Multi-Functional Printers together with filePOD’s RPA bots Makes a Simple Way to Digitize Paper Documents

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Summary

More and more businesses are using Multi Functional Printers (MFP) to scan a large number of paper documents into digital documents format ready for further processing. In many cases, scanned i.e. digital documents are just “pushed” into various public cloud storage systems such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive or sent directly to another cloud-based application/service for further processing (e.g. SAP or ECM). 

To facilitate these conversion MFP manufacturers have implemented a number of “connector” applications which connect MFP to a cloud service (e.g. Dropbox). A user of MFP first needs to download, install and configure such “connector” applications for each individual cloud service.  Then to use it a standard procedure is for a user to login into an account on a cloud storage service from MFP’s LCD screen, then scan a document which will be then sent to corresponding destination account with the cloud storage provider. If there are a number of documents that need to be sent to different locations than this process needs to be repeated for each destination account over and over again.

The better approach is for the user to use its own personal filePod device. In this scenario, the user would use MFP’s standard WebDAV connector to login into filePod as WebDAV server. All scanned documents would then be sent to the user’s filePod. A great new feature of FilePod is the ability to execute different Robotic Process Automation (RPA) imBOT applications which can scan, analyze, process and redirect each digital document to an appropriate destination. In this use case, each human can have his/her own digital worker assistants capable of performing a number of different functions.

Meet the User: Enzo is an Owner of a Small Business and wants to have a Paperless Office

Hi, my name is Enzo. I ran a small business.  I have been searching for a good way to manage papers in our office. Over the years our small office became even smaller due to piles of boxes with all sort of paper documents. I want to scan my letters, bills for guarantees, and important documents to reclaim more physical space in my office.

So, what do I want?

I want to scan all papers with a scanner which can send or put the scanned files into a folder. I would like to be able to index all of the pdf files. I also want to be able to automatically sorts all letters by sender or datum, and for bills by retention period for the guarantees.

The main important thing is, to index files sent from a printer/scanner. I think everyone wants to index their physical letters and save time when searching for something.

I hope I can reduce the amount of paper and protect the environment and of course save a lot of space in my own office.

So How is Enzo Going to do it? – Simple, by Using filePod’s RPM imBOTs

To start using filePod, Enzo will first connect it to his office local network where his old and tired MFP is quietly sitting in the corner. To do this he will simply connect his filePod to the office internal WiFi access point.  

Now you are asking: What in the world is filePod?

FilePod is your programmable, miniature, mobile, personal pocket cloud storage device. It is also a personal WebDAV server. filePod can connect to a number of devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, MFPs, and many other networked devices.

FilePod can also securely connect to numerous cloud storage services both public such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and MS OneDrive and private storage services such as SharePoint and any other WebDAV compliant storage via SSL or private VPN connection.

FilePod is smart but can become even smarter by simply downloading applications from its private Appstore. FilePod supports different categories of applications such as file sync and share, security and VPN client and, what is most important for Enzo, RPA imBOT[1] apps.

But wait: What are these RPA imBOTs?

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation.

RPA software utilizes bots to automate routine tasks within software applications normally performed by a company’s employees. These products are used to save time and eliminate the need for humans to conduct time-consuming, repetitive, and tedious tasks. RPA can be used to automate labor-intensive workflow, infrastructure or a back-office process. These software bots can interact with an in-house application, website, user portal, etc.

The RPA is a software program which runs on an end user’s pc, laptop or mobile device. It is a sequence of commands which are executed by bots under some defined set of business rules.

A bot (short for “robot”) is a program that operates as an agent for a user or another program or simulates a human activity. “Bots” are configurable software set up to perform the tasks you assign and control.

There are even intelligent bots that can learn. So when you show your bots what to do, they will learn and do the work. They can interact with any system or application in the same way humans do.

FilePod and RPA

FilePod system is a programmable and extensible platform. It can be used for many purposes and can be configured from a single function device to a multi-functional, multi-purpose system. Extensibility comes from its unique dual-OS runtime and its private Appstore.  Dual-OS runtime is based on Linux and Android environments which can run filePod Android plugin applications as well as Docker containerized applications.

filePod RPA system consists of the main RPA Engine application and number of bot applications called imBOTs.  imBOT is the type of a bot that runs on the micro-edge appliances, usually mobile devices or end-points such as filePod.

To activate robotic process automation functionality user needs to download RPA Engine application.  Once RPA Engine is installed user would download appropriate imBOT application from the Appstore.

There are whole kind of imBOTs. Here are some:

  • imBOT FileSplitter, is a bot which splits large file into number of small files based on the page count
  • imBOT FileSticher, is a bot which analyze two files to determine if the files belong to same logical document and then puts them together
  • imBOT   FormFinder, is a bot which analyze file and determines if the file contains form type document, any type of the form
  • imBOT InvoiceFinder, is a bot which analyze file to determine if the document is invoice type document
  • imBOT LegalFinder, is a bot which analyze file to determine if the document is legal document
  • imBOT NameGiver, is a bot which analyze file to determine the title and renames file based on the document title
  • imBOT TimeStamper, is a bot which analyze file to determine when the document was issued and assign the date to the file
  • imBOT ContractFinder, is a bot which analyze file and determines if the file contains contract type document, any type of the contract

filePOD RPA system is open system that enables anyone to develop imBOT applications. These 3rd party imBOTs could be uploaded to the Appstore as community contributions, free of charge, or could be sold for profit sharing.

