What Is Data Capture?

Why do you need automated data capture? 3.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day. With data critical to success, businesses are looking for proven ways to collect data. Scanning one or two pages is a cinch. Collecting information from high volumes of documents, is more tricky. Data capture is your light at the end of the tunnel…

Sure thing. We can show you how we can help you with your data capture needs.

Data can consist of anything. Consumer data, questionnaires, surveys, product data. Anything. Data is currency and used effectively, it can play a significant role in your business. 

With 3,500,000,000,000 bytes created per day, I’d say it’s the lead role.

Manual data entry would not be able to capture data from documents in which layout changes. Automated data capture is fast and accurate.

Rossum data capture, without templates. Deep learning neural network for accurate data extraction and increased automation, even when document layout changes.

Capturing this valuable data has to be fast and accurate, so your team can put it to use immediately. Real-time consumer data starts to lose value the second it’s caught.

With digital advancements, automated data capture has become more efficient and accessible, helping you collect huge amounts of real-time data. Data that will reveal valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.

In this post I’m going to define data capture, share data capture tools and methods, and discuss why automation is super important.

Let’s get started…

What is data capture?

Data capture is the process of extracting structured and unstructured information from documents – paper or digital – and converting it into a machine-readable format. It can them be processed, stored, and used more efficiently. Document types include invoices, receipts, surveys, questionnaires, videos, images…

The data gathered will identify insights into how your business is performing and ways to improve everything from product development to customer satisfaction. 

Data extraction – the process of retrieving data from a source. It can be done manually or by using automation technology. Sources include databases, files, and web pages.

In the old days, data capture was done manually. But with the huge volume of data that businesses have access to, automation is the only way to stay on top. Technology developments, particularly cognitive technologies such as artificial intelligence – AI – and machine learning – ML, have increased the necessity for data capture automation.

Amazingly, some businesses still sweat it over manual data capture. And I mean, sweat it.

The debate continues. Digital process automation vs manual.

How data capture can be used in your business

Let’s take a look at how data capture and the data extracted can be used in your business…

Improve customer experience

Do you know your consumers? What they want? Their struggles?

Intelligent data capture reveals consumer behavior insights so your business can better meet their needs. Analyzing consumer data will help you develop the products and services they’re asking for. Respond to customers faster with automated processes. The data will help you understand and react.

Personalize your campaigns

Understand how consumers are engaging with your ads, marketing campaigns, and product launches. Analyzing consumer data – demographics, language, location, gender, age – gives you the information you need to be able to target and personalize your communication.

Set your team free

Automating data capture and other processes frees up your team to work on more innovative and inspiring tasks. Tasks that only humans can perform effectively. Productivity will increase and employee satisfaction will improve.

What’s the data capture process?

The main steps in the data capture process…

  • Data received in a document, email, image, video – invoice, questionnaire, purchase order, etc.
  • Data extracted – manually/automatically – and saved to a digital format
  • Extracted data ready to process

For example, your accounts payable team receiving an invoice, a form completed to register with a new doctor, recruitment questionnaires, surveys.

Interested in automating? Check out our Guide To Invoice Processing Automation post.

Most data capturing methods ensure accuracy and speed. That’s unless you’re talking about doing it manually.

Scan document

Scanning the document kicks off the electronic data capture process. You’ll be looking to save as PDF, JPEG, XML.

Process & capture documents

Document scanned, data capture processes the text and converts into a machine-readable format.  

Validate data

Data validation follows, with the document checked for predetermined tolerance rules – blurring or missing fields. It’s then passed for manual verification to ensure the data is correct.

Document classification

The documents are then automatically sorted and indexed according to preset criteria and filters. Grouping relevant document types such as invoices, purchase orders, receipts. Done automatically with machine learning, it eliminates the need for manual data sorting.

Data extraction & delivery

Specific data is then extracted, along with metadata. The captured document is then uploaded to a specified drive or database where everyone has access.

Benefits of automated data capture

Automatic data capture has many benefits that’ll increase productivity and efficiency, optimize your data flow, and ensure critical data is captured accurately. Accessible by your entire team at any time….

Reduce costs

Manual data entry is inefficient and costly, due to the low accuracy rate. Advanced data capture reduces the number of human entry errors, and speeds up verification and validation. 

As your business grows, so will the volume of documents you need to process. Do you increase your team? Outsource? The cost of training new team members or outsourcing will far outweigh the cost of automating your document processing.

Plus, by reducing the number of manual tasks your team has to perform, employee satisfaction will improve. And, churn will reduce.

