OCR Vs. ICR—What’s the Difference? 

You may have heard about ICR and OCR technology if you plan to implement document management software (DMS) in your business. OCR solutions are growing popular, with experts forecasting that the market share for this tech will grow at an annual growth rate of 15.2% for the next eight years. 

The transformation of document transcription in modern businesses can be credited to character recognition technologies, such as OCR and ICR. But how does character recognition really work, and what is the difference between OCR and ICR? Here’s more.   

How Does Character Recognition Work?

As the name suggests, the role of this technology is to read and recognize image-based texts before converting them into standard documents that users can edit or search in the repository. However, the problem is that a computer doesn’t read or scan text as humans do. 

Unlike humans, who have a flexible mental concept to identify characters, computers can hardly recognize distinct texts, images, people, or even backgrounds. Instead, they rely on precise pixel patterns that direct them on what to recognize. This concept gives rise to two technologies that enable overall text recognition, including:

Pattern Recognition 

Pattern recognition is the pioneering version of character recognition, dating back to as early as the 1960s. Typically, users would create a database of font characters and run scanned documents through them to search for matching pixel patterns. Prevalent fonts for running pattern recognition techniques back in the day include OCR-A—a monospace font where all characters share the same width. 

The use of OCR-A pattern recognition became prevalent in banks, where employees leveraged the technology to scan checks. The tech evolved over the years and incorporated other mainstream fronts, such as Arial and Times New Roman.  

All the same, pattern recognition faced two main limitations—the need to apply exact pixel match to patterns for accurate recognition and the outgrowing number of fonts. To date, there are over 775,000 fonts on the internet, requiring users to supplement pattern recognition with other technologies.    

Feature Detection 

Unlike pattern recognition, feature detection extracts the unique elements of a specific character to distinguish it from other texts in the documents, regardless of the font in question. In other words, this type of character recognition can be applied in cases where documents aren’t easily legible thanks to fading or degradation. 

OCR Vs. ICR: What’s the Difference?

Now that you understand the basics of character recognition let’s take a deep dive into ICR and OCR software. Although new users often use OCR and ICR interchangeably, the two software systems feature various differences that set them apart. 

OCR Definition 

OCR scanning software translates scanned image-based text into machine-readable language. The tool can work with both typewritten and printed texts. For this reason, OCR text scanner solutions have become popular in various business processes, such as publishing texts on websites, translating long-form documents into electronic files, or even record-keeping. 

Moreover, an OCR scanner is relatively affordable. But like any other less expensive system, this comes at a cost. For instance, the solution might not be ideal for businesses that want to read and edit handwritten, outdated, or custom fonts. Nonetheless, it may be useful to businesses that want to save costs and use a PDF editor for standard documents. 

ICR Definition 

Intelligent character recognition (ICR) is technically OCR, only that it’s more precise, given that the technology studies multiple fronts and handwriting patterns. What this means is that a computer program identifies a text and learns how to recognize it more precisely over time to enhance accuracy and consistency. As the name suggests, it is the smarter application of your standard OCR. 

Although ICR is more powerful and reliable when it comes to ultra-high resolution and high mass accuracy, it also comes with drawbacks too. For example, neural networks are time-consuming, thanks to their relatively long signal acquisition time. Other disadvantages include high operation and maintenance costs, demanding on-site requirements, as well as expensive instrument costs. 

What is the Main Difference?

The main difference between OCR and ICR is the type of text that they recognize. While an OCR PDF scanner deals with relatively standard fonts captured in paper documents, ICR focuses more on printed or handwritten documents that feature more complicated or custom fonts. 

A the same time, OCR features a fixed font database, which may limit how you apply the technology in your business. On the other hand, ICR auto-updates its neural networks to update the database and encourage the system to learn new fonts. Also, OCR is relatively affordable to implement as opposed to ICR. 

OCR and ICR Software in Document Management Systems 

OCR and ICR have proved to be critical in enhancing various functions of a document management system (DMS). You might want to use either of the character recognition technologies if your business:

Regularly uses a scanner: OCR or ICR technologies enable you to scan PDF-formatted documents and search various attributes in them, such as keywords, product names, or even business tags. 

Deals with multiple vendors: Working with multiple vendors mean more digital receipts and invoice. Character recognition tools can help you scan and edit these documents to check the accuracy or avoid double payments.  

Manages assets and properties: Asset and property management is often characterized by the manual filling of documents. ICR allows you to automate the process of sorting out these documents and make them compatible with the integrated DMS. 

Which One Should You Choose Between, OCR and ICR?

The choice of an ideal character recognition technology for business applications is more than just one size fits all. For businesses that regularly use a scanner to archive documents digitally and make them easily accessible through searching, implementing OCR software online sounds like a good choice. However, if you often deal with handwritten manuscripts, typescripts, or less-common fonts, ICR might be the ideal option. Either way, choose an option that yields a positive ROI and makes more sense to your business in terms of costs and reliability. 

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