Scanning in Next Generation Cloud-Based Business Applications

Today, scanning is often done in the context of a purpose-built scanning application  outside the context of a business application. This purpose-built scanning application is either rich client application that gets installed on user’s desktop, or a Web-based scanning application that users access through a browser.

How sophisticated the scanning application is will depend. Sometimes it is simply a desktop application that does not communicate with a centralized server, but with more sophisticated capture solutions the architecture includes either the thick or Web-based scanning client communicating to a centralized server. The server has several purposes including controlling the instructional information for processing a scanned batch and connecting that information with backend content repositories and business systems.

Regardless of the technical approach (thick or thin client), the scanning application serves a common function for creating a batch or performing ad hoc scanning (scanning a few pages). This type of scanning applications still serve a need in capturing documents given the nature in which documents commonly enter an organization and are processed.

Some documents are mailed into a centralized facility and others are put into a batch and captured remotely by a skilled worker/business analyst. In a centralized environment, a thick client scanning app is fine, but in a distributed environment organizations often opt for Web-based client. In both cases, the common goal is to digitize the paper, associated index data with the documents, and release the batch for final processing so that the information can be stored in a content repository and in some cases initiate a back office workflow process.

Scanning within next generation cloud-based business applications

So now lets imagine I’m an employee working out of a regional/branch office. During a typical day I frequently work inside one of our companies  cloud-based business applications. Now lets mix in a little paper into this scenario that has been provided to me via an interaction with a customer or partner, mail that was delivered to my office, or another employee who has hand delivered a document to my desk.

Upon receipt of a paper document, I need to get it scanned and associated with a case or record that lives inside this business application.  Rather than launching a separate scan application, what I want to do is perform the scan action within this web-based cloud application service and associate the document with a case or customer record that I’m currently working on.

The reality is this completely possible today, but you need to be using the right set of tools that provide a flexible development environment supporting the latest Web technolology (e.g. HTML 5), work with all standard browsers, and require no plug-ins (e.g. ActiveX)

Approaches like the EMC Captiva Cloud Toolkit offer software developers a quick and easy way to incorporate scanning into their cloud-based application services.

Examples of web-based scanning offerings

At EMC World, I demonstrated a couple Web-based capture solutions that have been built using the new Captiva Cloud Toolkit (see my post on May 23rd – Front Office Capture Highlights at Momentum Conference). These solutions were built by Business Imaging Systems and ImageAccess, and provide scanning, indexing, lookups, and field-level validation all within a standard browser.

Another partner which I have not written about is Accusoft. Accusoft Cloud Scan is a demonstration of the ImageGear for .NET v20 cloud capture capabilities, built on EMC Captiva Cloud  Toolkit. With this demo application the user can scan a document directly to their Google Docs or Dropbox account.  There are a few other cloud-based applications like SalesForce, that they plan to connect the scanning application too as well.

Accusoft Cloud Scan is available as a demonstration online, so if you have a scanner connected to your laptop or desktop give the application a try. All you need to install is the Captiva Cloud Toolkit runtime components. Starting this year, several scanner manufacturers will begin shipping the runtime components with the ISIS device driver that come with many scanners.

The future of scanning in any cloud-based application is not far off. Someday scanning could be as common and simple as printing.

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