Data accuracy

Manual data processing is a nightmare for errors. Incomplete or missing data. Or fat fingers. Automated document data capture guarantees accuracy, with data validation performed to ensure consistency, i.e., data on an invoice matches the purchase order.

Talking of fat fingers, why don’t you sign up for our monthly newsletter – No More Fat Fingers. Keep up to date on intelligent document processing news, product launches, customer stories, events, podcasts, and more.

Robust security

Trouble with paper documents, aside from space, is security. Electronic data capture systems increase document visibility, encrypting is possible with some solutions, and access can be restricted to those in the know. Any attempts at fraud can be identified more easily.

If your accounts payable department is still working with manual processes, it’s an easy target for fraudsters. For more information on fake invoices, recognizing red flags, and avoiding being hit by an invoice scam, check out How To Identify Fake Invoices.

Fast processing

Your team having to manually process documents, correct errors and reprocess, is a waste of time and resources. Automated data capture is fast and accurate, and can lead to business growth.

Reduced employee churn

It’s boring, stressful, and demotivating. Did I say that it’s boring?

Manual data entry work encourages fatigue and a fast turnover of employees. Automate your data capture and your team can focus on more inspiring and innovative tasks that advance their skill set. Increasing productivity and reducing churn.

If you’re looking to automate data entry and save your team, take a look at the Best Data Entry Software.

Single source of truth

Archived paper documents are unreachable to people in other offices. The process is sticky and workflows are halted. 

Automated data capture from a company such as Rossum, is cloud-based. Meaning anyone who needs access, has access. 24/7. From any geographical location.

Industries using automated data capture

While automated data capture is used across the majority of industries, I’ll focus on five…

Finance

If ever there was an industry dealing with mountains of paperwork, it’s the finance sector. Automated data capture tools help…

  • Manage high volumes of documents in multiple formats – invoices, purchase orders, salary slips, receipts, tax documents, etc.
  • Speed up invoice approval workflows
  • Eliminate data entry errors and reduce risk of non-compliance

Check out our list of the Best Invoice Automation Software.

Banking

  • Validate customer ID data
  • Confirm identities – biometrics
  • Fraud detection
  • Process banking documents – account creation, statements, credit card applications, etc.

Human resources

  • Streamline employee onboarding
  • Process payslips and payrolls
  • Accelerate recruitment screenings
  • Simplify client onboarding
  • Process legal documents – contracts, statements, etc.
  • Improve workflows
  • Centralize and secure information

Retail

  • Accounts payable team processing supplier documents – invoices, receipts, purchase orders
  • Barcode data to monitor inventory
  • QR codes to improve the customer experience

If you’re looking to automate your AP processes, take a look at the Best Accounts Payable Automation Software.

What are the data capture tools and methods?

While the growth of information technology means that most data is now digital – PDFs, Google Docs, emails, videos, etc. – there’s still heavy reliance on data that’s created manually.

There are two primary ways to capture data, manual and automated…

  • Manual data capture involves humans capturing information from physical documents and entering into a computer system
  • Automated data capture uses software to extract data from digital sources and enter into a computer system

Manual data capture is a slow, error-prone method. Automating data capture ensures accuracy, productivity, and efficiency. It includes OCR, barcodes, intelligent document processing, and more.

There are multiple ways information is shared, so you need to decide the most efficient data capturing method depending on your business needs. 

Let’s take a closer look at data capture methods and the best data capture software, starting with a manual data capture definition…

Manual data capture

Manually capturing data involves humans-in-the-loop. Manually inputting data using keyboards, touch screens, etc. It’s slow, tedious, and inevitably, error-prone. For a small company with low volumes of data, it works okay. 

But, if you want your business to scale, you need business processes that scale too. Without having to double your workforce.

This is why a large number of businesses are increasingly switching to automated data capture solutions.

Automated data capture

Electronic data capture software use technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR) and robotic process automation (RPA). These solutions are fast, accurate, and reliable. They can capture data from hand-written documents, emails, quotes, invoices, purchase orders, digital docs, and more. 

While there is an initial financial investment, in the long term, automating data capture is cheaper. 

  • Manual tasks are automated, leaving your team to focus on strategic initiatives for competitive business growth
  • Potential penalties for late delivery or noncompliance are eliminated
  • Employee satisfaction increases, reducing churn
  • Productivity is increased. 

There are several methods of data capture including…

Optical character recognition – OCR

Optical character recognition is a technique that digitizes and recognizes text from PDFs, images, and scanned documents and converts it into machine-readable text files. Businesses use OCR data capture to collect information from documents received in bulk, such as invoice data capture.

