Why would somebody… okay, me… who is in the ECM document capture business and an early adopter of all things mobile remain a long-time skeptic of mobile capture’s hype? In earlier developmental stages, it seemed that with each advance there was yet another obstacle to real-world adoption. Whether the challenges were related to image quality, image size, bandwidth constraints – and the list goes on – the story was one of ”two steps forward, one step back.”
Am I still a skeptic today? No. Today you can stand at your desk, take a magazine-cover-quality picture of a paper document, automatically compress it to a manageable size, and transmit it within seconds. Continuous and rapid advancements in technology make even recent obstacles seem almost quaint now. Consider the following:
1. Image quality: Minimum-accepted scan quality is about 200 dpi (dots per inch). Today’s mobile phone cameras can easily give you 50% better than that (300 dpi), thanks to the 8-megapixels capacity that is now commonplace with phone cameras.
2. Image size: The raw file size of an 8-megapixel image is about 24 megabytes (MB), though smartphones will generally use JPEG compression to reduce that file to something under 3MB. Still too big? Depending on use-case requirements for the captured image; phone-based image cleanup technology can binarize the image (i.e., convert it to pure black and white), crop it, remove the “noise”, bring it down from 3MB to fewer than 100KB and let you transmit it in seconds. Plus, the image is now optimized for OCR, ICR and other data extraction techniques.
3. Bandwidth: You’ll note that the primary bandwidth variable in mobile image capture is “upload” speed. Just over one year ago my smartphone was a 3G device that averaged around a 400 Kbps upload speed. Today, I ran a speed test on my newer 4G LTE device and the upload speed was 18 Mbps – that’s a 45X increase in performance! At this point, transferring the volume of images you would want to capture on a mobile device is simply not a problem.
These advances, combined with users’ evident desire to consolidate their activities on a single device and their ravenous appetite for every better device that appears on the market, make mobile capture inevitable. Mobile devices have fast become the camera of choice, the video recorder of choice, the photo album of choice, the encyclopedia of choice, the banking device of choice – oh, and of course, the telephone of choice – and now they can also be the scanner of choice for away-from-your-desk distributed capture.