What is an OCR program and what are its benefits in business?
In this post, we will answer these questions, explore some use cases of OCR, and see how OCR-related technologies are impacting the business world.
What Is an OCR Program?
OCR stands for optical character recognition.
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This is an AI technique referring to the extraction of written characters from images.
OCR programs scan an image, such as a photograph, find characters from a written language, then translate that into text, which can then be further processed by software.
Today, artificial intelligence programs such as OCR programs have become quite widespread, and for good reasons:
- OCR programs can process text much more quickly than humans can. Data entry, transcription, dictation, and other tasks that revolve around language can take a significant amount of time.
- Using OCR tools to automate certain business tasks can increase efficiency and productivity, while decreasing costs. Automating these tasks through OCR technology can increase employee productivity, free up employee time for more valuable activities, and increase bottom-line profits for an organization.
- Building programs that use OCR and NLP technologies can create new and innovative products. By itself, OCR can be useful for tasks such as data entry. But when combined with more sophisticated text and language processing functions, such as those found in NLP, the benefits can be much greater. For instance, and OCR program can be used to extract text from a document, and NLP can be used to understand the meaning of that text.
Before diving more deeply into these types of software programs, let’s look at The advantages of OCR by itself.
The Use Cases of OCR
Some of the most common use cases of OCR include:
- Digitizing business documents. Paper documents are wasteful and costly. Many businesses have recognized the value in digitizing the workplace and shifting to electronic records. OCR technology is necessary for this, since the vast amounts of paperwork would simply be too much for humans too transcribe and enter into systems.
- Scanning and extracting data from IDs and government documents. Government agencies, such as transportation facilities and immigration departments, regularly enter IDs and personal information into their systems. OCR technology can automatically transcribe ID’s, increasing efficiency, lowering costs, an improving the customer experience.
- Turning PDFs into Word documents. Another one of the most common use cases of OCR is to extract text from a PDF and turn that PDF into a Word document. Adobe, Microsoft, and other software programs include this type of feature.
Ultimately, OCR is a type of automation. On the surface, it may not seem very valuable. But the amount of time and money saved using OCR programs can be enormous. Especially, as mentioned, when combined with more advanced AI capabilities.
OCR, NLP, and Advance AI
Although OCR is a relatively straightforward function, we have seen that it can generate significant value.
Yet that value is increased even further when combined with NLP functions, which include capabilities such as:
- Analyzing the grammar of text
- Summarizing text
- Determining the meaning of a text
- Generating new text from scratch
- Categorizing the emotion of a text
These types of capabilities can be used for applications such as:
- Voice search
- Text dictation software
- Virtual assistants
Innovative applications that result from a combination of these two types of technologies can amplify the benefits covered above. For instance, customer service software can automatically analyze customer documents and perform tasks based on that analysis, such as routing new customers to the appropriate department, recommending helpful resources based on those documents, and so forth.
HR software, such as recruitment software, is already using a combination of OCR and NLP to perform tasks such as pre-qualifying job candidates, discovering appropriate jobs, and mining data from job sites.
Getting Started with OCR and NLP Programs
There are plenty of OCR and NLP programs for both personal and business use. Testing these out can give you an idea of the possibilities and benefits of using AI for text processing.
Here are a few examples:
Web-Based OCR Applications
There are quite a few free web-based OCR programs.
Most of these programs are designed to extract text from JPGs, turn PDFs into word documents, and perform similar tasks related to these file types.
These are excellent tools for casual use, but they are not necessarily ideal for business use cases. On the one hand, many of them have usage limits, and on the other they do not offer enterprise-grade security.
OCR technology is included in Adobe Acrobat.
Although PDFs are not typically used for word processing, and text is not recognized, Adobe has added an OCR feature that allows entire documents to be indexed and search, turned into word documents, and, with other Adobe tools, edited.
Microsoft includes enterprise-grade OCR through Azure, which can be accessed through an API.
Microsoft OneNote also supports OCR, allowing you to copy text from file printouts.
Google Keep includes OCR functionality as well.
You can take a picture of a handwritten note and then turn that handwritten note into a text note within the Google Keep app.Also, like Microsoft, Google includes its own API, Google Vision. This can be accessed and used for a variety of purposes inside apps that you create.