Mobile Data Collection: More Than Images

There is a ton of press about utilizing mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, Android Tablets, etc) for the collection of images.  Take for example, the overused receipt “scanner app”.  Snap a pick, and magically route the image.  But really, just how useful is a picture without any descriptive data?

Mobile Capture goes way beyond the image, and lends itself to all types of data and content collection.  Below are some of the core data that can be utilized:

  • GPS/Geo-tagging – location is the new Enterprise Data Information Layer, and having GPS coordinates tied to people, events and content can enhance reporting, and provide a looking glass into key operations.  There is a great blog article here on Geo-data Collection with Mobile Devices.
  • Metadata – the addition of metadata to any content is a powerful dimension when it comes to analysis.  Being able to add information about who took the picture, a description, a classification, etc., all add to its usefulness.
  • Core Device Information – default information about the device can be quite useful, especially in crowd-sourced data collection events.

These are just a few key points in the collection of mobile data through capture.


Addressing the Challenges with Mobile Capture

Top 5 Challenges with Mobile Capture


Does anyone address smart process application challenges

Mobile Capture Problems

All the buzz in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space is mobile capture, and how I extend intelligent capture to the smart device.  Many of the leaders in the industry have really poured vast budgets in marketing and technology to bring this offering to the forefront.  There are still many issues preventing mobile capture from being completely viable for the large percentage of document processes, and here they are:

  1. Image Quality – just as in a scanning implementation, mobile capture deployments ate typically required to support disparate devices, all with different camera qualities.   Many of the document capture providers have developed image processing to counter many of the processing issues, but image quality is still very dependent on the individual snapping the image.
  2. Multi-page Documents – Do I really want to take 30 pictures with my mobile camera for that 30 page contract?  This has always been a core issue with the mobile capture premise, and many of the scanner manufacturers are starting to build blue tooth and wireless interfaces to help conquer this problem.
  3. Security – Mobile devices have been a major issue for Enterprise Security, and the notion of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), has created many sleepless nights.  How do you control content creation?  How do you purge information from the device after it has been captured?  These are a few questions that will need to be addressed in the near term future to facilitate full enterprise adoption.
  4. Configuration – How can configurations be distributed cross-platform so any OS can be utilized to capture?  Creating a central configuration store that can be “pushed” to all types of devices/OS platforms will be necessary as users now expect cross-platform functionality.
  5. Cost – do a search in the App Store and you will find a ton of great capture tools that can help with the front-end image capture.  But add the post processing workflow, reporting and integration and you now have a solution that is far out of reach for SMBs.

Thoughts?  Comments?

What is a Smart Process Application?

Smart Process Application (SPA) Definition


Smart Process Applications

Is your Application Smart?


So, the tech industry is soaked with three-letter acronyms, so why not add another.  The biggest buzz is surrounding SPA s, or Smart Process Applications.  So what they heck are they, what do they do, and how can I get one?

As I search the internet for pertinent information on the SPA, I get even more confused as to what they really are, and what they really do.   I quickly realize it is a bunch of mumbo jumbo marketing speak for a combination of many different applications and sources of data:

  • Data about the business activity
  • Document Capture and Data extraction
  • Analytical tools about the data and process at hand
  • Content collaboration and creation
  • Workflow or Business Process Management (BPM)

So really, an SPA is just a bunch of technical tools that take a document or content from the source to the destination.  During its travels, the document and data are visible, analyzed and accessible by all process owners and participants.

So why the buzz?  Mobile devices have really put the process in the hands of every end-user, and all process participants, at any time.  The process or workflow can be created simply, with total transparency, by anyone.    Mobile Capture on smart phones and tablets have become a catalyst for SPAs that are vertically focused.

So who are the leaders in Smart Process Applications?  There are quite a few hoping on the wagon, with Smart Process Mobile Capture, Forms and Workflow by StratusFlow, being a broad reaching startup focusing on the apps.


Size of the Mobile Capture Market

What is the size of the mobile capture market?

Mobile Capture Market Size

How big is the mobile capture market?

I have been scouring the internet to try and find some estimates on the size of the Mobile Capture Market.  Like most analyses, it seems the majority are vendor driven through focused market research.  Below are some key findings and links:

Kofax Mobile Capture Market Analysis by Forrester

So this press release is a focused effort on examining the overall market for multi-channel capture, MCC.  The December 2012 study focused on 3 key areas: multi-channel capture, business process management (BPM) and smart process applications (SPA).  The total market was estimated at $7.1 billion in 2012, with an estimate of $14 billion by 2016.   The capture piece of the pie was estimated to be $2.5B, BPM $7.6B and SPA $3.9B.  Here is a link to the press release for more detail:  Mobile Capture Market Breakdown.

