How Are You Affected By The Convergence Of Bar Coding & Imaging?
Markets like service bureaus, insurance, healthcare, financial and law increasingly are combining data collection and document management for increased efficiency.
Business Solutions, April 1998
As a result of these technologies converging, VARs of bar-code scanners may want to offer document scanners and software, and vice versa. "Individually, bar coding and document scanners allow users to increase productivity and efficiency," says Dell Glover, vice president of sales and marketing for Photomatrix (San Diego, CA), a manufacturer of document scanners. He adds, "However, when those technologies are combined, the gains in productivity are multiplied."
Bar Codes: A Tool For Greater Efficiency
Many paper-intensive businesses, beyond large insurance companies and law firms, are storing paper documents in electronic format. Electronic images can be retrieved more quickly and easily than paper documents. Before bar codes were used to streamline the conversion of paper documents to electronic images, this process was time consuming and labor intensive. Consider an insurance application. Information related to the document - like the name of the policy holder, the type of coverage and the insurance company's name - had to be typed in to a PC for every document. This was necessary before the document could be scanned. Because 100,000 documents might be scanned daily in a single application, the data entry can be overwhelming.
As a result, some insurance companies have automated that data entry by bar coding their documents. For example, information that was previously typed in - like the policy holder's name - is now embedded in a small bar code on the document. End users and service bureaus rely on flat-bed document scanners to scan these documents. Once a document has been scanned, imaging software recognizes that the document contains a bar code and then extracts the information from the bar code.
Insurance companies later use the information extracted from bar codes for indexing purposes, Glover says. "After the service bureau's people have scanned a client's documents, they give the client a CD containing electronic images of the documents. The indexing information helps insurance companies quickly find specific documents."
"A service bureau's main objective is to convert documents as quickly as possible," Glover adds. "Extracting document-related information from a bar code is much faster than typing it in. For example, one service bureau has five of our document scanners running continuously for eight hours a day. And these scanners process at least 100 pages per minute. For service bureaus and other end users of document imaging, bar codes are a tool to increase efficiency."
CCD: Driving The Convergence?
Alan Melling of Symbol Technologies agrees bar codes and document management are merging. Melling is the director of business development for Symbol, a manufacturer of automated data collection equipment. He also has worked with imaging companies like Unisys.
According to Melling, the increased acceptance of CCD (charged coupled device) bar-code imagers will help fuel the convergence of imaging and bar coding. (CCD imagers use the same technology as video cameras to capture the images of bar codes. Melling refers to CCD scanners as "cameras on sticks." Software is then used to translate the information encoded in the bar code. Contrast CCD imagers with the alternative, laser bar-code scanners, which emit laser beams to "read" bar codes.)
CCD scanners perform imaging-related functions - like optical character recognition and optical mark recognition - as well as bar-code scanning. Only a limited number of end users are using them for both bar code and imaging-related purposes, according to Melling. However, he does expect more end users to use CCD for both purposes. "The ability to use one device for reading text and bar codes provides added convenience," Melling says.
For example, he says shipping applications can benefit from CCD technology. Shipping applications could use CCD scanners to read bar-coded packages. Shippers also could use CCD scanners to capture signatures or partial images of bills of lading (shipping documents). "Most CCD imagers don't have a large enough depth of field to capture an 8 ½" by 11" document," Melling adds. "A CCD scanner could still capture an image of selected parts of documents, like the signature of the recipient of a package."