The world’s largest scanning device event ever – Dreamforce 2012

If you had to select from the list below what the world’s largest gathering of scanning technology would be, what would be your guess?

    1. The AIIM conference
    2. The ARMA conference
    3. The CES tradeshow
    4. The Macworld conference
    5. None of the above

The answer is not as obvious as most of us would have guessed such as the AIIM conference.  After all, AIIM is known as a leading organization in ‘image management’ so of course this would be the world’s largest collection of scanning devices ever.  The correct answer is “None of the above”.  I would strongly argue, and have plenty of evidence, that’s recent Dreamforce 2012 conference in San Francisco was by far-and-away the largest collection of scanning technology to ever be assembled at one conference.  Specifically I’m referring to the number of camera-enabled devices at this conference and creating images from smart phones instead of document feed paper scanners.  There were 90,000 registered attendees and each attendee probably averaged two devices whether they were iPhone’s, Andriod’s, iPads, Galaxy’s or whatever.  These devices were in abundance, that’s for sure!

Therefore, conservative estimates of around 180,000 camera-enabled mobile devices plus all the devices in the vendor’s booths themselves probably puts the number of “capture” devices at around 200,000!  This is a remarkable opportunity to leverage the fact that most of the devices these days include high-quality cameras.


 Of course I’m not talking about large production-type scanners typically seen at the annual AIIM conference where you would capture a stack of 100 or 500 pages at a single time, for example.  I’m talking about ‘transactional’ capture where the use case is to capture one, or just a few, documents at a time.


Education and awareness – Old habits die hard

Even with all these devices readily available to all attendees, and all this revolutionary software on display I witnessed utter failure, not because any of these people or technologies were bad, but because people were not aware of the incredible advances in Mobile Data Capture.  Let me clearly explain what I mean by utter failure with specific examples.


1.  Mobile Data Capture Use Case # 1:  Business Card with recognition on device

First, I had several people hand me their business cards.  Why?  Why not just take a picture of the card and automatically put in to Salesforce as a contact?  Yes, the technology does exist!


2.  Mobile Data Capture Use Case # 2:  Marketing materials with recognition hosted

The next utter failure was when I was handed some marketing materials.  What typically happens with these items?  That’s right; they often get filed right into the circular file cabinet (a.k.a. trash bin) to never be found again.  Why not just snap a photo with a smart phone and have the document made into a fully Searchable PDF image and then stored in some system?  Then I can quickly, and easily, retrieve it in the future based on some keyword related to the material that I was looking for.  This functionality is not only very useful for retrieval purposes but also general organizational purposes.  For example, at a typical tradeshow you will meet many people and get introduced to new companies that you probably hadn’t known of before.  In these cases you will most likely only remember something vague about the company, person and/or product but not the actual name of the person, company or product.  Therefore, you can easily search for a term such as “consulting” to retrieve all the documents with that particular word contained in them.


3.  Mobile Capture Use Case # 3:  Batching and document collections

Then one of the last utter failures I would like to share is a personal story but it just goes to illustrate that capture from mobile devices is not top-of-mind like it should be because the technology is so new.  Like most of us returning to our offices after a business trip, we will have acquired various documents during our travels such as meal receipts, contracts or just environmental photos to save and share with our fellow colleagues.  While the types of documents themselves could be vastly different, the collection of these documents will most likely have something similar such as the location or name of the event.  In my case the similarity between these documents was ‘Dreamforce 2012’.  So what I did was whip out my handy iPhone and snapped several photos at once to create a collection of documents.  This was a very different user experience that I was used to where I would take a picture of one image, and then uploaded.  Then take a picture of a second image, then uploaded, and repeat the process until I was finished.  This was simply a horrible experience and I would delay getting this information saved electronically because I dreaded the time wasted doing this activity.  With the ability to capture many images at once, it allowed me to get these images uploaded quickly without much effort at all.  Next, since the documents were different sizes, I used the auto crop feature to automatically resize the images to the proper size.  Then, to make my stored images really smart I added ‘tags’ so that I can type a search term such as ‘biz card’ and find all the business cards stored on my phone.  I then had the option to send to a wide variety of popular cloud storage destinations, send via e-mail or even print.


