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Pushing the Envelope on ICR Accuracy in Hand-written Forms

5 minutes, 6 seconds read

The need for and consequently the number of solutions for reading hand-written forms in an automated manner has been on a rise for as long as one could remember. Almost all businesses to varying degrees utilize paper-based forms that are filled by customers by hand. Most if not all of these businesses convert this handwritten information into the digital format. Depending on the technological sophistication or the size of the business this digitization might be done manually by one or more data entry specialists or through an automated solution. 

It’s easy to see how the manual route may not be an ideal solution for medium or large-sized business. Some of the apparent drawbacks of manual document processing are:

  1. The cost of having data entry specialists quickly add up as more documents need to be digitized necessitating adding more resources.
  2. Manual data entry is a slow process.
  3. Manual data entry is error-prone and requires a quality inspection which is costly and not fail-proof.

Many businesses have realized this and have transitioned to some form of a partially or fully automated solution to this problem. However, it’s not all rosy for these businesses either. The problems these businesses face is primarily related to the accuracy of the current solutions in the market. 

Shortcomings of Existing Hand-written Document Processing Solutions

The industry average for ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) accuracy at the character level is about 70% and it will drop significantly if measured at word level which is what matters at the end. Such automation may allow for reducing the number of data entry personnel but with such a low level of accuracy, there will be a need for increased quality check resources, which are often more expensive than data entry resources hence diluting the cost-benefit of automation. Moreover, since the quality check is a slower process than data entry, this kind of automation doesn’t even address the speed problem.

Some of the reasons that result in a low level of accuracy among existing document processing solutions are:

  • Poor form design
  • User input not in line with the format
  • Noisy images
  • Misaligned documents
  • Low-quality scanning of documents
  • Spelling mistakes by the user
  • Overwriting/corrections by user

While we may not have control over some of the above factors such as form design and user input, we can definitely improvise the data extraction models to account for the other factors such as image noise, misalignments, spelling mistakes etc.

Our ICR Solution

The Document Parser solution in FlowMagic provides an intuitive user interface where data can be extracted from any standard form in three easy steps:

Step 1:   The user annotates the form (this is a one-time exercise for each new form) using an easy and intuitive UI. During annotation, each input field can optionally be labelled as mandatory. The user can specify the datatype for each field as alphabets, numeric or checkbox and also set the context for the field e.g. Name, PAN, City, Car Make, Date etc. Once done, the saved template can be used repeatedly for reading forms of the same type as long as there are no changes in the form design. In case of a change, the saved template can be easily modified. 

Step 2:   The user uploads one or more forms and chooses the corresponding template (from previous annotations). The system automatically extracts data from the forms.

Step 3:  The system exports the output in CSV, XML or JSON as desired by the user. If any field was marked as mandatory during annotation, the system also outputs a list of all mandatory fields that are blank.

Salient features of ICR Document Parser

  1. The standard form being annotated can be any number of pages. The input form need not have the same number of pages. If there is a mismatch between the pages in the input form and the template, the system does a matching and runs the data extraction on matching pages only. This also means that the input form need not be sorted correctly.
  2. The system can read handwritten as well as printed forms.
  3. The system corrects for minor misalignments during scanning of documents or documents scanned in the wrong orientation.
  4. The system has inbuilt dictionaries for various contexts such as Name, Cities, States, Countries, PAN, Profession, Marital Status, Relationship, Amount, Car Make, Date, Gender.
  5. The various data types supported by the system are alphabets, numeric, alphanumeric, checkboxes and special characters.
  6. The system corrects user errors or scanning issues by performing data type and dictionary checks (see examples below).
  7. The system checks for mandatory fields to make sure the form is completely filled.

Examples of Data Read/Corrections Made by an ICR

Benefits of ICR

Flexibility – you can annotate a wide variety of forms with complex inputs and data formats using the multiple data types and contexts built into the system.

Speed – Both annotation and data extraction are very user-friendly and fast. The system can extract data from a five-page form in under 30 seconds.

Scalability – The system is highly extensible and once set up for one type of form can easily be scaled for multiple forms or to process documents in bulk of the same format.

Accuracy – The character level accuracy of our model is over 90%. Word level accuracy depends on the form design and quality but in general, varies between 75% and 85%.


