Optical Character Recognition

What is Intelligent Character Recognition?

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What is Intelligent Character Recognition?

What is ICR?

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) also known as Intelligent OCR is technology used for extracting handwritten text from image files. It is an advanced version of OCR technology where Machine Learning algorithms and AI intelligently interpret data in forms and physical documents through the recognition of various handwritten styles and fonts.

ICR technology is used to scan and extract information from these paper-based documents and store data digitally in a software database. The data is integrated with business workflows and used for analytical reporting. Businesses use ICR technology to organize unstructured data and get real-time insights from these reports.

ICR allows users to quickly read handwritten information on paper and convert it into a digital format. ICR engines work with OCR to automate data capture from forms and eliminates the need for keystrokes for entering data. It features a high level of accuracy and is a reliable way to save time in processing a variety of documents.

Difference between ICR and OCR

Businesses receive a ton of documents via email such as PDFs, JPEGs, spreadsheets and other file types. The variety of formats is what makes it difficult to process this information and OCR technology is being used for smart automation. Cognitive data capture solutions make it convenient to add human interpretation to data and organize unstructured fields.

The debate between OCR and cognitive data capture solutions is not at a standstill and there are various reasons why some businesses choose ICR over OCR and vice versa.

The best approach involves using both and here are the key differences between them:

  • OCR systems are template-based and don’t use artificial intelligence neural networks for extracting data, unlike ICR
  • Template-based OCR uses a specific format for data entry while cognitive data capture solutions learn how to recognize various formats
  • OCR is ideal for companies who have a fixed structure for documents. ICR is adaptive and trained for frequent invoice changes
  • OCR software includes paying project administration fees but ICR technology is fully automated
  • Manual intervention and review are needed for OCR-based systems. ICR only flags anomalies and asks users to check when required
  • Templates have to be manually created for OCR. ICR doesn’t require templates
  • OCR APIs are not compatible with custom data and are designed to work with just digital text. ICR works with images, handwritten forms, multiple vendors, paper documents, etc

·  OCR files are not easily searchable in enterprise database since they turn documents into PDFs just once. ICR scanners store read information which makes data retrieval convenient

How does ICR work?

Robotic process automation is a technology used for configuring ICR software and executes error-free tasks. Computer vision, pattern recognition, AI, and speech recognition are features deployed with robotic process automation and ICR to extend the capabilities of modern ERP suites. The reports generated are accurate and ICR lets humans gain insights from sophisticated analytics which assists with making key business decisions.

Here is how ICR works when it comes to document extraction for enterprises:

  • Documents are uploaded to the ICR scanner
  • Pre-trained APIs read in details and scan the image. Any handwritten text and fonts are interpreted automatically by the system, taking reference using a pre-existing database
  • The software might ask the user to upload handwritten signatures for user verification
  •  Data gets extracted from documents using key-value pairs and is structured automatically
  •  After proofreading and checking for spelling errors, the ICR software flags anomalies (if found) and sends documents to users for a review
  •  Otherwise, the documents are processed and the data from fields are automatically entered into accounts payable systems for record keeping

Next time the user wants to upload more documents, the APIs automatically create new models for reading and interpreting information when new document types are introduced. Or else, it uses old models to scan and read data if the same types of documents are uploaded.

Applications of Intelligent Character Recognition

Capturing information from physical documents and converting it intelligently into electronic formats is what intelligent character recognition excels at. ICR is being used by the following industries:

  •  Banks, NBFCs, and financial institutions store large volumes of customer data. ICR reads information from loan applications, checks, forms, and surveys to process them digitally
  • Schools and educational organizations use ICR to read handwritten notes and enter it into systems for grading purposes
  • Online businesses and ecommerce stores use ICR to collect electronic signatures and log it in databases for KYC documentation
  • Property managers use ICR for verifying ownership by scanning land documents. Landlords are applying ICR for e-verifying rental agreements
  •  Many insurance companies are required to digitize document by law and using ICR for filing claims greatly increases transparency. The data stays online and gets easily verified making it easier for customers to renew policies and lodge complaints
  • Hospitality and logistics sectors use this technology for scanning receipts, invoices, shipping and address proofs, bill of lading etc.

Benefits of using ICR

ICR is a self-learning technology which means every time it gets exposure to new handwriting styles and fonts, it learns, adapts, and transcribes information to digital databases better.

It brings the following benefits to organizations:

  •  Great for maintaining electronic archives of records, ICR can be used for document management and is scalable solution
  • Enterprises are adopting ICR with transcription services and integrating with various types of documents
  •  ICR services provide robust data verification and eliminate time spent on manual data entry. This lets employees be more productive and efficient
  • Cloud storage is more secure when uploading data with ICR solutions and organizations can safely protect information from authorized access


ICR software is powered using intelligent neural networks which are constantly learning and adapting to various handwriting styles. We can say that as the technology keeps improving, it increases in accuracy and precision when it comes to intelligent character recognition. Users enjoy an advantage when they have more data to present ICR models since the software is able to update and perform better.

Whenever ICR software reads handwritten fonts, it gets better at predicting new writing styles and automatically upgrades its database. Fields which have not been written clearly are sometimes hard to interpret by ICR models and it is important to manually review them prior to entry. 

Suggested Case Study
Automating Portfolio Management for Westland Real Estate Group
The portfolio includes 14,000 units across all divisions across Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Inland Empire.
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Pankaj Tripathi
Written by
Pankaj Tripathi

Helping enterprises capture data for analytics and decisioning

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