Batch capture

Capture several items at once instead of one at a time.  Greatly saves time when gathering a collection of related images.

Enhance Image

Auto binarization, auto cropping, page rotation and other useful features to create excellent image quality.


Easily add tags, or metadata, to each image to make them searchable or better organized.  Custom tags can be added at anytime.

Batch Collections

Your smart phone can now be a simple version of a mobile document management system with the ability to save collections of images on the phone itself.


So the question begs, with this great capture technology literally at people’s fingertips why is it that we seem so naïve about this amazing technology?  I think there probably are several viable reasons including, but not limited, to the following:

    • Awareness that this type of technology exists in the first place.  More education is needed.
    • As a society we are on “mobile application overload” so we have a difficult time weeding through all the available applications and try and find the most useful ones.  There’s an app for that!
    • We are still in the early days of mobile application development.  Companies rush to get an application to market first, then will gradually add business productivity capability such as mobile data capture.
    • Use case scenarios need to be clearly defined and return on investment needs to definitively articulated.


Therefore if, as an industry, if we can provide more overall education and bring awareness to this type of technology, then the greater likelihood there is that everyone can benefit from the tremendous potential of Mobile Capture.  When we truly consider all the great possibilities of using mobile devices to contribute content, instead of just purely information consumption, then we can absolutely achieve the next major milestone in achieving the ultimate in business efficiency.

Fujitsu fi-6010N network scanner Job Menus

This was a video that I wrote the script and narrated about the Fujitsu fi-6010N network scanner Job Menu functionality.  This was a feature that we incorporated into the device after the initial product launch based directly on customer feedback.  This was a very popular feature because it allowed for an easy level of customization on the touch screen.  The screens could be configured based on user login credentials.  This customization could be on the device itself, or it could be configured on the Central Administration Server and then pushed out to all the scanners on a network.

Capture … with Confidence

Prelude:  I’ve included many screen prints in this post and there is a lot of detail that may be interesting to you.  Click the thumbnail images for a larger view.

I wrote a story the other day about Frankie-the-Frustrated worker and his frustration dealing with the lack of automatic data entry in his daily work activities.  In Frankie’s case I admittedly way over simplified the solution to illustrate the point that technology such as advanced data capture is a reality, yet can still be easy to use.  In other words, we don’t have to sacrifice automation for a pleasant user experience or vice-versa.  One of the nice AIIM commenter’s on the story rightfully pointed that Frankie would soon be known as Frankie-the-FUDer due to the fact without the all-important “data verification and/or validation” step in the process.  Frankie would soon be Feared because of the Uncertainty, as well as, Doubted in the accuracy of data that he was contributing to his organizations business systems.  This made me consider that maybe many of us haven’t seen advanced capture software capabilities in action or even know what sort of capabilities are possible with modern technology.  Therefore, for this reason, I would like to provide a bit of a deeper drive into what makes Data Capture solutions highly effective and give you very specific details, with many screen prints, so that hopefully we can help Frankie to become Frankie-the-Fabulous worker that he desires to be.

There are several factors that contribute to a successful document capture solution.   While each vendor’s exact terminology might vary a bit, the truth of the matter is that the ‘process’ of data capture is quite similar.  If you carefully consider each step and how it can contribute to improving data accuracy and quality, you will recognize that there is quite a lot of moving parts to make this “magic” happen.  The key point I would absolutely like to stress before this deeper drive into technology is this; so much of this process can be done automatically which is totally transparent to the user.  I would like to detail a few techniques so that we can be aware of the technology available to make the user experience the best it can be.  Once the system is configured for production then all the user has to do is basically capture images and verify data which translates directly into a very easy and simple experience for the users themselves.


