A System for Processing Handwritten Bank Checks Automatically

35 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2002

See all articles by Rafael Palacios

Rafael Palacios

Universidad Pontificia Comillas

Amar Gupta

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: February 2002


In the US and many other countries, bank checks are preprinted with the account number and the check number in MICB ink and format; as such, these two numeric fields can be easily read and processed using automated techniques. However, the amount field on a filled -in check is usually read by human eyes, and involves significant time and cost, especially when one considers that about 68 billion checks are processed per annum in the US alone.

The system described in this paper uses the scanned image of a bank check to "read" the check. There are four main stages in the system that focus on: the detection of courtesy amount block within the image; the segmentation of string into characters; the recognition of isolated characters; and the post processing process that ensures correct recognition.

The detection of courtesy amounts is performed using heuristic rules. These rules are applied after processing the image to translate the set of gray pixels into groups of pixels, which are considered as strings. The segmentation of the courtesy amount is the most difficult part of the process because of the largely unconstrained nature of handwritten amounts on checks. The proposed segmentation has been implemented as a recursive process that interacts with the recognition module. The recognition of the isolated characters is based on an array of neural networks that has been demonstrated to be very accurate and computationally efficient. Finally, the post-processing module is used to minimize the incidence of incorrect readings by verifying that the sequence of numbers, periods, and commas matches the correct syntax for the recognized value of the check. Several of the algorithms included in the system are generalizable and can also be applied to address other applications involving reading of handwritten inputs.

Keywords: Automated Check Reading, Automated Reading of Handwritten Information, Knowledge Acquisition

JEL Classification: M0, Z0

Suggested Citation

Palacios, Rafael and Gupta, Amar, A System for Processing Handwritten Bank Checks Automatically (February 2002). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4346-02; Eller College Working Paper No. 1028-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=302874 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.302874

Rafael Palacios

Universidad Pontificia Comillas ( email )

Alberto Aguilera 21
Madrid, Madrid 28015

Amar Gupta (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Building 32-256
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-0418 (Phone)

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