August 13, 2022

Intelligent Data Capture or OCR? How to make the right choice for your business.

By Scott Brewster

Efficiency is the name of the game in the modern world. Whatever your sector, the push is on to find better ways to manage data, processes and resources.

As data becomes more valuable, businesses are looking for ways to limit manual data entry and speed up processes. It’s no surprise that data capture has been a focus for many years now, ever since the emergence of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) last century.

Since the first person converted text into telegraph code, OCR has given businesses a way to scan paper documents into non-physical formats. With the move into the digital age, OCR has done the heavy lifting in digitising paper documents. However, with technology growing at exponential speed, the limitations of OCR are becoming much clearer.

With 48% of companies now using data analysis, machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) tools to address data quality issues, modern alternatives to OCR, such as Intelligent Data Capture (IDC) are quickly emerging.

Does that mean it’s time to jump from OCR to IDC? Before making up your mind, it’s a good idea to look at both technologies in more detail to see which offers the best deal for your organisation.

Overview of OCR

Converting printed and physical documents into machine-readable texts, OCR extracts data from scanned papers, image-only pdfs, and camera images. The technology singles out letters on the image, places them into words and then puts the words into sentences, capturing key information quickly into digital form.

Invented by physicist Emanuel Goldberg in 1914, the first OCR machine read characters and converted them into telegraph code. By the following decade, Goldberg had created the first electronic document retrieval system. Fast forward 50 years and Ray Kurzweil took the technology further, with software that could recognise text printed in virtually any font.

With the rise of computing in the 1990s, OCR was adopted by more and more businesses to quickly capture data from templates and forms and convert them into machine-readable texts. The result? OCR is now valued at USD 8.93 billion annually and expected to keep growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.4% through to 2030.

Advantages of OCR

  • Provides information that can be readable with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Fast processing means that large quantities of text can be input quickly.
  • Transfers paper forms into electronic versions that are easy to store or email.
  • Cheaper and faster alternative to manual data entry or physical document processing.
  • Advanced versions can recreate tables and columns and even produce sites.

Disadvantages of OCR

  • Works best with printed text but struggles with handwriting.
  • Expensive to set up, with significant software and hardware costs.
  • Data quality is linked to image clarity - low-quality images are hard to capture.
  • All documents require quality checking, with issues needing manual correction.
  • Not worthwhile for documents with small amounts of text.

Overview of IDC

IDC emerged in the early 2000s. Building on the strengths of OCR, IDC harnesses the older technology to convert an image of text into readable text. Going further, IDC uses AI, ML and deep learning to capture, classify and extract all relevant data. This data is then automatically fed into workflows for further processing.

Unlike OCR, IDC can capture semi-structured, unstructured and complex documents, including handwriting. IDC not only recognises and captures data - but it also extracts context from the content and can automatically feed it into workflows.

By combining OCR with machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning technologies, Intelligent Data Capture can recognise and capture content from structured and unstructured data while extracting the context for fully automated document processing.

Advantages of IDC

  • Frees up human resources to perform other critical business tasks.
  • Provides more context for captured data to facilitate downstream action.
  • Allows remote and geographically separated employees to access business-critical data.
  • Enables workflow automation, routing content quickly and correctly across the business.
  • Safeguards security, with data only accessible by authorised individuals.
  • Creates an audit trail to assist in compliance, governance and retention obligations.

Disadvantages of IDC

  • Investment in software and equipment is required to get started but the price point is now within reach of most businesses.
  • Businesses with significant paper records requiring digitisation benefit most.
  • Access to multiple technologies (e.g. OCR, AI, ML and deep learning) is needed, but IDC specialists can deliver an all-in-one solution for you.

Legacy OCR versus automated IDC

OCR technology has helped countless businesses around the world to convert paper documents into scanned images. However, there are two significant limitations to this technology:

  • OCR is based on a template and formatted to certain rules. This means it struggles to read and decipher unstructured data, like handwriting.
  • OCR cannot extract any context from the content. This means it can’t interpret data or automatically classify it, preventing automated end-to-end processes.

As businesses look to streamline more core processes, these limitations could prevent further growth. The inability of OCR to read and decipher unstructured data, as well as extract meaningful context, means your business could be left behind in the race to leverage more advanced technologies and unlock greater efficiency.

On the other hand, Intelligent Data Capture offers a path toward automated document processing. It takes OCR and supercharges it, drawing on AI, ML and deep learning to read, extract and make sense of structured and unstructured data.

Where legacy OCR delivers high exception rates and relies on significant manual intervention during document processing, IDC has the power to capture more accurate data while providing more context. This paves the way for end-to-end automation, deeper insights and a better client experience.

IDC is clearly the smart choice. But, if you’ve invested in an OCR system, you won’t want to throw all that money away. Luckily, there’s a way to take advantage of IDC without rebuilding your entire system.

Why you don’t have to choose between OCR or IDC

Moving from legacy OCR to a more advanced IDC solution doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your existing systems. Building on your current tech stack, Umlaut harnesses the power of Hyperscience to improve data extraction, validation and exceptions management within your existing legacy OCR system.

Choosing this hybrid approach not only avoids the prospect of expensive hardware purchase and installation. It also removes the need for significant downtime during the transition, allowing you to leverage the expertise of your IT team and help maximise your technology investment.

Incorporating IDC into your existing legacy OCR is the smart choice in a cut-throat business world. This approach allows you to take advantage of the latest technology without bearing the cost, inconvenience and delays of a major IT upgrade.

Enhance your existing systems with Hyperscience and Umlaut

Umlaut are leaders in streamlining processes for finance and insurance firms. We build on your current technology stack to deliver seamlessly integrated solutions to unlock a range of time and cost savings for your business.

Harnessing the powerful Hyperscience platform, we enhance legacy OCR systems with an IDC upgrade that delivers:

  • customisable output accuracy levels
  • support for multiple document types
  • document classification & separation
  • RPA integrations
  • accurate data extraction from poor-quality documents without image cleanup
  • machine learning to improve the entire dataset
  • dynamic thresholding for human review
  • quality assurance mechanism.

Leveraging the power of AI, ML and deep learning, the Hyperscience platform connects the dots for your business, taking document processing to the next level.

Want to learn more about intelligent data capture for your finance or insurance firm?

The experienced team at Umlaut is ready to lead the way. Book a demo to see how our partnership with Hyperscience can streamline and transform the way you do business.

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