Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cell Phones as Document Scanners

This a technology transition that sneaked past me and had already taken place before I noticed. In the late 1990s there wasn’t any hand-held camera that could take the place of a flat-bed scanner. I know this because I tried it. The camera image was not sharp enough, and the shutter not fast enough, to produce a readable image of a business document. That changed sometime in the last few years. The best evidence of this is found in the millions of checks that are deposited from mobile apps every day. If a cell phone camera is sharp enough to create a check image, then it is also sharp enough to create a worthy image of a business letter or a retail receipt.

Obviously, there are compromises involved. Compared to what you get from a flatbed scanner, the image from a hand-held phone camera is blurry. The colors are grayish, the shapes skewed. But the advantage is that you don’t have to carry the document to the scanner. Often, that is a compelling advantage, and it is reason enough to predict, we will be seeing more and more cell phone camera images of documents in the years ahead.