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Even if electronic forms are the ideal scenario for all companies to embrace, today many industries have various reasons to maintain some paper based forms while their current processes and infrastructure aligns with sophisticated technology. In such scenario, 2D (Dimensional) barcode becomes an attractive solution and alternative.

All forms would be submitted electronically in an ideal world. We would all be able to access and submit electronically all needed and requested forms such us immigration forms, tax forms, DMV forms, medical forms, etc. However, for many good reasons we know that many organizations still have to depend in paper based forms to submit and process data. Here are some examples:

Government: Many government agencies have various resources and a long establish infrastructure in place to capture user-supplied data through “manual rekeying”. Changing such infrastructure does not happen over night and is dependant of various factors such us security, proven technology, invested resources and standards. We see such scenario with Tax Forms, DMV forms and Voter registration forms

Financial Services: Despite innovative technology, certain financial processes still require ink signatures on paper based forms for regulatory or historical reasons. Bank account applications and insurance policy application are some examples.

SAP NetWeaver’s integration with Adobe technology brings SAP customers a step closer to move their existing paper based forms to be electronic and maintain the same look and feel. One level of such integration enables SAP customers to create “Interactive Adobe Forms” or create forms that will leverage new technology in Adobe Reader for end-users not only read but also to write and submit forms electronically. SAP customers should know that interactive Adobe forms functionality in Developer Studio can be extended to use 2D barcodes and therefore support paper based scenarios described above.

Let’s first understand what 2D barcodes are: A 2D barcode is a machine-readable symbol that stores information along the height as well as the width of a symbol. Depending on the code used, each symbol can hold hundreds or thousands of characters. For example, PDF417 can hold approximately 2000 characters per symbol. 2D barcodes are updated automatically while end-users fill-in an interactive Adobe form.

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SAP NetWeaver’s integration with Adobe technology enables SAP development tools to leverage some of the Adobe Intelligent Document Platform (AIDP) components. Through existing integration of the SAP Application Server with Adobe Technology and functionality available in the Adobe LicveCycle Barcoded Forms Decoder (component of AIDP), SAP customers can add 2D barcodes to an interactive Adobe form and distribute it to end-users via email or Web. Subsequently, using the free Adobe Reader an end-user simply fills-in the form, prints it out, and mails or faxes it back to the organization. Upon receipt, the organization scans the paper form to capture data from the 2D barcode symbol with 100% accuracy and delivers it to back-end system for further processing. Obviously, organizations depending on business requirements can also allow end-users to submit forms electronically as described in the image below:

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How does 2D barcode PDF forms work with SAP NetWeaver?

  1. A form developer creates and interactive Adobe PDF form using Developer Studio – Web Dynpro and the out-of-the box integration with Adobe Forms Designer
  2. The form developer adds one or more 2D barcodes to the form using Adobe Forms Designer

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  3. The form developer generates the PDF through the integration of SAP NetWeaver Application Server and Adobe Document Services (ADS)
  4. The form developer distributes the 2D barcode form to end-users via a Web site or e-mail.
  5. An end-user fills the interactive form using Adobe Reader 7.0 or higher. As the end-user fills the form, the 2D barcode automatically encodes user-supplied information in real time.
  6. Upon completion, the end-user submits the form electronically or prints the form
  7. The end-user signs the printed form
  8. Paper form is returned by standard mail or fax.
  9. Upon receipt, the form processing center scans the 2D barcode symbol from the paper form to create an electronic image
  10. Adobe LicveCycle Barcoded Forms Decoder analyses the scanned image, decodes the 2D barcode and extracts data in the specified format. When successfully scanned, data extracted from the 2D barcode is 100% accurate.
  11. Extracted data from paper is send back to back-end system for processing and workflow (if needed).
  12. Scanned form can also be archived in a document management system

What SAP and Adobe Products do I need?

  1. Most recent release of SAP NetWeaver Application Server
    • The following Adobe Intelligent Document Platform components are already integrated with SAP NetWeaver Application Server:
    1. Adobe Forms Designer – Part of Developer Studio. No installation needed
    2. Adobe Reader 7.0 – Free downloadable from Adobe’s site
    3. Adobe Document Services (ADS). Installation needed.
  2. Adobe LiveCycle Barcoded Forms Decoder with a document scanner or fax server

Note: Adobe licenses apply when creating new “Interactive Adobe Forms” and when using the Adobe LiveCycle Barcoded Forms Decoder

Some of Adobe Intelligent Document Platform components such us Adobe LiveCycle Barcoded Forms Decoder complement SAP technology to solve existing business requirements. Other AIDP components provide similar functionality to already existing SAP solutions. In such situation integration efforts and Total Cost of Ownership should be carefully consider.

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    1. Matthias Zeller
      When adding the barcode to the form in the Adobe LiveCycle Designer it provides a number of options how you expect to scan it later: Document Scanner, Fax Server or Handheld Scanner. Based on the setting the minimum size of the barcode and error correction sensitivity is determined. The big advantage of the 2D barcode over OCR is that the barcode includes checksum and error correction bits. So even with poor quality you often can still read the barcode. However in case the quality is very bad the scan process might fail (and require manual input). But unlike OCR if the scan is successful you get 100% correct results with 2D barcodes.
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