Forrester Wave Multi-channel Capture Report

Although this report does not give market specific size information, it does provide a great overview of the MCC market opportunities and the offerings.  Key focus is on 3 capture market segments: On demand, batch and application specific.  The report can be seen here: Mobile Capture / Multi-channel Report

Harvey Spencer Study of Mobile Capture Market

So, it seems there is a decent disparity in estimates surrounding the mobile capture market.  In Harvey SPencer’s Report of 2011, they estimate the market reaching $1.5B by 2015.  This study was focused on 8 major use cases, and just included the U.S.  You can read the press release on the study here:  Mobile Capture in the US.

Mobile Capture and File Sync: Are you enabled?

Mobile Capture and File Sync

Mobile Capture and Sync

Getting Images from A to B

Are you enabled for basic mobile capture and just don’t know it?   There are a ton of mobile scanning and capture apps on the market, and we have reviewed a few on this blog: Mobile Scanning and Capture Apps.  Many of them have integration with cloud storage apps, like Google Docs, Dropbox, Box and Skydrive, but isn’t there an easier way?  Most of the above mentioned applications have built in mobile capture features.  With most, you can do the following:

  • Take a quick photo through the app to sync to your storage
  • Select multiple pictures through the camera roll to add
  • Configure Auto-sync of images / photos

So what is the benefit?  One of the big challenges is a seamless synchronization process to HQ.  Make it simple and efficient for users in the field to snap pictures or image documents with their iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone or Android based device.  With automated sync, you can send images to a processing folder for data extraction or automated filing.

Mobile Scanning with Dropbox

Dropbox Auto-sync

Below is a great overview of how you can use Microsoft Skydrive’s integrated camera function to snap a picture of a barcode, and snyc to a processing folder:

3 Cool Mobile Capture and Scanning Applications

Mobile Scanning is Easy on the iPhone or iPad

Scanning Documents

Mobile phone cameras are getting better and better as time goes on, and their ability to provide clear resolution on documents has finally reached the point where they can be used reliably as scanners.  Below are some great applications for mobile scanning and mobile capture of documents.

  • Genius Scan – This is a great app that let’s you crop, enhance and group documents.  It comes in both a free version, as well as a paid version that adds cloud storage, printing, and customized email send.  The full version is $2.99.
Mobile Capture Application

Genius Scan Cropping

  • Doc Scan – I really like this application.  It has a simple to use interface, with all settings accessible.  The free version includes all types of connectors to cloud storage, and PDF conversion.
Mobile Document Scanning

DocScan Interface

  • Tiny Scan – This app has some neat image processing features, including the ability to convert your document images to black and white or grayscale.   The free version only lets you send to email or the camera roll, and the paid version is $4.99 and allows integration with most cloud services and Evernote.

    android mobile capture

    TinyScan Image Processing

So What is Mobile Capture?

Mobile Capture?

Mobile Capture and Scanning
So what exactly is mobile capture?  Users and businesses have quickly realized that mobile devices, tablets and phones, are great for capturing not only pictures, but also documents, barcode data, etc.  This has led to some fantastic solutions revolving around this use case.  So, what are the solutions being deployed for mobile capture?  Below is a list of some of the solutions our company has deployed to help our customers:

  • A large retailer that uses mobile devices to snap photos of barcodes on damaged merchandise in their warehouses.  The captured photos are then uploaded, processed, barcodes are read and the data and photo placed into a line of business system.
  • A police department that uses mobile devices to track gang activity through photographs of graffiti.  The geodata is read through the mobile capture process, and mapped to monitor “tagging” activity, and gang boundaries.
  • The municipallity that allows citizens to capture photos of potholes / street damage through device photograpghs.  The captured damage can be uploaded to a central server, and street locations can be mapped.
  • Mobile capture has also done wonders for assets management.  Imagine the city that wants to capture all their parking meters and map locations?
  • An electrical maintenace company that arms all their technicians with mobile devices, iPads, iPhones, that are utilized to take pictures of electrical equipment barcodes.  Technician activity can be tracked, and mapped.

These are just a few mobile capture solutions.  Here is a great Mobile Capture and Scanner App FAQ for more info.  Do you have any to share?