ICR (Intelligent Character Recognizer) workflow

No matter what solution you use, you can always benefit from these best practices for form design to improve the accuracy of your ICR:

  1. Have all instructions in bold at the top of the form.
  2. Instruct the user to write clearly in block letters as the form will be processed by a machine.
  3. Provide examples of how to enter data wherever there is a scope for confusion.
  4. Instead of providing a free form space for data entry, it provides a clearly marked space with a specific location to enter each character.
  5. The overall space should be large enough to contain the requisite data to avoid user writing outside of this space.
  6. Have enough separation between the space for two fields to avoid overlap.

To learn more about how FlowMagic can improve the accuracy and speed of your document digitization/Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) or discuss your broader AI goals, please get in touch with us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com


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Retention playbook for Insurance firms in the backdrop of financial crises

4 minutes read

Belonging to one of the oldest industries in the world, Insurance companies have weathered multiple calamities over the years and have proven themselves to be resilient entities that can truly stand the test of time. Today, however, the industry faces some of its toughest trials yet. Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to be an insurer and the cumulative effects of the pandemic coupled with a weak global economic output have impacted the industry in ways both good and bad.

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Source: Deloitte Services LP Economic Analysis

For instance, the U.S market recorded a sharp dip in GDP in the wake of the pandemic and it was expected that the economy would bounce back bringing with it a resurgent demand for all products (including insurance) across the board. It must be noted that the outlook toward insurance products changed as a result of the pandemic. Life insurance products were no longer an afterthought, although profitability in this segment declined over the years. Property-and-Casualty (P&C) insurance, especially motor insurance, continued to be a strong driver, while health insurance proved to be the fastest-growing segment with robust demand from different geographies

Simultaneously, the insurance industry finds itself on the cusp of an industry-wide shift as technology is starting to play a greater role in core operations. In particular, technologies such as AI, AR, and VR are being deployed extensively to retain customers amidst this technological and economic upheaval.

Double down on digital

For insurance firms, IT budgets were almost exclusively dedicated to maintaining legacy systems, but with the rise of InsurTech, it is imperative that firms start dedicating more of their budgets towards developing advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics, AI-driven offerings, etc. Insurance has long been an industry that makes extensive use of complex statistical and mathematical models to guide pricing and product development strategies. By incorporating the latest technological advances with the rich data they have accumulated over the years, insurance firms are poised to emerge stronger and more competitive than ever.

Using AI to curate a bespoke customer experience

Insurance has always been a low-margin affair and success in the business is primarily a function of selling the right products to the right people and reducing churn as much as possible. This is particularly important as customer retention is normally conceived as an afterthought in most industries, as evidenced in the following chart.

Chart, sunburst chart

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        Source: econconusltancy.com

AI-powered tools (even with narrow capabilities) can do wonders for the insurance industry at large. When architected in the right manner, they can be used to automate a bulk of the standardized and automated processes that insurance companies have. AI can be used to automate and accelerate claims, assess homeowner policies via drones, and facilitate richer customer experiences through sophisticated chatbots. Such advances have a domino effect of increasing CSAT scores, boosting retention rates, reducing CACs, and ultimately improving profitability by as much as 95%.

Crafting immersive products through AR/VR

Customer retention is largely a function of how good a product is, and how effective it is in solving the customers’ pain points. In the face of increasing commodification, insurance companies that go the extra mile to make the buying process more immersive and engaging can gain a definite edge over competitors.

Globally, companies are flocking to implement AR/VR into their customer engagement strategies as it allows them to better several aspects of the customer journey in one fell swoop. Relationship building, product visualization, and highly personalized products are some of the benefits that AR/VR confers to its wielders.  

By honoring the customer sentiments of today and applying a slick AR/VR-powered veneer over its existing product layer, insurance companies can cater to a younger audience (Gen Z) by educating them about insurance products and tailoring digital delivery experiences. This could pay off in the long run by building a large customer base that could be retained and served for a much longer period.

The way forward

The Insurance industry is undergoing a shift of tectonic proportions as an older generation makes way for a new and younger one that has little to no perceptions about the industry. By investing in next-generation technologies such as AR/VR, firms can build new products to capture this new market and catapult themselves to leadership positions simply by way of keeping up with the times.

We have already seen how AR is a potential game-changer for the insurance industry. It is only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace.


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