The logic of Automatic Data Capture

The very first thing to do when considering designing an effective Data Capture solution has nothing to do with the technology itself.  An absolute, must-do, critical step that you will hear from all the experienced professionals in the capture business is to gather as many document samples as you possibly can.  Gather all the different types of documents you wish to capture such as invoices, agreements, surveys or whatever, but gather as much volume and as many varieties as you can.  Also, do not just gather high quality original documents that someone might have just printed on a pristine piece of paper from the laser printer in the office.  Gather the ones that that have been in filing cabinets for years and ones that have coffee stains with wrinkles.  The idea is that you want documents that are going to represent a true production Data Capture environment.


Initial document analysis and index fields

After gathering as many documents as you can then the first step in configuring the Data Capture solution is to import the sample documents.  Scan them at 300 dots per inch (300 dpi) which is the optimal output resolution for automatic recognition accuracy.  Next, you will want to run an initial document analysis on your documents.  In this analysis the software will make its best guess on the structure of the documents.  You should not expect that this analysis will be absolutely perfect but in many cases this step can do a good portion on settings up your solution that typically took a lot of time and effort.  As seen in the screen print below (click the image to zoom) the software can automatically detect form fields such as “First and last name” and draws an extraction zone around this particular area.  The software can also detect Groups such as the “Company Business” and automatically create index fields for all the available options in this group (i.e. “IT, Healthcare, Education”, etc.)  So after the initial pass you will want to check each field and apply some logic to improve the accuracy of the data captured and there are many useful techniques as you will see below.

1_index fields_small

Useful tips and tricks to improve data capture accuracy

2_types of documents properties


From the General tab in your data capture application you can provide a useful field name for each individual field you wish to extract data. This configuration tab will allow you to decide such basic functionality such as if the field is Read Only or Cannot be blank.  Also, you can decide whether to Export field value because sometimes you might wish to recognize some information such as a line item amount but do not wish to export the line item, just overall total amount.  The most commonly used functionality is enabled by default.

4_data typeData Type

The Data Type configuration is an extremely valuable function to allow for field-level recognition accuracy.  For example, if the field is a Number only field then you can enforce the recognition to only output numbers.  Or if the field was an Amount of Money then you can enforce an output in the form of an amount.  You can also add custom dictionaries and other useful validation rules



This is the area were you would fine-tune character level accuracy.  In the Recognition tab you can select which type of recognition you wish to perform on a certain field whether it might be Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) for handwritten text, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for machine printed text or even the font type.  The more information that is known about your documents, and if you can apply that logic to your capture system, will make the overall accuracy much greater.


While pure processing speed of getting images captured and recognized is important, the importance of uploading accurate data is often the most important consideration in a data capture solution.  So, therefore in an effective data capture solution there is a “verification” step in the process where you can set certain character confidence thresholds.  If these thresholds are not met then a human will view and/or correct the data, if needed.


This is one of the most critical-steps in the data capture process.  With Rules configuration options, this is where the Data Capture system starts to use logic, and lookups into other systems, to compare data fields for any contradictions in the data captured.  For example, just imagine if a Social Security Number was captured incorrectly by one digit.  The system can do a Database Check and look into a different system to check the SSN based on a different field such as Mailing Address.  In this case if there was a mis-match then the user can easily and quickly correct the data before sending to the back-end repository.  Another great example is to read line item amounts from an invoice and then use the Check Sum option to validate that the total amount is equal to all the line items combined.  This is incredibly effective to catch any potential errors BEFORE they are committed to a system.

8_custom action

Custom Action

When standard capabilities or functions just aren’t enough, or if your business process dictates customization, there are options to incorporate custom scripts.  User scripts are custom scripting rule triggered by the user when viewing a field during field verification or in the document editor. The script is triggered by clicking  to the right of the field value.  To make the creation or modification of the scripts simple, there is a script editor available directly in the data capture configuration interface.

