Magazine Article | June 1, 2000

Color In Document Imaging: A New Business Tool

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

As we enter the new millennium, end users are asking if we really need color in document imaging systems. The answer might surprise you.

Integrated Solutions, June 2000
Color attracts attention; it better conveys information to the reader than black-and-white images. In fact, studies indicate color increases attention span, retention of information, and motivation to act. In a recent study by Loyola College in Maryland, results indicated that color enhances worker productivity. When evaluating awareness and comprehension between the processing of black-and-white versus color documents, the following increases were noted:
  • 14% increase in worker comprehension with color
  • 39% increase in visual scanning ability with color
A similar study of color in newspaper advertising by the Bureau of Advertising noted the following statistics:
  • almost 80% improvement in reader recognition with color
  • 70% increase in decision-making speed with color
Shattering Preconceptions About Color Document Imaging
If your organization isn't taking advantage of the benefits of color document imaging, it might be because the technology has long been cost-prohibitive. Shatter that misconception. Technological improvements have made the price of color document imaging comparable to its bitonal counterpart.

Specifically, color images convey more information than black-and-white images do. Therefore, resolution values need not be as high when using color. Also, compression algorithms have reduced the size of usable files from megabytes to kilobytes, and the cost of digital storage continues to plummet. The financial barriers associated with color imaging technology have largely been removed.

Color also offers new document imaging applications – and as a corollary, new vertical market opportunities. These market opportunities include: insurance companies, billing departments, financial institutions, publishing, government agencies, and schools.

Additional Benefits Of Color
Color imaging has other advantages, as well. Official certificates (such as vehicle or stock certificates) often have shaded areas, intricate engraving, and color printing to prevent counterfeiting and alteration. These security features wreak havoc with traditional document capture, even with high-resolution capability. Such forms can render the labor-saving technique of OCR (optical character recognition) ineffective, and the resulting bitonal images are frequently unreadable.

Until recently, color was eliminated from documents during forms processing. Capturing color documents, in conjunction with special lighting on the scanner or micro-filmer, eliminated the preprinted form. This facilitated OCR or ICR (intelligent character recognition) extraction. The result was the reduction of the tedious, costly, and error-prone process of manual indexing. It also made the image and data available to users more quickly.

Elimination of color from preprinted forms is an industry-accepted tool to enhance productivity. However, its use is largely limited to documents that were originally prepared by the firm or agency that will process them. Color is now becoming a productivity enhancement tool for documents not originated by the user. Think of the scads of incoming documents that users need to capture, store, and manage – none of which have been designed by the user organization.

For example, invoices received by an accounts payable department come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes. That makes traditional OCR/ICR methods unusable because they employ predetermined information fields. Color, however, can make the automatic location and indexing of key information much easier.

By locating key data fields based on a specific background color (such as the familiar highlighting colors often used in document processing) documents can be automatically indexed after scanning. Not only does color facilitate document processing, eliminating manual data entry, it also facilitates retrieval of the image.

Be on the lookout for continued advances in document processing. Color document imaging promises to be a common business solution in the near future.

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