Phone App to Read Illegible Writing

The Invention

The idea is simply to develop an app that reads illegible handwriting, then converts the contents into digital text and has the capabilities to share the received information using the cloud-based services. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, the need to convert handwritten notes into digital text format also increases. Nowadays, people more than ever try to create a paperless world (Vance 41). One of the ways of achieving the purpose of the app is by using the handwriting to text converters. Many apps have been developed to fulfill the need. However, they have all failed for different reasons. We have conceptualized an app that reads not only legible handwriting but also illegible ones. The user will use the camera of a smartphone as a scanner capturing the handwriting as a picture. The picture is then will be processed by the program that reads and duplicates the content in a digital text format. Using other features, such as sharing and editing, the functionalities of the app will be enhanced (Morrish 49). Consequently, we envisage limitless possibilities with such app.

The problem of illegible handwriting is a major one, especially in the medical, educational and marketing sector. The market requires an app that can read illegible handwriting (Rishi 120). Such product would be helpful in enhancing learning among students as they can easily share notes, especially when some students did not attend lectures. It will also be helpful in optimizing efficiency in the medical field where nurses and patients spend much time deciphering physicians’ handwriting and shortenings (Wang 85). The optimization is crucial as it may help reduce instances of misdiagnosis or wrongful prescriptions. Moreover, data gathering in the field, for example by sales people, can easily be captured by pen, digitized and sent to the headquarters instantly for analysis (Mureta 36). The field agents will not have to travel with the received data back to the office to type it, hence, slowing the decision-making process. There are many areas where the app may be appropriately provided they involve capturing handwritten content on paper into digitized text.

Current Products and Ideas in the Market

The app to be developed is not a pioneer in the market; there are other apps that try to satisfy corresponding need. The app represents an aggregation and improvement of all other apps in the field because it reads illegible handwriting, which all its prospective competitors cannot do. Currently, the dominant idea to capture handwritten text in a digital format was used by means of a touch sensitive platform and a stylus pen or finger to write. Most of the apps in the market use such technology. Examples of such apps include MyScript Memo, 7Notes, NotesPlus, iWriteWords designed specifically for kids and Evernote among many others (Lee and Raghu 145). Some of the above-mentioned programs are restricted to desktop platforms, while others extend even to mobile phones platforms, including iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. Another prominent idea is using a mouse stroke character recognizer (Rishi 123). Such apps are, however, restricted to personal computers that can use a mouse. The programs build a database of words used for matching text and can be trained to learn legible handwriting. However, they have several constraints, for instance, using a mouse one cannot dot an ‘i’ or cross like for ‘f’ or ‘t’. In relation to our invention, such programs represent an indirect competition.

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Apart from using a stylus pen and a touch sensitive platform, there are other apps that capture data via camera. Such technology is appropriated by the app, as well. After capturing the data, it is matched to a database accessed when one is online to convert the handwritten text into the digital one. While such apps seem to fulfill the exact need that our app seeks to, they invariably handle only legible handwriting (Rishi 123). While performing current research the product that can read illegible handwriting was not found, yet, making our product unique and a market pioneer in present sub-sector. Some of the apps that use cameras to capture data and convert to the digital text include EverNote, OneNote and Captricity.

Another competitive idea in the market is to use a special pen and book that can be synced via Bluetooth. One of such products is LiveScribe. The most current release, LiveScribe 3 uses a special dot paper and a pen (Lee and Raghu 140). The consumers are only required to download and install the LiveScribe app that connects via Bluetooth with a pen and a book. When a person writes in the book, the same is transferred to the phone, still in a handwritten format. At the end, the user receives a hard copy, as well as a soft copy of the content. According to the user's wish, it will be easy to convert the handwritten content captured on the phone to digital text with a couple of simple actions.

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Financial Costs of Developing the App

Cost and Budgeting

There are various factors influencing the cost of the app. The budget that we have calculated is, therefore, tentative and may be changed in case other costs occur. Being a database-driven custom made app, the estimated cost of developing it is US$ 65,000. The figure may, however, increase depending on other integrated products, such as In-App purchases, web services, share capabilities beyond the app’s scope and other additional functionalities (Thomas). The app will be developed, initially, for iOS and Android platforms. Other operating systems, including Windows Phone, Symbian, Blackberry and Web OS will have their versions developed later, after the primary introduction of the app.