Putting it all together (Data Capture from the User Perspective)

9_acquire imageNow that we’ve taken a look at a few of the ways to improve the quality of data in your Data Capture solution, hopefully you can have a greater appreciation for how all the moving parts can make this type of system highly accurate.  These configurations are typically setup by system administrators or persons with specialized training.  However, what really drives adoption of a particular technology for mass appeal and high adoption rates is a pleasant user experience.  So, therefore, what I would like to do is show, in a few screen prints, how simple all this advanced technology is to use from the User Perspective.  Please note that the screen prints might vary depending for many factors including hardware capture deviceprocessing/verification user interface design and/or the ultimate storage destination.

  • Step # 1 – Capture images

o   This can be from a dedicated scanner, multifunction peripheral or even a mobile device with camera.  In the screen print below this is the simple desktop capture interface.  As you can see I can ‘Load Images’, ‘Scan Images’, ‘Import Images’ or the capture system can be configured to automatically process images from shared folders, FTP sites or other sources.  So, you can just imagine that the Data Capture solution can be setup in a way that can process images from any device at any time.  Again, making the user experience to contribute images very easy and accessible from anywhere.

10_scan image_small


  • Step # 2 – Verify data for accuracy

o   After the first step of capturing the images themselves, the images are run through all the recognition rules, validation steps and/or database lookups to provide the highest quality of data possible on the first-pass.  But, as I said earlier, it is not always possible to achieve absolute perfection for many reasons so you will want to have the user “verify” the results if the data did not meet a particular threshold of confidence or there was other exceptions.  Please note that the user interface screen print below is from the desktop version of a verification station but you can imagine that this could just as easily have been optimized for other devices such as touch screen interfaces or even mobile devices.

11_recognition and validation rules_small


  • Step # 3 – Export to database

o   Lastly, after the user has checked that all the extracted data is accurate then they can simply export the quality data to the database.  Of course, these export results then can set off a whole series of workflow events based on what the back-end systems capabilities might be.

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Confident data capture for everyone

As I illustrated, Data Capture from the user perspective can be quite simple.  There are many additional techniques and tricks that you can use but I wanted to cover some of the standard ways to achieve highly accurate Data Capture results.  The end result is beautifully accurate, as well as useful, data in your database.  This will give the organization a high level of confidence that adherence to business policy, enforcement of business rules, in addition to the users themselves trusting the system to be accurate when they are looking for information helps to create overall efficiency.

13_field mapping_small

In summary, Data Capture has progressed to the point that it can nearly be totally automated but there are many variables involved that still make human “data verification and/or validation” necessary at certain times.  The quality of data input it your system should be the priority, not the sheer volume.  With a little planning and using modern tips and tricks to achieve highly accurate Data Capture results you can realize both benefits of accuracy and speed.  Then Frankie-the-frustrated will truly be given the adequate tools to become Frankie-the-Fabulous to ‘Capture…with Confidence’.

Easy setup with the Fujitsu ScanSnap fi-6010N network scanner

This was a video script I wrote and narrated to show how simple and easy it was to literally unbox and configure the Fujitsu fi-6010N network scanner on a network.  It just took some basic networking knowledge to configure the device.  Our engineers did a great job to make it as painless as could be.  Believe me, I’ve had experience with other devices and there were not nearly as simple!

Fujitsu fi-6670 and fi-6770 Low-Volume Production Document Scanners

This was a presentation that I put together to introduce the Fujitsu fi-6670 and fi-6770 low-volume production document scanners.  I was very proud to represent these products as Product Manager and had the utmost confidence in the technology because of great engineering and fantastic support.  These are simply the best scanners in their class, bar-none.  With the introduction of these four new models Fujitsu was able to regain the #1 market share position in the LVP segment in North America.  It was a great accomplishment against very tough, and aggressive competition.

As with all my presentations I like to focus on the practical benefits of the technology and less on feeds and speeds.  These scanners can offer an amazing return on investment in terms of time savings to reduce labor costs associated with document imaging solutions.  As always please let me know if you have any questions or comments.