Magazine Article | November 20, 2006

Scan Documents At The Edge Of Your Enterprise

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Lightweight mobile scanners can speed paper-based processes and reduce data inaccuracies.

Integrated Solutions, December 2006

Business is no longer conducted only in the office. In fact, the traditional office is becoming a thing of the past. Now, executives and business professionals work from airports, hotel rooms, and trade show floors. As more and more business is conducted outside of traditional offices, the need to capture information at the point of work becomes more urgent. That is where document scanning comes in. It used to be that most document scanning occurred in centralized environments. Organizations sent all of their important documents from multiple departments and branches to a central location where specially trained scanning technicians would scan the documents on expensive, high-speed scanners. While this approach is still popular, many businesses are realizing the benefits of distributed scanning. With a distributed model, multiple lower-speed, lower-volume, and less-expensive scanners are strategically placed throughout an organization, so paper can be captured where it originates.

Distributed scanning can pose a challenge when the frontline employees are not in an office but in the field — conducting business in those aforementioned airports and hotels or hauling equipment and delivering goods in trucks. However, there are mobile scanning options to enable these mobile workers to scan documents in the field.


Mobile scanners are lightweight (typically less than 2 pounds) devices with a small form factor and range from $150 to $400, depending on functionality. Some are approximately the size and shape of paper hole-punchers, others are like a large pen. “Mobile scanners, even though they’re small, should have the capability to scan documents from the size of a business card to an 8½- by-14-inch sheet of paper,” says Connie Albright, senior product manager for Pentax. Other mobile scanner features typically include:

  • black-and-white, grayscale, standard-color, and full-color scanning

  • USB 2.0 compatible (as well as backward compatible with USB 1.1)

  • if self-contained (e.g. battery-powered), external SD memory card slot

  • scanned image resolution from 100 dpi (dots per inch) to 400 dpi.

One of the most desirable features of these scanners, in terms of mobility, is the fact that they don’t require an external source of power — that is, the scanners don’t need to plug into a wall outlet. Mobile scanners get their power via the USB cable that plugs into a laptop or from internal battery power. 


Because of their adaptability, mobile scanners can be used in numerous vertical markets. These markets, from trucking to insurance, have the same things in common: There is a mobile worker, there is a lot of paper, and scanning the paper can increase the time it takes for a resolution of the mobile work — figures get to accounting, or an insurance claim can begin to be processed.

Take healthcare, for instance. This industry involves a plethora of hard-copy documentation, from ID cards to patient claims. In healthcare, about 20% of the claims submitted by hospitals are denied by the insurance companies; 90% of those are due to typographical errors. By scanning patient documents, insurance cards, and driver’s licenses, and creating a digital image accessible to the patient’s authorized care providers, hospitals can reduce registration time and solve data inaccuracy problems. In many instances in healthcare, scanning requires mobility, such as in emergency admissions. “If someone comes into the ER and needs to go straight to surgery or other care, they’re treated right away,” says John Capurso, VP of marketing for Visioneer, Inc. “Later, however, they need to be admitted, and it’s not conducive to bring them down to the admissions department. Some hospitals have roaming admitting employees who use a mobile cart consisting of a laptop and mobile scanner.” The laptop communicates with the hospital’s network via a Wi-Fi connection. The employees can go into patient rooms and admit the patient, scanning the necessary documentation (i.e. driver’s license, insurance card) right there at the bedside.

Mobile scanning is also viable in transportation and route delivery applications. In the instance of transportation, truck drivers carrying goods collect documentation, such as weigh bills and bills of lading, along their routes. At designated stops (i.e. truck depots), the drivers place all of the documentation into deposit boxes, and the documents are mailed to the trucking companies or clearinghouses. “By equipping drivers with mobile scanners and laptops, they can scan all of the documentation and upload the images to the appropriate office via Wi-Fi connections at truck depots,” says Albright. “The time it takes to invoice is taken from at least a week to one or two days.”


When it comes to deploying any mobile technology, user adoption is key to the projects’ success. Field workers are skilled in their particular job description, which doesn’t typically include technology — whether mobile computers, printers, or scanners. “Ease-of-use is probably the most important factor when considering mobile scanning,” says Capurso. “A while ago, the people using scanners were at the top of the experienced user pyramid. Now users are moving way down that pyramid.” Capurso recommends that companies consider the following points:

  • Users will often be scanning thick documents, so the scanner needs to have a straight paper path.

  • When scanning ID cards or something similarly thick, the scanner needs to take into account that it’s a smaller image, so it should have an auto crop feature.

  • The scanner should have auto OCR (optical character recognition), or the capability to add auto OCR, to properly capture key information (e.g. group number, social security number) from the documents.

One way to increase user adoption is through the use of one-touch scanning — buttons on the scanner are preset with scanning requirements (e.g. scanning resolution, cropping, OCR), including the format the scanned image should take (e.g. PDF). “You don’t want to create an expectation of scanning skills,” says Capurso. “You want to scan to function. You can’t push scanning format requirements to business users.