ABBYY Embraces the Future of Capture: Technology Summit Coverage

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SAN DIEGO – There was a lot of talk about the future of capture at the ABBYY USA Technology Summit held this week at the Hilton Resort and Spa on Mission Beach. Harvey Spencer, one of the keynote speakers, presented his vision for Capture 2.0. Pam Doyle, Director, Fujitsu Computer products of America and Chair of the TWAIN Working Group, also shared her vision for the next generation of capture. Finally, ABBYY executives discussed the evolution of their company and products to better address evolving market needs.

A crowd of approximately 100 people met over three days for an agenda that included strong keynotes, product and partner program briefings, case study presentations, and more. This year, ABBYY combined its SDK and application product events, so the attendees represented a cross section of customers and partners, including ISVs, hardware manufacturers, systems integrators, VARs, and end users.

In addition to providing updates and discussion on their current SDK and data capture product lines, ABBYY offered a preview of its next-generation linguistics technology, which was first introduced to us this spring at AIIM 2014 [see DIR 4/25/14]. “Our capture business continues to grow, but for ABBYY to continue to expand we need to look into different areas,” said Dean Tang, CEO of ABBYY USA, during his opening talk. “At this event, we are going to demonstrate some of our advanced technology that will bring ABBYY’s information and data capture into a new space.”
ABBYY asked us not to publish any details of this demo (as the product has not been released yet), but we can say it is based on the linguistics understanding previewed at AIIM. “ABBYY is going through a transformation,” said Peter Meechan, ABBYY USA’s COO who joined just over a year ago. “ABBYY started out its history in capture but is now moving more toward information analysis and discovery. That move really started this year.”

Where capture is going
That said, the keynote speakers seemed to think there might be a serious intersection between ABBYY’s legacy and its future technologies. “Historically, capture has often been referred to as an onramp for ECM,” said Doyle. “Going forward I believe capture is going to be both an on-ramp and an off-ramp. It will manage both content creation and delivery. It will be an on-ramp for a multitude of content types but also orchestrate delivery of the right content to the right people, processes, systems, and even storage.”

According to Doyle, the next generation of capture will be content agnostic, include crawling and mining—meaning it will explore and analyze large volumes of information; it will utilize contextual understanding to help with information governance, and it will include semantic analysis to give context to content.

Spencer’s vision for Capture 2.0 calls for real-time recognition. “Capture input is going to become more mobile and things like SMS are going to be more important,” he said. “And capture technology is going to be expected to make sense of information from multiple input types through technology like sentiment analysis. It will need to understand if someone is happy or they are complaining and their correspondence needs to be escalated.”

Spencer showed a slide comparing the needs of the call center market with his views on what next-generation capture needs to have. “The call center people are looking at the same things we are,” he said. “They are dealing with mixed media communications and need to make real-time decisions. That is going to be accomplished through real-time understanding, including inference at the point of impact. Technology like semantic understanding can drive this.”

SDK continues to improve
Not all the talk at the conference was about next-generation technology. Andrey Isaev, director of technology products department, who is based out of ABBYY’s Moscow headquarters, shared some of the improvements his team is making to ABBYY’s market leading recognition toolkit. These include improved receipt recognition, expanded language support, and a revamped embedded SDK.

“The market is really boiling for receipt capture,” said Isaev. “It breaks down into two areas: capture for loyalty management and for expense reports. We currently have 32 partners participating in our beta program for receipts, which is an extraordinarily high number. We are currently working actively to incorporate their feedback. The requirements are different than we originally envisioned, so we’ve had to adjust. We plan to release a public product next year.”

Earlier this year, ABBYY opened a new office in Japan to better go after commercial accounts in that country. It is being headed by former Nuance executive Yo Ohara. “To be successful, we think we need to have better accuracy with our Japanese OCR,” said Isaev. “Context is very important for recognizing characters that look very similar. We are currently improving our Japanese text models.” (Next week, ABBYY is holding another Tech Summit in Tokyo that will feature many of the same speakers.)

ABBYY has also introduced Farsi OCR to complement the Arabic technology it released with FineReader 11 [see DIR 11/1/13].

ABBYY is also rewriting its Compact SDK that is utilized in embedded OCR applications, primarily for hardware devices like MFPs. “Years ago, the Compact SDK was branched off from the full engine,” said Isaev. “It works really well, but because of the way it is optimized, it’s hard to make improvements, like adding Arabic OCR for example.”

ABBYY also has plans to continue to grow and improve its cloud and mobile SDKs. In addition to product improvement, ABBYY USA is putting on an increased marketing push. It recently hired long-time Kofax executive Bruce Orcutt as VP of product marketing and management. “I am here to create a pipeline, demand, and awareness that ABBYY has products that can solve critical business processes today,” said Orcutt addressing the attendees. “We intend to be very visible going forward.”

Added David Bayer who joined ABBYY USA in April as VP of product management and marketing for information governance, “Historically, ABBYY has not gone to market as aggressively as it could have,” he said. “In 2015, however, we intend to ramp that up with a series of thought leadership campaigns involving our capture products as well as our newer technology.”

Tang concluded by assuring ABBYY’s customers and partners that the ISV is in business for the long haul. “This company has been building technology for 25 years,” he said. “Something like the new technology we are working on takes 10-15 years to build. We have the advantage of being able to invest our profits from OCR into new development without having to take on financing.

“Sure, a move like an IPO is one of our options for the future, but it is certainly not our top priority. Our priority is to continue to focus on developing technology that will help our partners deliver better products.”

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