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OCR Accuracy Doesn’t Matter (The Way You Think It Does)

OCR Accuracy

If you’re looking for the “perfect” optical character recognition (OCR) solution, there’s probably one thing you want it to be more than anything else: Accurate. And you’re probably trying to find “the most accurate” option. What if I told you that OCR accuracy, while obviously important, doesn’t really matter in the way you might think?

The market is filled with OCR vendors boasting about their accuracy levels. That’s because they are all pretty accurate.

And that’s the issue (or, well, non-issue) — depending on the task, the differences in accuracy among the top OCR engines are minimal to non-existent. The most important question you should be asking isn’t, “Which OCR software is the most accurate?” It’s, “What am I using this OCR software for?”

What are your requirements?

The use cases for OCR range from automating data entry and managing business documents to enhancing accessibility for the visually impaired.

But you can drill down even further than that. Are you building your own OCR-capable app, or just want to use someone else’s? Do you need to integrate with other third-party tools and services like QuickBooks or a laboratory information management system (LIMS)?

Suppose you want to release a product that helps pharmacists parse doctors’ signatures on prescription order forms. An OCR technology that uses a third-party dashboard with a case study asserting it can read French passports with 98% accuracy probably isn’t that useful to you.

In other words, people tend to conflate “OCR accuracy” with “OCR performance,” but accuracy is just one piece of performance.

Evaluating OCR software

Everyone’s exact business requirements are unique. We’ve never seen the same ones twice. So, what sets apart the OCR solutions that are just “accurate” from the ones that actually help you meet your needs?

  • Yours vs Theirs:

    Most OCR products put an emphasis on their proprietary dashboards for document processing and data monitoring. But if you’re embedding OCR into your own app, look for a solution offering comprehensive APIs and UI components you can use inside your infrastructure. It should be interoperable with other platforms in your data pipeline, too.

    In fact, interoperability is important whether you’re building your own app or not. Extracted text has to go somewhere. Can they store the data in your cloud? Your CRM? Somewhere else?

    When the University of Cincinnati needed to build a custom OCR solution inside Salesforce to digitize student records, they used Onymos DocKnow for its flexibility and pre-built, embeddable UI.

    “We were able to develop an application in Salesforce to manage the process more efficiently,” said Josette Riep, Assistant Vice President of Integrated Data, Engineering & Application Services at UC. “Onymos DocKnow was a key component of the system by providing the ability to OCR and conduct an initial tier of validation.”
  • Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR):

    Today, the best computer vision can read 2,000-year-old charred papyrus scrolls… but unless you have a particle accelerator, you’ll have to rely on slightly less powerful alternatives.

    Handwriting recognition can be tricky for most commercially available OCR tools. You can get great results under optimal conditions (and with a lot of model training).

    But how can you consistently ensure “optimal conditions”?

    If you need to perform HTR, try to find a solution that can recreate the “optimal conditions” for you, if they aren’t there to begin with. Can your solution crop backgrounds, correct for skew, adjust contrast, or remove “noise”? Can it do all of that automatically? Can you control it manually?

    At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albertsons pharmacists used an Onymos-powered mobile app to scan images of vaccine consent forms at crowded pop-up clinics in places like parking lots and school gymnasiums (i.e., not optimal conditions).

    It saved so much processing time for their clinicians in the field that it was subsequently rolled out to 1,700 stores nationwide.
  • Data Security and Privacy:

    A few years ago, ABBYY, one of the market-leading OCR providers, left a server with around 142GB of digitized documents wide open to the Internet. It wasn’t even password-protected.

    Bob Diachenko, the independent security researcher who found it, said the exposed database contained “contracts, NDAs, memos, letters, and other internal documentation, properly OCR’d and stored.”

    SaaS vendors mishandling data isn’t anything new, but supply chain attacks against third-party software providers are rising. Every vendor with your data is a new attack surface for threat actors. Finding a partner who doesn’t need access to your data to actually perform data extraction can keep you and your customers more secure.

    Focusing on data security motivated CloudWave to choose Onymos for OCR and intelligent document processing. “At CloudWave, we emphasize data security in all collaborations. When searching for an enhanced OCR technology for our solution, Onymos DocKnow stood out as the only product allowing our customers to operate it entirely within their own infrastructure,” said Prabhakar Ramakrishnan, CEO of CloudWave.

Onymos DocKnow is optimized for all parts of OCR performance (including — but not just — accuracy). Reach out to our team below to learn more.

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