New handwriting recognition study compares usage and performance of OCR, ICR and manual data entry

April 24, 2013 by Andrea Spillmann

Companies still collect much of their critical information via pen and paper, yet they ultimately need this information to be available in their digital systems. How much do companies rely on this handwritten data, and how do they then convert it to the digital data they ultimately need? This recent study by the Association for Information and Image Management  (AIIM) gives the answers:

Companies rely on handwritten data...


Of the companies surveyed for the study,  50% identified handwritten information as important to their business processes and a full 25% identified it as playing a key role for them. This data could be generated internally, through employee evaluations, culture surveys, site inspections, invoices, walk sheets, etc. It could also come from current or potential clients, in the form of newsletter signup sheets, registration forms, raffle tickets, satisfaction surveys, comment cards, mail-orders forms, purchase orders, and even signed contracts. 

...But they struggle to convert handwriting to digital data

data extraction

While companies rely on handwriting to collect data, they need that data entered into their computerized systems quickly and accurately. How are they bridging the paper and digital worlds? The reality is that most companies live with a painful disconnect between their data collection methods and digital data needs. More than half of those surveyed enter the data by hand, while another third rely on OCR, and another 12% use ICR (intelligent character recognition). Before Captricity, there really were no other options available.

Manual Entry, OCR & ICR are Woefully Inadequate:

Unfortunately, all three options - OCR, ICR, and manual entry - come with significant trade-offs in terms of flexibility, turnaround time, and/or quality.

  • All of us at some point have dealt with manual data entry. It’s slow, often expensive, not always accurate, and can lead to significant lag times in getting your data. Many companies tell us they have backlogs of months or even years that their manual data entry staff just have not been able to deal with.

  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) converts images of text into a digital, machine-readable format. While it tends to work adequately for well-scanned and printed text, it is extremely inaccurate for handwriting, and yields only a "bag of text", not structured data. In other words, if you start with a scanned, typed form, OCR will give you a .txt file, not a data set. And if you start with a form filled in by hand, OCR will give you very little useful data at all.

  • ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) was created to more accurately read handwriting. If you have ever filled out a driver’s license application or customs form, you’re already familiar with the highly-regulated ICR-ready forms, where boxes or "combs" (small vertical lines) separate each letter. While this system can read hand-printed text a bit better, it's as limiting as a Scantron bubblesheet is to teachers who want to ask open-ended questions. ICR makes free-form text and short answers almost impossible. Furthermore, setting up ICR-compatible forms takes time and expertise, requiring significant up-front investment. For the vast majority of those organizations that rely on handwritten data, this is not a practical solution.  They are in a tough spot.

Enter Captricity for REAL handwriting recognition.

Our unique data capture technology was created specifically to turn any handwritten form, no matter the format, into digital data quickly and accurately. Multiple-choice, numerical response, likert scale, short answers and long answers are no problem! There is minimal set-up and no software to install.  Take your completed forms, scan or photograph them, and upload the images to Captricity. Our special mix of computer algorithms and human intelligence extracts data faster than manual re-keying and more accurately than OCR, with more flexibility than ICR.

Find out more

Captricity is already helping companies turn valuable handwriting into the digital data. Some companies send us a steady stream of invoices that they need fed into Salesforce, others send us user satisfaction surveys or event reports, while still others rely on Captricity to capture exam scores or survey data. Read more about how they’re using Captricity (and what they say). What type of data does your organization rely on, and how are you collecting it? If you fall into that 50% of companies for whom handwritten data is valuable but hard to manage, we are here to help. Try Captricity now (for free) or contact us to discuss more!

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