Image Systems Pushing The Penmanship Barrier

Computer stumbling over handwritten characters has kept banks from moving faster into image processing. But two technology companies claim to have made recent headway.

Until now, character recognition systems have succeeded in reading only 50% to 80% of handwritten characters correctly. That's a problem for banks that are trying save money by using image technology, especially in check processing.

Reading Better

The problems in deciphering the remaining characters typically stem from unclear handwriting.

Nevertheless, Elsag Bailey Inc., Anaheim, Calif., and Nynex Corp., White Plains, N.Y., claim to have pushed the recognition rate for handwritten characters above 90%.

Neither vendor has designed character recognition equipment specifically for check processing systems.

But bankers and industry officials say the improved accuracy is a significant development for banks.

Accuracy and Speed

"Bankers are concerned with combining a good accuracy rate with their high-speed [check] sorting systems, and now there is equipment to help them achieve that goal," said Aldo Mazzoni, president of Elsag Bailey.

The Elsag Bailey system, known as Slam, is presently being used daily to process hundreds of thousands of documents called "giros" at the Bundespost, which is Germany's central clearing house for these checklike payment mechanisms.

While giros are similar to U.S. checks, they are slightly more standardized in form, making them easier to read by character recognition systems.

Checking Software Is Sought

Elsag Bailey, which derived the high-speed technology from its experience in mail processing, is soliciting the major vendors of check processing equipment to create software that can be applied to the U.S. banking industry.

Despite the differences between giros and checks, company officials said they expect that the accuracy rate of over 90% can be maintained in a check processing environment.

About two dozen banks, including Comerica Inc. in Detroit, Northern Trust Corp., Chicago, and Fleet/Norstar Financial Corp., Providence, R.I., are in the process of installing multimillion-dollar check image systems from International Business Machines Corp. and Unisys Corp.

Many institutions have experienced delays in installing the systems, but Comerica, Northern Trust, and Fleet expect to be up and running by second-quarter 1992.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.