Idea :: Solution :: Delivery                             


How to Achieve the Impossible: Dramatically Slash the Processing Time of Paper Forms - AND the Cost!

Imagine taking a crucial business process – designed to be completed in a few days but which often ends up taking much longer – and completing it in less than a minute. And with greater accuracy and reliability. Imagine the cost savings in that alone.

Impossible? Futuristic? Unaffordable?

No! Sillero’s Digital Pen and Paper solution delivers this promise now. Handwritten forms – using real paper and real pens – are delivered and fully processed within a minute of being sent. That includes generating a 100% accurate image of the form, doing hand writing recognition on the filled-in data and storing the information in a backend computer system.

And this is all done at a fraction of the cost of processing the form in the usual way.  Even the cost of training is minimal since the technology is extremely easy to use. Everyone who’s been to school has already been trained to use the interface: pen and paper!

As an example, let’s compare a common process done in the old way with the process done using Sillero’s DP&P solution. The process we’ll examine is the field collection and processing of user survey information.

The old way:

  • A interviewer visits an interviewee and fills in his demographic details and survey responses
  • He then places the completed form together with the others in his car, and moves on to his next appointment
  • At the end of the day he adds the pile of completed forms to the pile of forms from previous days
  • At the end of the week he drives to the regional office and delivers his week’s worth of forms
  • They are counted and this is entered into a register together with the surveyor’s name and the data and time of receipt
  • At the beginning of the next week all the forms received from the region’s surveyors are packaged up and sent by courier to the head office
  • If all goes well, the forms are received by head office the next day where they are sorted into piles for data capture
  • The piles of forms are distributed to the data-capturers where they are captured during the course of the following week (if there is no backlog)
  • Forms not correctly filled in are marked by the data-capturer and placed in an out box for sending to the interviewer (another process – let’s not even go there!)
  • Captured forms are stacked and sent to storage
  • When all the forms are finally captured, a batch report is generated from the computer system and a payment is generated for the interviewer based on the number of correctly completed forms processed.

The Sillero DP&P way:

  • A interviewer visits an interviewee and fills in his demographic details and survey responses using his digital pen
  • He ticks a marked area at the end of the form and the electronically captured pen strokes are automatically transmitted via his cell phone to Sillero’s server
  • On receipt of the form, it is automatically checked for correctness (required fields, valid values, etc) and a message is sent back to the interviewer if any changes or additions are required
  • Within seconds of sending the form, the interviewer receives a confirmation of receipt and the details of any corrective action he needs to take
  • If required, he makes the necessary changes to the form and resends it by again simply ticking the end of the form
  • The data is extracted from the form, hand writing recognition is done, and the results, generated image and interviewer’s details are sent to the company’s server via web services
  • The real-time data is available on the company’s server for reporting and for the prompt and full payment of the interviewer

In fact, two processes were covered in the new, Sillero way.

The benefits of this new way should be quite obvious, but let’s explore some of them further, by asking these questions:

  • Where is physical delivery of the forms?
  • Where is the transport logistics?
  • Where is the manual monitoring and counting of the completed forms?
  • Where is the sorting and distribution of the forms?
  • Where is the data capture?
  • Where is the physical storage of the captured forms?
  • Where is the anger and frustration at the delays in payments?
  • What happened to the whole verification and correction process?

But not only have all the inefficiencies been eliminated, new benefits arise out of using this incredible new technology. Here are a few:

Manage your staff better:

Real-time monitoring of staff productivity and activity is possible since the send-time of every form is known and is processed within one minute of receipt. Where a work-flow system has been implemented, it is even possible to contact the sender by phone while he is still on “site”.

Guaranteed delivery:

Electronic delivery of every form is guaranteed - no more “lost” or damaged forms. Even where a form cannot be transmitted, the pen strokes are stored in the pen’s memory until such time as they can be transmitted. Once received, Sillero guarantees delivery of data even where there is sub-standard infrastructure.

Secure data delivery:

Sensitive data is delivered using secure encrypted transmissions. How secure is the data written on forms left lying around in the back of a car or in an in-box on an office counter? Or at an unmanned fax machine?

Reduction of fraud:

Completed forms are transmitted immediately and so cannot be tampered with. Attempted fraud can be detected even when a form has not yet been transmitted. Because every pen stroke is date and time stamped, the exact sequence of strokes can be determined (and even played back like recording!) So, for instance, if a piece of information is altered after the form has been signed by the customer, suspicious entries can immediately be brought to the attention of the company.

