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Blog | Jan 22, 2024

What is Intelligent Character Recognition?

What is Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR/iOCR)?
Table of Contents

How ICR/iOCR Takes Data to the Next Level

You’ll see variations in character or handwriting recognition technology, so let’s clear up a few definitions, how you can use them in your organization and what sort of benefits you’ll achieve. And yes, there is an acronym for each one! If it all feels a bit overwhelming, dip down to our handy table comparing the various technologies and what they do.

Essentially, the type of character recognition technology you deploy in your organization depends on the services you require and the complexity of the documents you digitize.

What Is Intelligent Character Recognition?

Intelligent character recognition (ICR) extracts handwritten text from images by employing artificial intelligence (AI). It’s also called intelligent optical character recognition (iOCR), but the two terms mean the same thing. ICI/iOCR takes text and makes it digitally accessible.

How does intelligent character recognition work?

ICR uses AI neural networks to extract documents for organizations. These are the steps ICR takes once the documents have been uploaded to the ICR scanner:

  1. The system scans the documents and automatically interprets any handwritten texts and fonts using its internal database.
  2. The software might ask for user verification before proceeding to the next step.
  3. It then extracts the data and structures based on pre-defined rules.
  4. It checks the data for errors, flags any anomalies and sends them for an employee to review.
  5. ICR processes the documents and automatically enters the data into the relevant systems.

The key feature to note about ICR is that it makes information available to enterprises in a consistent, accurate and easy-to-read format.

What is the difference between OCR and ICR?

iOCR or ICR technology is a sophisticated type of optical character recognition (OCR). ICR recognizes different handwriting styles and fonts and can take them from various types of forms and physical documents. It then uses AI to intelligently interpret that data.

OCR is ICR’s less advanced younger cousin, sometimes called handwriting OCR. OCR systems are template-based. They don’t use AI to extract data like ICR does, and they require a specific format for their data entry. Meanwhile, ICR adapts from the information it collects using cognitive data capture solutions.

What is the difference between ICR and IDP?

Intelligence document processing (IDP) uses AI and machine learning (ML) techniques to process structured, semi-structured and unstructured documents. This allows other technologies to read and process the content in the documents. IDP integrates OCR technology along with other intelligent processing technologies to automate straight-through processing. IDP automatically captures, extracts and processes data embedded in business documents.

Many versions of IDP can convert printed, typed or handwritten documents from structured, semi-structured or unstructured data. IDP converts that data into a machine-readable format. Natural language processing (NLP) allows IDP software to interpret the context of the information it reads.

How do RPA and OCR work together?

Robotic process automation (RPA) automates manual, repetitive tasks in business processes. By incorporating OCR with RPA, organizations can unscramble business data to streamline process automation.

OCR analyzes the patterns in non-digital documents and translates them into legible formats. RPA then processes this by editing, moving and uploading the information into the required systems and tools for further use.

In intelligent automation (IA) software, RPA and OCR work in tandem, along with various other core technologies such as AI, business process management (BPM), low- or no-code development, etc.

Comparison Table




Stands for optical character recognition.

Stands for intelligent character recognition.

Stands for intelligent document processing.

Scans images of text from formats such as paper documents, books, magazines, etc.

Scans typewritten and handwritten data and translates different fonts.

Automates the entire process of capturing, extracting and processing data.

Sticks to a templated format. Does not use cognitive understanding to interpret data.

Can learn to improve accuracy over time using AI neural networks.

Incorporates OCR, AI and ML to convert text into a machine-readable format. It then reads, understands and processes that data.

What are some OCR or IDP tools I can use?

SS&C | Blue Prism® Decipher IDP validates and extracts data. Decipher uses OCR to extract text and text layout information from images. It includes human-in-the-loop (HITL) verification so that if Decipher can’t process a data point accurately, a human can step in to check it.

Document automation turns handwritten forms into decision-ready information using machine learning (ML). SS&C | Blue Prism® Document Automation digitizes, classifies and extracts information from structured documents, such as paper-based formats, automatically. It can also process messy or low-quality images. This makes it easier for organizations to access their data, which can improve recordkeeping and decision-making.

What Are the Uses of ICR?

ICR and its associated technologies aim to streamline business processes and reduce errors caused by manual data entry. The applications of intelligent character recognition in industries can include:

  • Banks and financial services: Read information from customer forms, loan applications and KYC checks.
  • Insurance companies: Digitize claims documents to improve transparency and recordkeeping.
  • Real estate agencies: Scan, verify and digitize contract agreements and forms.
  • Manufacturing and transport organizations: Scan receipts, invoices, bill of lading, shipping and address proofs, etc.
  • Healthcare and life sciences: Process and digitize patient records and forms and move them into a centralized database for clinicians to access more easily.
  • Public sector and government agencies: Read and analyze legal documents and digitize handwritten applications such as driver’s license forms, name changes, etc.

The Benefits of Intelligent Character Recognition

ICR/iOCR aims to simplify data so organizations can focus on decision-making and keep their data more secure.

Streamlines forms processing times

By automating processes such as extracting data, organizations can save time and money – allocating resources to higher-value areas.

Reduces manual effort

ICR software analyzes and records handwritten text data so employees don’t have to spend as much time on data entry. They can then focus on more interesting work that benefits the business and improves job satisfaction.

Improved transparency

With ICR rapidly digitizing handwritten content, business users can retrieve documents faster and organize records more easily.

Better accuracy

By reducing the amount of manual data entry, ICR ensures fewer human errors and imports information faster, so data is readily accessible.

Get the Most Out of Your Data

Don’t let disparate systems and formats keep your data from being stored and utilized. Character recognition software can enable organizations to extract, manage and make decisions on their data. It improves accuracy and reduces the chance that you’ll miss critical information.

Discover more with SS&C Blue Prism’s intelligent solutions.

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