What Can Optical Character Recognition Be Used For?

Optical character recognition (OCR) is the electronic or mechanical conversion of images of typed handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. It has many uses in many environments, and its main function is to convert printed texts into editable, searchable digital text. Common uses include in data entry to digitize printed records, such as invoices, statements, and receipts.

OCR Applications

Originally, OCR was developed as a means to assist those who were visually impaired. The motivation was to provide text-to-speech capabilities for blind and visually impaired users and have a computer read the text to them out loud. The technology was well-received and eventually developed to apply to much broader use, like in law firms or doctor’s offices.

Additional applications of OCR include:

  • Data Entry
    • As mentioned before, OCR can be used for digitizing invoices, statements, and receipts for easy data access and management
  • Law Enforcement
    • The technology can be used for automatic plate recognition in traffic stops or when pursuing a specific vehicle. OCR allows law enforcement officers to quickly check a vehicle’s registration or for location data.
    • Common uses include red light or speed cameras, use on toll roads, or with Amber Alerts.
    • Airport security also uses OCR to quickly extract information from passports and IDs when passengers are traveling.
  • Self-Driving Vehicles
    • Traffic sign recognition is a vehicle’s ability to recognize road signs. For example, a stop sign, a yield sign, or a speed limit sign.
    • Self-driving cars or cars that provide driving assistance use OCR to increase car and road safety and reduce the likelihood of human error.
  • Paperless offices
    • As discussed in a previous post, optical character recognition can be used as a means for offices or firms to go paperless
    • This has many environmental benefits as well as financial benefits

Regardless of the intended use of the technology, introducing OCR into a company or firm can streamline many processes. It can provide a secure means to store sensitive or copious amounts of documentation and data.

For resources regarding OCR and its benefits, visit the WorldWideOCR “Helpful Links” page to get started.