We have now formalised our thinking on what sort of technology we want to enter client information into our system. If we can then we will use optical character recognition for all numbers, and possibly for dates as well. If we cannot use OCR for dates, then we will just use datepointing and enter the dates as the day only from a toolpad. If we cannot use OCR for numbers, then usually we will use our own single-sweep system to type them in. Sometimes we may be able to use an OCR mouse scanner for numbers, but possibly only for credit card statements.
Narratives will always be entered using our own narrative prediction system, even when they could have been entered using OCR. This makes us a lot less vulnerable to the vagaries of OCR, and gives us a single technology for both printed matter and handwritten material which many clerks may prefer. We begin by typing in narratives for the first month or so, and at the same time we can use teachable function keys to help out. When we run our narrative prediction routine, teachability is switched off as a by-product, and then we just use the keyboard plus the function keys to overtype narratives as necessary. We think that this system will normally outperform OCR in a real accountant’s office, granting that there may be ideal conditions where OCR is better.
Future OCR development work can concentrate on optimising systems to scan numbers and dates, which is an easier task. With non-OCR systems, development work will come to a full stop at some point in the near future, because there will only be so many things we can invent before arriving at something like the Carnot or Betz efficiency. At some time in the future, we may use OCR for narrative, but for the time being we feel that the market for accountancy services is best served by competition between different approaches.
Generally dates and narratives have low information density or low entropy, and are therefore amenable to inventions to speed up data entry. Numbers have high entropy, so apart from OCR there is nothing more to invent after the single sweep system. With OCR we have a choice of the pen, the mouse, the wand or the flatbed scanner. The pen is simply not as good as typing it in plus datepointing, and this is unlikely to change. The mouse and the wand are essentially the same type of device and may have some minor potential. The flatbed scanner with a sheet feeder will make most of the running. Let’s see how this assessment plays out in a few years’ time.