As organizations increasingly turn to mobile devices to meet their needs for improved efficiency and better customer service, the demand for mobile document scanning grows.

Yet, according to a recent survey of enterprise IT and information management professionals by the Silver Spring, Md.-based AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), mobile capture applications are still in their infancy. 

More than 60 percent of the organizations represented lack mobile capture capabilities.

Hardware Versus Software?

There are many advantages to providing users the ability to capture or scan documents directly from mobile devices. 

As always though, there are both hardware issues and software options to consider.

For example, built-in mobile device webcams are convenient to use. They are good enough to capture basic documents, such as a receipt. 

However, many organizations need to leverage barcodes or OCR technology. For these applications, better scan quality is a necessity.

business content captured on mobile

Mobile App vs. Web-Based Front End?

There are two main ways to enable a mobile scan application: mobile apps or web-based front ends. Although scanner access can be enabled from mobile browsers, mobile apps can usually provide richer features.

Yet mobile apps come with obvious trade-offs: They require extra programs on user devices, are platform-specific, usually cost more to develop and maintain, and require more updates, to name a few.

These problems can be avoided with a web application that is cross-browser and cross-device functional. While it’s true that web applications may not stack up on features compared to a dedicated app, giving users the flexibility to access a site from both mobile and desktop browsers, as well as the ability to start using it instantly, can often carry the day.

Learning Opportunities

Code It All Versus Use an SDK?

So how can web-based cross-browser and cross-device scanning best be implemented?There’s one more key decision to be made: code from scratch or leverage an SDK.

Even for the most experienced developers, coding from scratch can require months to gain a full understanding of the related standards involved, ranging from JavaScript and HTTP, to the TWAIN standard for scanning — and more. In addition, your development team must stay on top of standards as they get updated.

Mastering the TWAIN standard alone is not for the faint of heart. It specifies communication protocols and requirements that link applications and image acquisition devices and runs 700+ pages long. And that’s just the first step of learning how to communicate with local processes from web browsers, understanding the HTTP protocol and knowing precisely how to use JavaScript to send HTTP requests to a server.

While larger enterprises may opt to take this route, arguing that they own all the code and can create a more flexible design, there’s another option: using a software development kit or SDK.

Using an SDK allows for immediate implementation of scanning from web browsers through any device. SDKs usually allow implementation within a few hours to a few days rather than requiring months of coding. All that’s needed from your team is a careful consideration of the features it requires and making sure that your chosen SDK supports all of them.

Selecting an SDK

The code provided by your SDK vendor is likely to provide many basic capabilities, for example, a JavaScript library for basic scan implementations. Other features such as image processing features and an image upload module are popular but less basic. And make sure your chosen SDK will allow you to connect a scanner to the web and that you can access it from mobile devices.

Compared to coding yourself, SDKs might limit your design options. But they often deliver significant advantages in bringing down development time and costs and there’s no need to keep up with — or even fully understand — future changes to relevant standards. And don’t forget that support costs for the scan portion of your portal are often borne by the SDK vendor and thus greatly reduced.

There’s a lot to think about when developing a plan to enable enterprise-level mobile scanning and remote scanner access, but armed with a sense of its potential, plus these basic considerations, that plan can start to take shape for your organization today.

Title image "3 Bikes" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by TikTak Images

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