RealTime IT News

ScanR Turns Cell Phone Pics Into Usable Documents

Start-up firm ScanR today announced a new service to process photos taken by camera phones and convert the image into a searchable document for future reference.

Photos taken with a camera phone are processed by an automated system, cleaned up to remove background noise, blurriness and other flaws, converted to the Portable Document Format (PDF) with embedded tags for keyword searching and e-mailed back to the person who sent them. Searching can be done with any desktop search software, like Google Desktop or the search feature in the forthcoming Microsoft Vista operating system.

For now and the coming months, the ScanR service is free, according to Chris Dury, vice president of marketing at ScanR, in Palo Alto, Calif. Eventually the company plans to announce a premium pricing schedule for high volume users, but the system will always be free for the casual user who only takes a few pictures per month.

"Our goal is to unlock information stuck in paper formats and use them in digital files," he said. "The scan/copy/fax market is a $35 billion global market, and the reality is you're overwhelmed with paper, and paper is hard to deal with. It's a lot easier to store your information when it's digital."

ScanR is not limited to camera phones. The company said about a third of its testers opted for digital cameras for their higher resolution though they require the extra step of transferring the images to a PC for emailing.

Neil Strother, research director for mobile devices at NPD Group, in Kirkland, Wash., said he was impressed with the engineering behind the product for cleaning up the scan, but wonders if it will reach a wide audience if there isn't a greater perceived need. "The key will be to find early adopters most inclined to use it," he said.

Dury said his firm has. One group of testers that took a shine to using ScanR was realtors, who spend a lot of time shuttling paperwork around. The service enabled them to submit paperwork, at least in digital format, faster than driving it back and forth. Another group that liked it: students. It was easier to take a picture of a friend's notes than take down a copy by hand, and the ScanR software was able to clean up the picture of handwriting and make it readable, he said.

ScanR requires a camera with a minimum resolution of one megapixel (two megapixel preferred). Dury claimed that most of the cell phones with cameras sold this year will be one megapixel, and more than 40 percent will be two megapixels.

Once you take the photo, you email it to one of two addresses at ScanR, either for documents or whiteboards. The processed photo is then emailed back to you, and anyone else who should get a copy if you specify.

Separately, ScanR announced it has obtained $4.65 million in Series A funding led by Trinity Ventures, and Thomvest International. Other investors included Don Listwin, former President and CEO of Openwave Systems, and James Joaquin, current CEO of Xoom.com and former CEO of Ofoto.

“The need to capture physical information digitally is well-established, as evidenced by the large market for a wide-range of stationary hardware solutions," said Gus Tai, a General Partner with Trinity Ventures in a statement. "scanR is leveraging the broad adoption of camera phones and digital cameras to deliver a compelling mobile application."