Now that I know what I need about filePod and RPA imBOTs I am ready, so let’s do it!

First let’s Enzo setup his filePodTM.

Since this is his first time using the FilePodTM, he needs to insert an SD card[2]  then connect the FilePodTM with his personal laptop using supplied USB cable or the magnetic USB cable. On his laptop, in Chrome, he punches following URL https://myfilePodTM.io:8080/.

NOTE: For the first time users – watch the Getting Started video on the main page.

Click on the drop-down menu to select your local office WiFi router. This would also connect to the Internet. Register your account on the FilePodTM by entering your email and a unique password. Now log in using your new user id and password credentials.

Once you are logged in, follow a simple procedure to add as many cloud storage accounts (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, MS OneDrive etc.) that you want to be synchronized with your FilePodTM and your basic setup[3]  is now complete.

Now that everything is nicely configured, you can start using FilePodTM just as you would any other ordinary USB-attached device.  Whether the FilePodTM is connected to your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone, FilePodTM looks like an attached USB drive.

At the same time, it is also a secure “tunnel” into the Internet, no more worrying about snooping and prying “cyber eyes” – you are safely connected to all Internet services.  Best of all, there is nothing to do on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.  You have no additional software to download and install.  There are no new applications to configure or update regularly. All the hard work is now being done by the FilePodTM.

Using filePod as USB drive

There are two ways to access files on FilePodTM ‘s SD card. One way is using standard USB Mass Storage Mode.  The other way is to use a built-in WebDAV server.   

Here, we will show how to access files using the WebDAV server. Note that when using the WebDAV approach, you can access the SD card from your host computer using native file manager applications (e.g. macOS Finder or Microsoft Windows Explorer) while FilePodTM’s 2-way-sync applications (e.g. Dropbox and Google Drive) can be accessing the SD card simultaneously.

To use WebDAV to access files on the FilePodTM ‘s SD card you don’t need any third-party software. Popular desktop operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux can all do this out-of-the-box. For example, on macOS users can do file management out-of-the-box with the Finder, a native file manager.

MacOS has built-in WebDAV support. On your macOS X computer, start the Finder application.  Open the Finder, click the Go menu, select Connect to Server to see the Connect to Server dialog then type your filePod’s address. For example, to connect to the FilePodTM’s built-in WebDAV server you’d enter https://myfilepod.io:3000 

FilePodTM will show as a mounted “network drive” and you are now able to browse its contents, download, upload, copy, paste, delete, edit and save files directly from the Finder window into the FilePodTM’s SD card.

Enzo decided to create “My Scanned Documents” directory.  That is where he wants to put all the scanned documents.

Now, let’s login to MFP and do some scanning

Use MFP’s LCD display to locate WebDAV application and then when asked, sign into your filePod. On the screen that appears, you enter the username, password, and address associated with your filePodTM

Once logged in, the application’s Home screen will appear, displaying your filePodTM’s folders and files. By tapping on or swiping the files and folders listed, you can access additional functionality. You can also tap on the scroll bar or finger swipe the screen to scroll through folders and files.

 

To scan a document into a folder, do the following:

  1. Choose a folder to scan e.g. “My Scanned Documents” by tapping on a folder listed on the left-hand side of the screen
  2. Tap on the Upload icon. The File Upload pop-up screen will appear
  3. On this screen, you can do the following:
    • Specify a name for the uploaded file in the File Name field.
    • Choose scan settings:
      • File Type. Swipe or tap on the arrow button to choose from a list of supported file types (PDF, Compact PDF, TIFF).
      • Resolution
      • Color (Color or black/white)
      • Density
      • One-sided / Two-sided
      • Rotation
  4. Tap on the SCAN button when you are done.
  5. The uploaded file will appear in the filePod’s “My Scanned Documents” folder once the scan/upload operation is complete.

Manual Processing of Scanned Document

Scanning documents is laborious and long drawn process. You essentially have two options:

So Enzo has decided and he is going with second option. After some time, after scanned document is uploaded and is now showing as one big file in his “My Scanned Documents” directory, he will go and on his laptop open new Finder Window, navigate to “myfilepod.io:3000”  mounted network drive and in “My Scanned Document” find newly uploaded  file.

There he can use Adobe Acrobat or Apple Preview to open the file and then “cut” it  and save it as individual files in any of the directories he chooses  e.g. Invoices, contracts,  NDAs, Travel Expenses, payroll stubs, tax return etc.

You can also organize your directories so that all the documents end up automatically synchronized (i.e. backed-up) into your favorite cloud storage service under one or more accounts

FilePod also allows you to create encrypted volts where you can deposit sensitive documents.  These volts can be also stored in cloud storage account and service of your choosing.

Using filePod’s RPA imBOTs to Process Scanned Documents

Initially Enzo just wants to separate that one big scanned file into number of files, where each file contains only one document. So he will download RPA Engine first and then FileSplitter and FileSticher imBOTs.

While filePod ARP system is doing his job he will think about the document categories and how to set directory structure. Then he will have more imBOTs to help him sort it out.

References:


[1] RPA imBOT is filePodTM’s Robotic Process Automation intelligent mobile BOT  plugin application

[2] FilePodTM supports high-capacity SDXC cards up to 2TB, and Enzo is starting with SanDisk 512GB.

[3] For details on how to configure more features check out the “How to section” and videos on the FilePodTM website (https://www.filepod.io.)

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