Home Cameras Your smartphone’s camera can do a lot more than just take photos

Your smartphone’s camera can do a lot more than just take photos

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The modern smartphone camera is about far more than just photos and videos. Here are some of the amazing things your phone’s camera can already do with recognition and scanning software.

Tell me what plant this is. Translate this menu. Add this bill to my business invoice list. Your smartphone’s camera can already handle all these things with apps that scan and recognise images.

Some apps use the camera to recognise computer-generated codes, such as QR codes or barcodes, on a product or poster for example. The app then converts them into data such a website address.

“In the past if you wanted to use this function you had to download an app. In newer smartphones, however, the function is often integrated into the camera app,” says Nils Britze, head of digital business processes at German technology association Bitkom.

Another group of apps can recognise objects that appear in the camera view, Britze says. For example, there are apps that can read a menu and translate it or that can name a plant based on its flower.

Face recognition technology has brought major progress in this field, says smartphone specialist Miriam Ruhenstroth. The algorithms for image analysis are now so good that they can work on all sorts of objects.

Image recognition apps also contribute to the digitisation of office and administrative processes, Britze says. Business software providers have developed apps that use the smartphone camera to digitise and archive documents.

For example, apps can help with travel expense accounting by digitising travel documents while on the move and then transferring them to the appropriate company software.

The apps use optical character recognition (OCR) to capture information from documents and transfer it to other applications.

They’re generally easy to use: just point the smartphone’s camera at an object, regardless of whether it’s a barcode, a plant or a document, and the result is displayed.

There are many such apps on the market, some free and others paid. Many of them require an Internet connection because the text or image recognition takes place on a server.

“Many users are not aware that their pictures, which they took with a scan and image recognition app, will be processed on the provider’s server,” Ruhenstroth says.

That raises issues of data protection. Questions such as whether you trust your images to be transferred to a server and processed there should be considered, Ruhenstroth says.

It should also be noted that free apps may be financed by advertising and that results in a lot of data about the user being sent to third parties. If that bothers you, Ruhenstroth recommends searching for ad-free alternatives. – dpa

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