Why Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) is Essential in Today's Global Economy

February 16, 2023

English has long been the primary language used in international business dealings for many countries. However, economists have characterized the current decade by the rising prominence of Asia’s financial markets and presence in international trade. This is inextricably intertwined with the social and cultural influence it has on linguistic norms for businesses.

Beyond this reshaping of language uniformity, the growing digital divide also poses a threat to businesses who fail to effectively bridge traditional and technologically-advanced mediums of communication and handling data. Technology like Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) will thus be essential in enabling businesses to reconcile both systems and language variances that may hinder growth in the global economy.

How does ICR differ from traditional OCR?

The first key difference between traditional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and newer ICR technologies augmented by Artificial Intelligence (AI), is the ability to recognize and capture handwritten characters, detecting a vast spectrum of fonts, languages and even styles of text within a single document. The machine learning element of these AI-enhanced systems further equips them with the ability to improve from a database of documents, developing a growing aptitude to recognize industry-specific or even function-specific terminology over time. Unlike traditional OCR, which relies consistently on the matching of detected texts with a fixed dictionary database of words, ICR systems register and retain patterns in the scribing of terminology unique to any industry or company, gradually improving on its accuracy and scope of interpretation over time.

Why is ICR essential in growing your business?

Rise of Asian Economies

According to McKinsey, “Asia is on track to top 50 percent of global GDP by 2040 and drive 40 percent of the world’s consumption, representing a real shift in the world’s center of gravity.” This rising influence of Asian economies sets in motion an accompanying emergence of niche native languages, and cultural influence in communication practices for businesses around the world. As a result, the presence of foreign languages and currencies will rapidly become more normalized in business documents across all functions.

Market-leading ICR technologies can detect and interpret multiple languages, even within an individual document. As the global economy starts to stray away from past defaults, the detection of multilingual input — for instance if foreign languages are used to complete fields on an English-language form — will be extremely valuable. ICR technologies are also able to detect the use of foreign currencies, automatically converting them to the necessary currency in real-time. With the global economy becoming increasingly accustomed to accommodating multiple languages and currencies in everyday business operations, ICR will be an indispensable tool for companies easing into this new norm.

The Digital Divide

The development of Asian economies has not occurred uniformly across the region. Whilst hyperspeeds of digitization have given rise to smart cities across Asia, it has also widened the gap in the adoption of digital technologies between urban and rural communities, even within developed nations. Research has found the adoption of mobile-use growing exponentially in rural communities, empowering the participation of businesses across economic segments in global supply chains. However, the corresponding trends in the use of computers in the form of desktops or laptops — the main medium used for the digital production of documents and completion of forms — are nowhere near as promising.

As such, businesses operating within more rural communities still largely rely on traditional mediums of communication including handwritten documents. There is hence a pressing need to facilitate the seamless flow of data between traditional means of communication and the new technologies powering these cities. ICR technology inherently functions as the bridge between modes of communication, digitizing data that would otherwise be inaccessible to modern business systems.

Withstanding Handwriting Practices

Beyond economic factors, written notes and documents are still primary practice within certain industries, functions and roles by nature of their work. Such trends are commonly observed in human-centric professions, or primarily mobile ones like healthcare, delivery, logistics, and procurement. An inevitable norm that accompanies the practice of hand-writing in real-time as a means of data collection is the use of shorthand, or industry-specific terminology and indicators. Such practices necessitate manual interpretation, collation and subsequent processing of hardcopy documents on a daily or weekly basis.

The adoption of ICR technologies can not only easily replace this need for tedious and time-consuming data entry, but the AI-powered aspect also allows such systems to be trained in recognizing the use of words and numericals specific to unique functions and scenarios. This will hence equip such businesses with the tools to optimize efficiency in the allocation of both human and financial resources moving forward.

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