Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
Collecting data can be a time-consuming, labour intensive process. So businesses
are constantly looking for ways in which data capture and analysis can be
automated. However, manual data collection is still common for many business
processes. This revision note summarises the main kinds of data collection
you need to be aware of.
The table below summarises the main methods of data collection
Manual Input Methods
A very familiar input device. Typically
used to input data into personal computer applications such as databases
Developed to allow computer monitors
to be used as an input device. Selections are made by users touching
areas of a screen. Sensors, built into the screen surround, detect
what has been touched. These screens are increasingly used to help
external customers input transactional data - e.g. buying transport
tickets, paying for car parking or requesting information
Magnetic ink character
MICR involves the recognition by a
mchine of specially-formatted characters printed in magnetic ink. This
is an expensive method to set up and use - but it is accurate and fast.
A good example is the use of magnetic ink characters on the bottom
of each cheque in a cheque book
Optical mark reading (OMR)
Optical Mark Reading (OMR) uses paper
based forms which users simply mark (using a dash) to answer a
question. OMR needs no special equipment to mark a form other than
a pen/pencil. Data can be processed very quickly and with very low
rates. An OMR scanner then processes the forms directly
into the required database. An example you are probably familiar with is
the National Lottery entry forms, or answer sheets for those dreaded
multiple choice exam papers!
Optical character recognition
(OCR) and scanners
OCR is the recognition of printed
or written characters by software that processes information obtained
by a scanner. Each page of text is converted to a digital
using a scanner and OCR is then applied to this image to produce a
text file. This involves complex image processing algorithms and rarely
achieves 100% accuracy so manual proof reading is recommended.
Intelligent Character Recognition
(ICR) again uses paper based forms which respondees can enter handprinted
text such as names, dates etc. as well as dash marks with no special
equipment needed other than a pen/pencil. An ICR scanner then processes
the forms, which are then verified and stored the required database.
Bar coding and EPOS
A very important kind of data collection method
- in widespread use.
Bar codes are made up of rectangular
bars and spaces in varying widths. Read optically, these enable computer
software to identify products and items automatically. Numbers or letters
are represented by the width and position of each code's bars and spaces,
forming a unique 'tag'. Bar codes are printed on individual labels,
packaging or documents. When the coded item is handled, the bar code
is scanned and the information gained is fed into a computer. Codes
are also often used to track and count items.
Businesses of all types and sizes use bar code systems.
Best known are retailers using Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS)
familiar in supermarkets and many retail operations. Not only saving
time at checkout,
EPOS cuts management costs by providing an automatic record of what is
selling and stock requirements. Customers receive an accurate record
of prices and items purchased. Producers use bar coding for quick and
accurate stock control, linking easily to customers. Distributors use
bar codes as a crucial part of handling goods. Larger businesses and
those with high security requirements can use bar codes for personnel
identification and access records for sensitive areas.
EFTPOS stands for Electronic
Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale. You will find EFTPOS terminals at the till
in certain shops. An EFTPOS terminal electronically prints out details
of a plastic card transaction. The computer in the terminal gets authorisation
for the payment amount (to make sure it's within the credit limit)
and checks the card against a list of lost and stolen cards.
Magnetic stripe cards
A card (plastic or paper) with a magnetic
strip of recording material on which the magnetic tracks of an identification
recorded. Magnetic stripe cards are in widespread use as a way of controlling
access (e.g. swipe cards for doors, ticket barriers) and confirming
identity (e.g. use in bank and cash cards).
A smart card (sometime also called
a "chip card") is a
plastic card with an embedded microchip. it is widely expected
that smart crads will eventually replace magnetic stripe cards in
many applications. The smart chip
provides significantly more
memory than the magnetic stripe. The chip is also capable of processing
information. The added memory and processing capabilities are what
enable a smart card to offer more services and increased security.
Some smart cards can also run multiple applications on one card,
this reducing the number of cards required by any one person.
One of the key functions of the smart card is its ability to act as
a stored value card, such as Mondex and Visa cash. This enables the
card to be used as electronic cash. Smart cards can also allow secure
information storage, making them ideal as ID cards and security keys.
A data collection technology that converts speech into text or interprets it as a sequence
of computer commands.
recognition is most common in data entry and word processing environments,
and fields where a user needs to interact with a computer without using
Web Data Capture
Web data capture use electronic forms on either on
an Intranet or Internet. They are becoming increasingly popular and have
the advantage of being accessible by any user having access to a computer.
Users complete the questions online and the returned data is then imported
in electronic format to the required database.