OCR technology is used in industries that work with high volumes of data, including finance, healthcare, logistics, insurance, manufacturing… 

A more advanced OCR technology can convert the characters into editable text. 

AI OCR technology implements methods such as intelligent character recognition that can identify languages and styles of handwriting. Is able to export the size and formatting of the text, along with the layout of the text. Again, providing editable text.

Intelligent character recognition – ICR

Intelligent character recognition is OCR with added caffeine. It can extract data from handwriting and convert into a digital format. It recognizes different styles and fonts. The software uses neural networks,  feature analysis, and pixel-based processing to recognize lines, intersections, and closed loops.

When a document is imported, ICR learns the pattern of the text – style, size – and saves as reference. Humans are involved if the software doesn’t recognize unknown or dodgy characters.

ICR is widely used for…

  • Invoices
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Timesheets
  • Receipts
  • Customer surveys

Optical mark recognition – OMR

Optical mark recognition – optimal mark reading – is the scanning of paper to find the presence of absence of a mark in boxes. For instance, and exam paper with multiple choice answers that asks for a box to be ticked for the selected answer.

It’s fast, precise, and easy to use. Saving the eyesight of many a team member.

Magnetic ink character recognition – MICR

Magnetic ink character recognition is a technology that recognizes characters printed in magnetic ink. Mostly used in the banking industry for passing cheques through a machine to speed up processing time.

Barcodes

Pop down to your local supermarket and you’ll see plenty of barcodes. 

It’s an image of black and white parallel lines that when scanned, identifies products and tracks packages through computer software. As I said, used in shops, international orders, and for tracking payments in invoices.

The stripes represent data and numbers, and can be read with a barcode scanner. 

Barcode technology is most commonly used and used on goods and items. You can recognize it by the black and white parallel lines. Barcodes help to identify products and track packages through computer software.

QR code

How many of you have a QR code scanner on your phone?

They contain more information than a barcode and can be used on websites, social media, business cards, WiFi passwords, email addresses, billboards, event flyers.

Restaurants started using for menus to reduce paper wastage, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating their use to promote social distancing. 

Data scraping

Data scraping – web scraping – is a data capturing method that uses bots and crawlers to capture data from websites. Using HTML or a browser, web scraping transfers the data to a database or spreadsheet for retrieval or analysis.

Voice capture

Voice capture technology uses speech recognition to capture and process data. Examples of voice capture solutions include Cortana, Alexa, and Siri.

Magnetic stripes

Take a look in your wallet. Your bank card, credit card, ID card have a strip across the back. It’s a magnetic strip that stores data using magnetic properties. 

Magnetic stripes enable automated data transfer when the card is swiped through a magnetic card reader.

Contactless smart cards

Contactless smart cards contain a chip that is read by a card reader through induction technology. They have more memory than magnetic cards and are used for transactions that are processed quickly or hands free, such as travel cards or payment cards. An Oyster card for traveling in London, or Apple Pay making purchases.

And, drum roll…

Intelligent document processing – IDP

Intelligent document processing is the next generation of automation. It captures, extracts, processes, validates, and segregates data from multiple styles of documents. 

Rossum’s document processing solution brings machine learning, computer vision, deep learning, natural language processing (NLP), and robotic process automation (RPA) to the table. 

Our AI OCR solution automates document processing workflows. Increasing efficiency and productivity, while eliminating the errors caused by manual input.

Our end-to-end automation of document processing workflows leads to boosted employee productivity and engagement. 

Data is currency

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” Tim Berners-Lee

According to McKinsey, “data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, 6 times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable.”

Automated data capture is a critical tool for driving organizations toward improved productivity and efficiency. With cognitive technologies such as AI and ML, data capture increases the quality of data retrieved.

With data being the new currency, it brings a vital source of information with the potential to transform business operations.

Data capture FAQs

What is data capture?

Data capture is the process of extracting data from a form or document. Paper or electronic. Then converting it into a machine-readable format that can be read by a computer.

What does data capture do?

Data capture automates the manual data entry process. For organizations, this reduces time and money spent on manual tasks. It also eliminates human error in the workplace which can lead to a costly financial problems.

What is an example of data capture?

An example of data capture is when applying for a new bank account. You are usually required to fill out a form – paper or online – with your name, address, and contact information. This information is then stored in a database for future use.

What are data capture methods?

The best data capture methods are…
– Optical character recognition
– Intelligent character recognition
– Optical mark reading
– Barcodes
– QR codes
– Digital forms
– Intelligent Document Processing

Automate data capture from transactional documents

Take a look at how we can help you eliminate errors and increase productivity with our AI document processing solution.