Since we have already developed the idea, there are no substantive idea development costs. However, US$ 1000 will be foreseen for consultation purposes to refine the idea. The app development team will comprise of the layout artist, designers and programmers (Morrish 49). The layout artist has the responsibility of making a design to the functionality layout (Drew 25). It will cost approximately US$ 20,000. The layout master will design the parts of the screen and explain the concept to the programmer in specific terms (Drew 25). The proprietor of the software and the programmers need to understand the functions of each button on the layout. Anyway, if there is a need, a translator may be hired to translate the layout of artiste's demands adequately into actionable technical data to be used by the programmer. The more the number of functionalities of the app, the higher the cost of developing the layout is (Wang 85).

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The next function will be to design the app. The app designs need to be purchased. The suite that adequately caters for all the needs of the app is estimated to US$ 5,000. The package will include all files necessary for developing the app, including .png and PSD files (Thomas).  Hiring print, graphic and web designers to custom-make the app will cost an estimated US$ 20,000 (Wooldridge and Schneider 75). The designers will develop the app icon, the splash screen and the tab icons among others. Finished designs will then be delivered to an app programmer who fits them in place to make a functional app. Hiring a programmer will cost an estimated US$ 15,000 (Chiles 45). After developing the app, a beta version will also be fashioned to test the market. The testing should cost a further US$ 2000 (Chiles 47). Incorporating additives, such as web services, including server hosting and integration of In-App services, such as synchronized debit and credit card purchases, will cost a further US$ 3000 (Mureta 45). After the completion of above-mentioned stages, the only remaining thing is launching the app. The step involves representing the app to an App Store to make it available to the users for download (Lee and Raghu 140). The major stores that the app will be availed at include iTunes and Google Play. An account would cost approximately US$ 99 per year (Anthes 18). After receiving the account, the icons for the app will be placed together with the necessary information on pricing, platforms it runs on and version of the app (McCafferty 2). The users will then be able to access, download and use the free or the paid-for version.

The costs of developing the app for the iOS platform will be higher by approximately 5% of the total cost (Wooldridge and Schneider 65). The reason is that the iOS baseline is not appropriated for Retina display. As a result, iOS requires higher resolution files that are more expensive (Handrich and Heidenreich 23). The higher the resolution, the higher the costs of the files are. Therefore, for the latest models of iPhone 6 the files to match its resolution may cost approximately 10% higher than the rest. Baseline files for iPad, which is beyond our focus at the moment, may cost approximately 30% extra (Wooldridge and Schneider 66).

Business Model and Profit Model

Current app will use a freemium subscription model. Prospective users would be able to download it for free and access the basic version with very limited functionalities (Fruchtnicht et al. 38). Subscribers would have access to the premium version that will have better and varied functionalities with several other privileges upon payment. After downloading the app, the user will have the option of using the free version or the premium version. The free version does not work offline as it is not dynamic. The free version will allow the users to convert data of 500 megabytes of digital text per month, which is approximately 20,000 notes of the app standard screen. The free version is our main revenue sector through allocating advertising space (Vance 42). It may, however, require some time. Users may also opt to use the premium version. They will be required to pay US$ 15 per month or US$ 100 per annum to utilize it. It will be a non-renewing subscription framework where the subscriber will have to renew the subscription manually after the period expires (Mureta 56). Premium users will have a more dynamic database where most recent documents are housed in the phone in a cache and can even be accessed when the user is offline. Furthermore, they can convert a maximum 5 gigabytes and have more monthly limits. Premium users can create approximately 150,000 notes per month. They also enjoy faster word recognition and have a wider range of sharing capabilities, including social media platforms, emailing and cloud storage facilities, such as Dropbox.

The app will be free to download. We will rely on monthly and yearly subscriptions for revenue at the start. The expected revenue during the first year is estimated at US$ 50,000 (Mureta 68). We expect to increase the revenue in the following year from subscription as the product continues gaining popularity. To popularize the product, direct marketing will be done in schools, especially institutions of higher learning and hospitals. Students and medical staff are the primary markets for the product. Subscription revenue is not expected to be the major income earner in the long run; it will be advertisement revenue (Handrich and Heidenreich 30). After lunching the app, the only other costs incurred will relate to analyzing the product performance and updating its functionalities. The profitability of subscription services is forecasted to be US$ 100,000 from the third year. Advertisement revenue is estimated at US$ 1 million per annum once the app becomes popular.

