily stored, shared or
exported directly to other office hardware and software.

Let’s say we develop a mobile application that directly communicates with a
finance department’s expense report system and in-office printer. While away on
a business trip, the mobile user can capture images of their receipts on
location, so they don’t have to worry about saving or losing them while away
from the office. The images can be directly downloaded to an expense report, and
OCR will properly fill out the form within identified fields. The report can be
printed and processed by the finance department before the traveler even returns
to work. In this case, as in others, mobile OCR technology does not replace the
office system, it works alongside it to enhance the process.

Other mobile applications we see being developed by 3rd party vendors include
the use of mobile OCR for shipping documents and tracking delivery confirmation
or for capturing security documents such as passports, license plates and
driver’s licenses. There are also applications that have been developed for
e-banking, bill payment, and check deposit. We are even beginning to see mobile
ticket authorization for movies, concerts, airlines and trains. The list goes on
and on.

Various Devices

Integration of mobile OCR and data capture doesn’t stop with cameras and
smartphones. The technology can be implemented into portable scanners, business
card scanners, scanning pens, scanning translators and other devices. The high
quality of text recognition and low memory requirements can be built into
various devices allowing them to recognize scanned text and process documents.

As techniques for improved data capture accuracy are advanced, and OCR is
integrated into more mobile devices, the market for mobile capture applications
is bound to grow exponentially. In 2009, IDC reported that the document capture
market will grow at a rate of six percent. In 2010 Harvey Spencer Associates
(HAS) reported worldwide document capture market will continue to grow from $2
billion in 2009 to $3 billion in 2013. Both HSA and Forrester Research predict
that data capture market growth will be driven by mobility, easy-to-use
interfaces, and integration with familiar applications.

Mobile capture can be used as a marketing tool to better communicate with end
users or as a workgroup solution where individuals can start the data capture
process from their smartphone. Nearly every organization can use mobile OCR to
address the challenge of capturing information accurately and swiftly. Extending
data capture into complementary mobile applications creates an environment that
benefits the end user and ultimately helps you meet customer needs.

Dean Tang will speak at ITEX on March 22, 2011 at 11 a.m. at the Walter E.
Washington Convention Center in D.C. His document solutions session will address
the integration of OCR and capture technologies into mobile devices, as well as
how the technology is becoming an extension of scanners, fax machines,
photocopy. Visit
for more info.

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