Scanning has come a long way from serial ports and wired scanners, and document capture is coming a long way from simple imaging or scan and store. Scanning a document and storing it locally is a first step in digitization, but scanning a document to a local file is simply one stage in the process. No longer must scanned documents live in a file repository connected to the device from which they were scanned — the Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up new avenues, both literal and figurative, allowing today’s capture environment to become an intelligent one, consisting of cloud-connected devices that allow users to manage their workflow from any location.

The IoT enables critical advances in scanning — distributed capture and mobile capture. Rather than shipping paper documents to a central scanning facility, distributed capture allows documents to enter the business process directly from their point of origination, which may be one of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of decentralized MFPs within an organization. Not only does this vastly streamline workflow, it eliminates paper storage and transportation costs. Mobile capture takes the concept a step further — and farther. With mobile capture, the input device can move from a decentralized network MFP to a tablet or smartphone that may or may not be in the same building, city or state. Not only does this save transportation and courier costs, it saves printing costs by delivering electronic files directly to a central repository.

A 2014 AIIM study confirmed the importance of these process improvements and the associated cost savings. The study found that improved searchability and shareability of business documents is the biggest driver for scanning and capture, while faster response to customers, improved process productivity and reduced physical storage space were also key drivers. However, there is more to the picture. Capture technologies combined with distribution into ECM and BPM systems eliminate the need for employees to scan and index documents — this not only decreases steps and costs, it helps eliminate human error in the process, decreasing the possibility of documents being improperly entered or filed. It saves organizations time and money too — a study by International Data Corporation (IDC) showed that information workers waste so much time on a weekly basis dealing with document-related challenges that it can cost an organization $19,732 per worker per year — amounting to a total loss of 21.3 percent in the organization’s total productivity.

Meeting Specialized Needs Through Capture and Connections

These capture capabilities and improved processes enabled by the IoT have become invaluable for a multitude of vertical markets with specialized needs. The banking and financial market, for instance, is one that has been vastly transformed, both by technology and its users. Walking into a bank branch is practically a foreign concept for millennials, and even the drive-through is becoming obsolete. Distributed capture and mobile banking have altered the landscape in a number of ways, from capture software for bank deposits to electronic loan documents. The right software, connections and security governing them are critical to banking as processes must meet strict requirements set forth by SOX, FDIC and others.

The healthcare market is another vertical that has benefited greatly from improved connectivity and capture capabilities. Over the last 20 years, a push toward increased productivity in the form of electronic health records has transformed this market significantly, and the demand for more efficient processes, compliance with stringent regulations and readily available access to records has driven the adoption of advanced capture tools. In a distributed capture environment, patient records and other information can be entered from any department and centralized, allowing medical records to be accessible on demand.

Education environments are likewise evolving more and more toward electronic environments, with many school systems requiring laptops or tablets for students, and in many cases providing them. The need for connectivity in this environment is paramount; often, assignments are delivered directly to a network-connected file or cloud storage environment such as Google Drive. The Google ecosystem is particularly common in these environments, necessitating internet connectivity and capability.

Universal Connections, Universal Applications

Organizations from all industries can maximize productivity through intelligent capture by creating more efficient processes. Accounts payable (AP) processes, for instance, can be greatly improved, as invoices can be captured through MFPs that link directly to an organization’s ERP system. Advanced OCR can then accurately capture critical invoice data such as vendor ID, date, line item and total amounts. Overall, the built-in capabilities reduce invoice processing costs, improve accuracy and help accounts payable staff be more productive.

Another feature useful to any type of business or vertical market is the ability to interface directly with an MFP without the need for a computer or other input device. These smart MFPs allow deep levels of access and control through their onboard interface — often a display that is tablet-like itself, and allows the user to access cloud-based and networked files; built-in capture programs that can display the captured information directly to the user, creating an additional safeguard against input error; and distribution of the documents through direct network upload, email or even fax. Often, these interfaces can be customized for a specific user environment, allowing access only to specific functionality for a user group or office. Examples of this may include deactivating the print function on a device designated for scan and capture, eliminating the possibility of a critical capture function being held up by a large print job; or restricting access to certain files for employees without a designated security clearance.

Beyond Capture

These are just a few specialized examples of the convergence between capture and the IoT, but the applications extend far beyond day-to-day scanning and paperwork needs. The IoT allows jobs and devices to be monitored and real-time usage statistics to be collected. Real-world business intelligence can then allow organizations to take a proactive approach, in real time, to conditions that otherwise would have triggered a crisis or breakdown in efficiency.

For the hardware itself, the connectivity allows fixes and firmware updates to be pushed to devices as well as remote solutions to solve urgent or ongoing issues. The data collected can make it easier to interact with devices and log data from them, allowing for predictive analytics and maintenance as well as user and usage data that can then allow for more intelligence placement of devices as well as improved software.

Past, present and future views of business conditions can be used for business performance management and benchmarking. By using information collected to drive strategies and insights, knowledge management becomes a strategic asset, and using that collected knowledge can enable organizational decision-making.

The IoT is a term often bandied about to mean almost anything, but in truth, it is a powerful tool that is affecting business in multiple ways. From the perspective of capture technology, the IoT is one of the most powerful tools available in the realm of capture, for everything from streamlined workflows to business intelligence. Are you making the most of it?

Eddie Castillo
Samsung Electronics America

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.