Data Capture

Data capture is a broad term that defines any type of information, in any form, that is transmitted through and stored in computers according to specific input fields. These days even the word computer is vague as more and more electronic devices such as cell phones, game players and other high-tech gadgets are performing computer functions involving data capture.

Data capture, also known as electronic data capture or EDC, can be traced back as far as the first cameras that were able to copy, reproduce and store images. Those first photographs, along with early sound recordings, were the first commercial types of data capture, representing a primitive stage before computers came along and transformed the process.

Data capture plays a key role in all financial transactions involving credit cards. When a merchant scans a customer’s card into his device, the data stored in the magnetic strip is read, formatted and then transmitted to the issuing bank for approval. In addition, the merchant manually enters the amount of the purchase into his machine and all of that data is sent.

Once received by the issuing bank, the data sent is compared to the data on file in the institution’s system. If the data matches, an approval code is issued and the transaction proceeds accordingly. If the information does not match, a match percentage number is determined by formula and a rating is rendered according to how close the information tallies. If the rating is low the transaction is voided. If it passes a certain acceptability threshold, an approval code is generated and that information is sent back to the merchant.

There are various different types of data capture, the most prevalent of which would be the UPC bar code on products that speeds your checkout at the grocery store. With one quick, simple scan, the product is billed to you and, at the same time, deducted from the store’s inventory and compiled into a list of buying criteria for the marketing division to study. And then with one swipe of your credit card your purchases are billed to you and compiled into your personal database to accumulate points or discounts for the future. Before automatic data capture technology, all of those processes would have been done by hand.

Employees of large corporations, or businesses whose research is secretive, are relying more and more on automatic data capture devices to categorize employees and isolate them to various sections of the workplace. We’ve all heard of different levels of security clearance in government operations. In fact, the devices that contain the information necessary to identify employees and permit access to certain areas are based on automatic data capture technology.

Lens scanners, face recognition software, fingerprint ID technology – all of these security measures flow from having a data capture device that can identify the individual in question and then instantly compare that information to a database of previously compiled data. Without both ends of the data capture “chain” operating efficiently, the high-tech security devices now used in many areas of the world would not be able to function properly.