I arrived at this session a few minutes late and ended up standing in the back of the room: it was a completely packed house, which is a good indication of the popularity of the idea of using a mobile device for point of origination capture. There are a lot of use cases for mobile capture, ranging from mobile mortgage brokers to home healthcare specialists to claims adjusters to proof of delivery forms in transportation; mobile capture eliminates the paper movement and also greatly reduces the time required to capture these documents directly into a business process.
The goal for mobile capture is not just to take a photo of a document – the regular camera app on your mobile device can do that – but to capture a process-ready document and push it directly into the front end of the business process, just as if it were being scanned. That requires some degree of smarts built into the mobile app for capture: ensuring that the entire document is being captured using visual framing and minimize movement during capture, some post-capture processing, and confirmation that the capture was successful. For the most recent generation of smartphones, including the iPhone 4S, that means running Kofax VRS right on the phone; older phones have to send the images off to a VRS server in the cloud before receiving confirmation of a “good” capture (suitable for passing on for back-end recognition) 3-5 seconds later. The correction that can be done on the device is pretty impressive: segmentation to separate the document from the background (dependent on good contrast), keystone correction for when the camera is not square to the document, dynamic thresholding to maximize readability throughout the page, rotation, cropping, color correction/removal (including removing colored highlights without losing solored markings elsewhere on the page), and shake/blur correction. In a near-future release, it will also be possible to do barcode recognition right on the phone, too.
The phone app downloads batch class definitions and other server-based parameters the first time that it connects, and during document synchronization, but otherwise can perform completely offline. Obviously, on a lower-end phone that needs to use VRS in the cloud, the offline capability won’t be as great. Documents are uploaded to the Kofax cloud server on demand, using SSL on the communication but no image encryption.
The app allows the user to track and add to open cases, or create a new case based on a batch class. This dictates the expected document types and the indexing fields; the user may be prompted to enter in index information, or this may be left as a back-end function. Everything passes from the cloud through Front Office Server (KFS) on its way to Capture, which means that the type of restrictions that can be placed on MFPs – as I reviewed yesterday – can be applied to mobile devices, too.
The iPhone 4S’ 8MP camera takes photos at 2,448 x 3,264 pixels; if you could perfectly frame an 8.5×11” page during capture (which you can’t), that would give you a resolution of about 290dpi. Count on losing at least 10% around the edges of your image during capture, so a letter-sized page would be captured at about 250dpi. Adequate for OCR of standard printing, but you’re not going to capture tiny fonts. Also, the user experience of capturing a lot of pages using a phone is not really the best, so use cases with higher resolution or higher volume requirements are probably going to be better served by a mobile scanner. The first version of the app will support document and photo modes for capture; future releases will expand this to allow video and audio to also be captured.
They will also publish their SDK in the future to allow organizations to create their own mobile app based on the Kofax technology, allowing organization-specific security and functionality to be included. I expect that this will be extremely popular with bigger organizations who want to control the user experience more tightly.
I had seen a bit of this from Kofax previously, but great to see more of the detail, and I’ll be looking forward to trying it out or seeing a live demo when they release the mobile application on iOS and Android in Q2. Windows Phone will follow later, but Blackberry currently isn’t on the roadmap unless demand increases.