Recently popular Netflix series The Watcher unexpectedly makes handwriting a key component of the plot. Who is behind those ominous letters? Does the handwriting resemble any house guests? Will the graphologists be able to find a match in time?

It is uncommon for a contemporary mystery drama to include scenes addressing a subject as specialised and methodical as handwriting analysis. However, a programme that places great emphasis on the physical written word has millions of viewers enthralled worldwide. Even though handwriting is still unquestionably important in today’s world, problems can still occur when handwriting is combined with the digital technology that has taken over our daily lives.

The use of handwriting in learning skills and retaining knowledge

Influential publications such as TIME have been mourning the death of handwriting long before smartphones replaced the pens in our pockets. After all, emails and instant messages have largely supplanted the letter. Everyone from office workers to students now spends their days tapping into computers. Even signatures are falling into redundancy, as technologies like chip and pin, DocuSign, and biometrics promise simpler, stronger levels of authentication. But as we move into 2023, the physical act of writing still holds multiple benefits over its keyboard-based cousin.

Recent research published in the Psychological Science journal confirmed what many have long held to be true: handwriting is the best way to learn skills and retain knowledge, offering significantly faster, stronger retention than typing notes or watching videos. As the researchers explained, “the simple act of writing by hand provides a perceptual-motor experience that unifies what is being learned about the letters (their shapes, their sounds, and their motor plans), which in turn creates richer knowledge and fuller, true learning.” Handwriting is also simply faster and more accessible than digital methods of communication. Hospitals still process handwritten intake forms, government agencies often require handwritten business applications, and even health & safety inspection sheets must be filled and signed by hand.

The issues arise, however, when this information needs to be digitised. Manual data entry can be dull task, distracting staff from more fulfilling, impactful work. For business leaders to harness both the benefits of handwriting and the productivity of their employees, they need to leverage technology that instantly turns written notes into digital documents.

The benefits of handwriting recognition for productivity

The journey towards modern handwriting recognition technology began in the 1970s when researchers at SRI International developed the ‘SRI Pen’, a novel method of inputting characters into a basic computer. Fast forward to 2022, and the technology, now known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR), has been upgraded beyond recognition. Today’s OCR tools claim accuracy levels of up to 99%, using cutting-edge AI to scan and extract searchable data from hand-written paper documents, including building permits, patient intake forms, student registration, and mortgage applications.

OCR’s headline advantage is that it increases workplace effectiveness, efficiency, and automation. It reduces the time, cost, and risk of errors from manual data entry, ensuring ultra-fast and accurate record-keeping. It offers greater physical storage space through the removal of hefty filing cabinets, while documents become editable and even recoverable in the event of a disaster. OCR even provides stronger data security and compliance: it removes the risk of paper loss or destruction, leverages state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures, and restricts access to information to prevent mishandling. And once content is uploaded, businesses can use the software to instantly scan and locate required snippets of information for outstanding internal and customer service.

OCR implementation as part of a larger digital strategy

Software for handwriting recognition is frequently most effective when included in larger cloud applications. Employees can then scan documents and immediately store them with their current digital records. Some content management services even make it possible for businesses to extract handwritten text from documents that are semi-structured, helping them to organise the data and expand the reach of their business process automation. And more types of writing are evolving into “recognisable” ones.

Voicemails and meeting recordings, for example, can now be fully scanned for text and searched thanks to new intelligent capture technologies. After all, today’s documents are any kind of file that contains important, useful information rather than just text records. Organizations can create innovative solutions to support their own business priorities, from building resilience against staff shortages to producing first-rate customer services, by automatically utilising structured and unstructured data from various formats.

Modern organisations are reimagining their data and processes in a variety of ways, including OCR. Business leaders can ensure they can maximise resources, increase productivity, and foster an exceptional employee experience by pivoting to digitise operations. Therefore, now is the time to invest in intelligent content capture software while we wait for season two of The Watcher. You should also consider how handwriting recognition could change your working environment.

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