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Tame the cost of paper

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Organisations like insurers, healthcare companies and government agencies still depend on paper forms and documents for many of their business processes as they are constrained by regulations, budget and legacy systems, says MALCOLM HART, CTO at i1 Solutions.

Paper-based processes are slow, expensive and introduce scope for human error. They also damage customer satisfaction and tie up corporate resources that could be deployed to areas of the business that add more strategic value. To address these challenges, South African businesses are starting to look towards distributed document capture solutions.

These solutions enable companies to capture documents anywhere, digitise them immediately and eliminate the inefficiencies of moving paper. They streamline the capture, recognition, and classification of business documents and to quickly and accurately extract important information from those documents for use by business users and in applications.

Using distributed data capture, organisations can capture documents where data enters an organisation, for example at point where a field technician gets the customers sign off on a job or where a salesperson closes a contract with a customer.

Thus, rather than relying on centralised scanning operations, leading companies are taking advantage of the latest solutions that turn MFDs, mobile devices, and network and personal scanners into secure, easy-to-use capture workstations.

Key functionality of a distributed data capture solution

A good distributed data capture solution will improve efficiency by automating three key areas:

Classification: The software should streamline document preparation tasks, such as manual sorting of documents into classes before scanning. It will enable users to scan a stack of mixed documents that will be automatically sorted.

Data extraction: It must also be able to extract information from unstructured documents dynamically, or use templates for forms-based documents—eliminating wasteful, error-prone manual data entry.

Validation: Finally, it should also provide multiple methods to automatically check captured data to verify accuracy.

Solutions like IBM’s Datacap use advanced cognitive computing technology to streamline management of documents. Using natural language processing, text analytics and machine learning technologies, these solutions automatically identify, classify and extract content from unstructured or highly variable documents that usually require manual intervention.  This can help significantly reduce labour and paper costs.

Benefits of distributed data capture

In a distributed data capture environment, employees and customers can perform capture tasks with easy-to-use interfaces on familiar devices. For example, new customer on-boarding or new loan applications can be concluded inside a mobile app rather than the paperwork going to a data capture hub.

As a result, important documents and data are fed into business processes and analytics systems quickly and accurately. Pre-configured workflows can be used to automate processing. This, in turn, reduces costs while enhancing the business’s agility and efficiency.

Distributed data also help reduce expenses by eliminating document shipping, paper handling and storage as well as decreasing manual data entry and the costs of indexing errors that cause lost or misrouted documents.

It also provides a dependable audit trail of who has captured the documents. Another potential benefit lies in better customer service. Customer-facing employees can process information quicker and more accurately, as well as easily access information electronically to answer customer inquiries.

For South African organisations, distributed document capture can deliver rapid return on investment by boosting customer satisfaction, easing compliance and improving efficiencies. It is a technology that addresses one of the biggest challenges organisations face: taming the costs of paper and accelerating business processes to the pace of a digital world.

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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