It is considered that the app will be profitable even taking the competition into account. Such projection is caused by the fact that we have been keen to design a product that is unique in the market as shall be espoused in the competitive analysis below. None of the direct competitors offer illegible handwriting reading services, which reduces their applicability. Our product gains resonance among the people who do not have time or ability to write legibly, for example, physicians, pupils and students. The app will be unique and it has the potential to become a profitable venture. We do not envisage a similar player entering the market in the short run due to the complexities involved in developing and maintaining the app. We should be able to consolidate the market before a new entrant appears. Moreover, till that time the app should already be a market leader. The group’s opinion is that the options to sell the app can be explored if a lucrative offer is represented. Otherwise, the group plans to manage the app for the unforeseeable future due to the steady flow of revenue it promises (Wang 85). An offer of US$ 10 million would be considered in the second year and a subsequent increase in the same amount each year as its use increases.

Competitive Analysis

The major direct competitor is EverNote. The app allows users to capture handwritten contents using a smartphone’s camera and then convert them into digitized text (Rishi 126). EverNote embodies what our app will do. It is freemium. People using the free version can create approximately 100,000 notes per month. However, the notes are not scrollable, thus, reducing their capacity. Premium users pay US$ 5 per month to convert contents of not more than 4 gigabytes (Rishi 126). The premium subscribers can heighten the security of their documents and enjoy faster conversion. The app runs on Ms. Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, Web OS, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Windows Mobile and in some versions of Symbian. Consequently, EverNote will be a major competitor. It offers competitive pricing that will present a major challenge (Vance 42). It can also run on more platforms than our app that will, initially, run on iOS and Android only. Our competitive advantage against EverNote will be based on the fact that our app, unlike EverNote, can read illegible handwriting.

Another major competitor is Captricity. It is free and it operates on iOS and is used to capture handwritten content via the camera and convert the contents into digitized texts (Wang 86). It can only operate when one is online because it is based on its cloud-based data capture service. Captricity has already been used in the medical field before it was designed as an app. While running on personal computers, Captricity used optical character recognition to decipher doctor’s handwritten text. It had a broad database that enabled matching. The ambiguous text was marked and later verified by a physician employed to do that (Rishi 127). The success in the hospital environment is what made it prominent as an app.

Still, Captricty has not navigated the problem of hard-to-read text that previously was being solved by a human controller. Therefore, Captricity may not be able to contend competitively with our product in the sub-sector of illegible handwriting. Furthermore, at present Captricity only runs on iOS (Bowen and Finch 45). That should also give our app an advantage over Captricity. The last competitor is OneNote, which, just like our program, uses the camera to capture handwritten text and convert it into digitized text. The reason it is not a direct competitor is because it is a desktop application. The pictures have to be transferred to a personal computer before being translated.

Plan and Long Term Strategy

The plan is to design the app, upload it and ensure it operates to our customers’ satisfaction. Online marketing will be employed to expand the market. Offline marketing will also be done in schools and hospitals. Physicians have illegible handwriting attributed to their shorthand. The app targets physicians and nurses to help them decipher the text faster and improve the quality of healthcare. Business organizations can also purchase the app in bulk at discounted prices for their sales representatives in the field. Our objective is to offer a simple platform that converts illegible handwriting into digitized texts.

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The long term strategy is to explore horizontal integration. We hope to explore the ways and means through which data can be captured to include the use of stylus pen and even voice recognition. Improved data input mechanisms will increase its use and flexibility which, in turn, helps increase the market share (Drew 28). Another long term plan is to pursue specialization, especially in the medical arena. We intend to build a rich database of medical words that would help translate physicians' shorthand easily. Part of the development would foresee the improvement of database to the extent that words are easily recognizable despite the illegible handwriting. The app will not have to decipher one letter at a time. The attribute should improve its processing speed, increasing effectiveness and efficiency (Lee and Raghu 150). Increased innovation should also allow all users to use the app while offline in future. Lastly, diversifying the app such so it could be used on other platforms apart from iOS and Android is also a part of the long-term strategy to secure a larger market share.

Threats to the Idea

The major threat to our idea is the new entrants in the market. The ideas are not copyrightable, while their implementation mechanisms are (Chiles 45). We, therefore, expect others to copy our idea and provide direct competition in the near future. The app development team will sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect the mechanisms used to create the app. The task will then be to maintain the superiority of the product which should not be difficult, given the advantage we have and the competitiveness of our app.

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Group Opinion

The group members’ unequivocal opinion is that the app will be an instant economic success. It is a viable business opportunity that should be explored. The potentials of its success are enhanced by the fact that it is a new product in high demand areas. The market trends show increased use of digitized data (Anthes 18). Moreover, many people still prefer writing using their hands. As a result, the app is the perfect solution. Since apps are becoming a major revenue earners, the idea should be implemented.

 

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