What is ICR, Handprint Recognition?

ICR stands for Intelligent Character Recognition and is the technology that allows software to interpret hand printed text on scanned images.

Forms Processing Software uses ICR technology to automate data entry tasks involving hand-filled surveys, applications and forms. It provides interfaces for scanning, recognition, data verification and export, as well as management and monitoring tools to track large volumes of documents and data through the workflow.

Forms Processing also includes OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to recognize machine printed text, and OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) for check boxes and multiple choice bubbles.

Traditional forms processing relies on constrained handwriting, where boxes on the form force the filler to write with separated, printed block characters. Modern AI technology has dramatically improved the ability to recognized unconstrained handwriting and cursive script. Hand printed notes, free-form comments blocks, non-segmented fields, historic documents, and more can now be converted to text with acceptable accuracy where these were impossible just a few years ago.

Who can benefit from handwritten recognition software?

Any organization that collects data on paper-based forms, surveys or applications on a regular basis can get a very high return on investment by automating the data entry with forms processing software.

You do need to have a significant number of forms to justify the expense, at least a hundred forms per month or more depending on how much data is being captured. If the data entry task can be done in under 25 working hours then it is probably not a good candidate for automation with ICR software.

Organizations that have many separate departments that collect data on forms can share the budget for forms processing software by re-using it for other projects. Your current project may not be big enough to justify the expense, but when combined with one or two others it would be.

How much do Handwritten Recognition systems cost?

The total cost of a forms processing solution includes several items:

  • Cost of the software
  • Time to install and configure the software
  • Forms may need to be redesigned for optimal recognition
  • Recognition templates must be created for each data field on every type of form
  • Data exports must be defined for each form template
  • User and administrator training
  • Labor required to verify the recognition results
  • IT infrastructure and maintenance costs

All handprint recognition systems also require a per-page fee for processing, so the overall cost is proportional to the volume being processed. These typically range from $0.05 – $0.10 per page.

Cloud based handprint recognition systems like Amazon Textract and Google Cloud Vision offer pay-as-you-go pricing that significantly lower the initial cost for handprint recognition software by allowing you to purchase in increments of 1,000 pages or less, where traditional forms processing applications usually require a minimum of 10,000 to 50,000 pages.

What is the typical data entry workflow?

The process of converting a hand-printed paper form to live data you can use is as follows:

  • Paper is prepped for scanning (unfolded, staples removed, etc.)
  • Forms are scanned on a high-speed document scanner
  • Scanned forms are recognized with ICR
  • Recognized characters are assigned a confidence value and validation rules are applied to check for valid results
  • “Low-confidence” characters and fields that fail validation are presented to the verification operators for manual review and correction
  • Once all errors are corrected, data is exported to final destination

SimpleIndex offers two kinds of ICR for converting printed and script handwriting to text.

SimpleIndex with The Cloud OCR feature enables the Amazon AWS Textract OCR engine, that has the ability to read unconstrained print and scripted handwriting with surprisingly good accuracy.

SimpleIndex with The FineReader OCR engine addon offers handprint recognition designed for forms processing. it is optimized for hand-filled forms that use letter boxes or combs to ensure each letter is separated. FineReader will also work with underlined text as long as it is printed. For cursive scripts the Cloud OCR option is recommended.

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