Should You Explore Imaging And The Internet?
Java-based tools are available which make document imaging on the Internet possible. Vendors disagree on whether it is necessary.
The software which allows you to use bar codes on documents to eliminate manual indexing is a tool. Optical character recognition (OCR) software, which identifies characters on documents, is a tool. Software, which compresses scanned images to be stored, is a tool. Each tool can be bought separately. However, like buying a hammer and wrench, it is usually more economical to buy a toolkit which contains many tools.
When developing custom document and image management applications, the cost of a toolkit is only slightly higher than a single tool. "You can buy our BASIC image-handling tool and one additional tool (bar-code recognition, for example) from our company for about $3,000. For $4,400, you can buy our toolkit which has more than five tools in it," says Dan Borrey, vice president of sales at VisionShape. "When you are doing a $25,000 installation, the cost of a toolkit versus the cost of a tool is getting pretty marginal." Borrey's company is based in Orange, CA, and produces imaging toolkits and high-speed scanners.
A Need For Java-Based Toolkits
Integrating a toolkit with a customer's existing document imaging system requires a VAR to do some programming. Currently, most toolkits are written in Visual Basic, C, or C++ programming languages. However, according to Scott Warner, CEO at AccuSoft, Java may become the programming language of choice for toolkits. One advantage of using Java is that document imaging applications can be Internet-enabled. "Large companies want to increase access to their documents by leveraging the Internet," says Warner. "This allows company employees in remote offices or working at home to have access to documents." Conceivably, employees can also image and upload documents to a company database using the Internet.
Warner also believes document imaging sales have not dramatically increased in recent years because of the high cost to enroll users. Accessing documents on the Internet requires a user only to have a Web browser. One application would allow customers to review payments on invoices. "Instead of contacting a customer service representative, customers can view their documents using a browser. Internet-enabled document management can provide cost savings and better customer service," comments Warner. His company is located in Westborough, MA, and produces imaging software.
VisionShape's Borrey says the Internet will replace some traditional imaging systems. "Users are going to spend more time in their browsers. This means more imaging applications will be developed for the Internet. As applications move toward the Internet, toolkits will follow," says Borrey.
Running Into A Bottleneck
Toolkits for Internet imaging applications should not be a focus for VARs at this point, counters David Pintsov, senior vice president at Mitek Systems. Mitek Systems is located in San Diego, CA, and develops imaging software. While he concedes that accessing documents from a remote location is a feasible application, he does not think document imaging will be done using the Internet. "The problem with imaging applications for the Internet is that it creates a tremendous bottleneck because transmission times are slow. It is also complicated to make changes to documents through the Internet. If a document requires changes, usually another person - other than the person viewing the image - has to make changes to a document," comments Pintsov. "I think Internet-enabled imaging is a solution in search of a problem."