2013 has come to a close and I feel it is important to acknowledge that my smartphone was pretty much my best friend the entire year.  The amount of time I spent checking e-mails and using apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have reached a record high and my prediction for 2014 is that it will only continue to climb.  I am actually ashamed to say that there is one particular technology that I did not take advantage of this year. I took thousands of photos with my smartphone camera of people and scenery but failed to recognize the same could be done with information.

Three words: Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

OCR is a technology that converts different types of documents such as PDF files, paper or images captured by a digital camera into editable or searchable data. There are several different ways to take advantage of this technology on your smartphone. CamCard is an application that imports printed information from business cards into your smartphone contacts. If you are a frequent traveler, Word Lens might be an app to look into. Right now it only supports a few languages, however it is perfect for translating words or phrases on the fly.

I found one app in particular which would have been so very helpful to have on hand during recent holiday shopping adventures. Shopping tends to be one of the activities that I have a love hate relationship with. Usually, I lean towards shopping online but many times I feel the best deals can be found by just going out and getting it done. This is where an app called RedLaser that makes use of OCR technology to read bar codes would have been prime. RedLaser can be used to find coupons and compare prices while on the go. I probably would have saved a pretty decent amount of money if I could have used this application to check the amazon pricing on a product that I was about to buy.

So what about all of those super heartfelt Christmas cards you receive from friends and family? I know it just breaks your heart having to throw those away each year. Don’t forget that cookie recipe your grandma whipped out of her ancient, dusty cookbook to bake with you. If I had an app that scans PDFs, I would never miss out on a chance to grab a recipe from my relatives, or take pictures of all of those sentimental cards for safe-keeping.

I believe it is safe to say that application developers will continue to push the boundaries for us in terms of mobile computing and we all should be prepared to use our smartphones in ways we never imagined we would.