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.

The beautification of the OSI Model with Document Imaging

I was recently taking some online courses on software development best-practices courtesy of Coursera.  In these courses they would use the phrase ‘beautiful code’ to describe well-written software code.  This means that the software is written in a fashion that is efficient and not bloated.  Microsoft Vista, for example, was the epitome of NOT beautiful code because it was slow, had limited native hardware support and not enough compelling innovation.  On the contrary, and are two excellent examples of beautiful code where the User Interface is feature-rich and useful.  Additionally, the software is quick to respond and is highly available to the user in a ubiquitous fashion, from any device, anywhere at any time – especially with the user experience optimized for mobile devices.  From a computing standpoint I happen to personally think that Document Imaging is the ‘beautification’ of the computing communication technology stack.  Let me explain.


Enriching people’s lives with effective communication

When a particular technology is so good for so many different reasons, this is what makes Document Imaging/ECM and Capture so beautiful.  This technology allows businesses to reduce labor costs associated with information management.  It affords organizations the luxury of sharing electronic files and helps to assist with compliance and regulations.  Document Imaging is one of the best ways to have a solid disaster recovery plan which is beautiful.  It’s simply beautiful that people’s lives are enriched to do other activities such as attend your children’s sporting events, spend a night at the movies with your loved ones or just relax at the pool reading your favorite book instead of doing mundane tasks such as manual data entry or looking for lost documents.


Document Imaging is the crown-jewel in effective communications

Computer networks are the collection of many different technologies that come together to do “something”.  The OSI Model is a way in which the various components and/or protocols can be described and these components are mostly just taken for granted these days, it just simply works.  We don’t need to worry ourselves about things such as TCP/IP, DNS or IPv6.  It just happens.  The technology has evolved to a point we can focus on getting value from these communications networks.  So when Document Imaging is applied as an application that brings all these components together and brings true value to networked systems, this really is a beautiful thing.



The benefits of Document Imaging are beautiful things

The benefits of applying Document Imaging within organizations can be clearly measured in tangible financial return on investment such as in the case of AutoNation’s 13-month ROI on their nationwide distributed scanning deployment.  Or sometimes the financial benefits are less of a motivation such as the case is with Care Ambulance’s scanning deployment where they placed scanners inside of ambulance’s and created an integrated capture and communication solution.  In this case, the primary motivation of the project was to provide the highest level of patient care possible and capturing timely, as well as accurate, information was critical to this project.  This is simply beautiful now that the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) can now focus a maximum amount of the time and efforts on caring for their patients instead of dealing with paperwork.

Therefore, that’s why as an industry we should be so passionate about promoting our technology.  Creating beautiful code for a software application is a great thing, but applying technologies such as document capture and ECM to a communication network is remarkable to enrich people’s lives.

Do you think that technology can be beautiful?  Do you have a story to tell of how beautiful technology enriched your personal life?

Economies of scale: Cloud processing

Economies of scale:  Cloud processing

Document Capture technology has been available for many years and is a proven method to decrease operational costs and improve business efficiency.  However, this technology has traditionally been expensive to purchase, implement and deploy.

In organizations, small or large, Information Technology systems are comprised of similar components:  Hardware, software and services.  The emergence of Cloud Computing offers a new method to provide workers with technology such as Advanced Data Capture that was traditionally only available to Enterprise organizations due to high cost and technical complexity.  Now organizations of all sizes, in many different industries can benefit with the Economies of Scale with Cloud Processing as a service.

Businesses purchase computer hardware as a resource for workers to get their jobs accomplished.  As it relates to data capture from paper documents specifically, more than ever these businesses can benefit from advances in technology.   For example, most smart phones today are equipped with cameras that are capable as acting as a portable image acquisition device.  Or, to capture higher volumes of documents a business might choose to purchase dedicated scanners or use the office copy machine’s scanning functionality.  The point-is that there is still a certain amount of equipment that a business needs to function.

The fast-growing popularity of Cloud-based storage also makes Advanced Data Capture as a cloud service extremely logically and quite complimentary.  There are billions of users currently using some form of cloud storage whether it be business users of applications such as, or social networks such as Facebook or hybrid applications such as LinkedIn.  Additionally, and especially with the undeniable trend of using mobile devices for business data consumption, it only makes perfect sense to allow these devices to also contribute information easily via advanced data capture.  Consuming information on mobile devices is easy but to add a business contact, for example, is difficult and frustrating with small display sizes and awkward virtual software-only keyboards.

One of the most logical services to utilize Cloud Computing is Data Capture.  Why?  Data Capture is a service and with cloud computing an organization can ‘rent’ this service as a shared resource.  Since data capture doesn’t store images or information, then it’s ideal for sharing this resource and, therefore lowering the cost to use this service.

Cloud Capture is appealing for many reasons.

First, it allows small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to finally realize the benefits of Advanced Data Capture by sharing resources.  This reduces total ownership costs to the organization because these companies ‘rent’ this data capture service.  Secondly, it allows the organizations to quickly start utilizing this technology because they do not have to install, configure or maintain these services.  This is all taken care of by the hosting company which allows organizations to focus on their core business instead of being burdened by supporting technology.


Additionally, a Cloud Capture platform is also appealing to Enterprise customers.  Why?  Within any large organization the business typically has many different departments such as Administrative, Marketing, Sales, Purchasing, Accounting and others.  Also, the Information Technology (IT) department typically uses many software applications and services to support the business units.  With the emergence of Cloud Computing and with more and more corporations moving applications to ‘the cloud’, one service that makes the most sense is Data Capture.  Since Data Capture truly is ‘a service’ and does not store data permanently then capture technology infrastructure is ideal for Cloud Computing.  Scalability to add additional capacity or seamlessly incorporate new services are added benefits.