Accurate data extraction:

Sillero, with a combination of intelligent form design, codification and highly advanced handwriting recognition techniques, is able to extract very accurate data from handwritten forms. Although a 100% recognition rate could never be achieved since it is highly dependant on how legibly the user writes, it is not unusual that higher rates are achieved than through data-capture since human error is removed.

Electronic image storage:

A 100% accurate electronic image of every form is generated. Every scribble, scratch and doodle is faithfully captured and shown on the image. Images can be generated in any format: PDF, JPEG, TIFF, GIF, etc. No need for expensive scanning and indexing – electronic forms can be put straight into document management systems, fully indexed. In fact, you might never need the paper copy again.

Fail-safe technology:

The digital pen technology is robust and guarantees delivery – when it works. As we all know, technology will always have a failure rate: the device could be broken or stolen, or simply not be charged. But unlike other technologies such as tablet PCs and PDAs, you still have the completed paper form! That means nothing has been lost and the form can still be processed using the old process.

“A technology for Africa”

Digital Pen & Paper technology might as well have been developed for Africa it’s such a good fit. The unique challenges of deploying technology in Africa: weak infrastructure, harsh conditions, low skills and low maintenance budgets are more than adequately met by DP&P technology. It is a simple technology, appropriate for African conditions.

Weak infrastructure:

GPRS is available on a growing number of GSM networks throughout Africa. Wherever there is GPRS coverage, it would be possible to submit forms using a digital pen and a cell phone. No other infrastructure is required, neither electricity nor land-based telecommunications. This literally supports the man filling in application forms under a tree.

But it is quite common to use the digital pen technology in an off-line mode. For instance, if there is no GPRS signal in the area, the on-the-phone software will cache the pen strokes on the phone until such time as a GPRS signal becomes available and will then automatically transmit the data.

Where no GPRS is available at all, users can use the Sillero Pen Client for Windows and dock the pen to the PC. This will automatically upload the pen strokes to Sillero via the Internet. And since a digital pen has a memory capacity of at least 1 MB, it can typically store a number of days worth of work before requiring docking.

Harsh conditions:

A digital pen is a small device, the size of a fattish ordinary pen. It can fit snugly in a jacket pocket or in a folder. This means that it can be used anywhere, in all weather conditions – unlike larger devices like tablet PCs. The other part of the technology – digital paper – is ordinary paper which is as hardy as any other paper.

Being a pen, a digital pen is less susceptible to theft. It is small enough to not be noticed, and is an unattractive target since it is only useful for writing on predefined digital paper.

Low skills:

No interface training is required since every person who has had basic education is capable of writing with a pen on paper. This is an enormous advantage over more complicated technologies requiring computer skills.

Of course, some training is required. Forms need to be correctly filled in and the data needs to be transmitted. This training can usually be completed within a day and does not require a high level of technical skill.

“But how would I use it in my organisation?”

Sillero has been involved in developing and deploying Digital Pen & Paper solutions in a wide variety of sectors. Amongst them are: Banking, Finance, Health, Insurance, Law Enforcement, Logistics, Retail and Telecommunications.

Obviously DP&P technology is not a “silver bullet” solution to all problems. However it does have wide applicability across sectors. If the answer to the question, “Does your organisation process a large number of hand-written forms?” is “Yes”, then your organisation probably will benefit from deploying DP&P solutions.

Let’s examine some sectors to see what sort of solutions are being considered and developed within them:


Sillero has developed a suite of DP&P applications in this sector, covering all aspects of an application for and approval of credit. These were aimed specifically at micro loans where business can be written up in remote locations such as at taxi ranks. In these kinds of applications speed is of the essence since competition is fierce and the funds are usually required immediately. DP&P technology is ideally suited to achieve this.

Sillero has also developed an application to automate the filing of signature cards for cheque signing mandates. These images are stored along with the customer’s account number and identification number.

Other banking applications would include:

  • Customer interaction and compliance forms for statutory requirements
  • Home loan applications
  • Property valuation forms
  • Card and document collection registers
  • Deposit and withdrawal forms


Sillero has developed a set of applications in this sector for the monitoring compliance of insurance brokers. Compliance officers complete forms as they carry out audits on insurance and inspectors do spot checks on the compliance officers, again filling out forms. Auxiliary forms include those to record the content of meetings and automatically email minutes and meeting requests.

Other compliance applications would include:

  • Industrial health and safety audits
  • Financial audits
  • Employee quota audits


Sillero has developed an application for the submission of car finance application forms. The forms are filled in and submitted by finance agents in dealerships and sent via their PCs. They are also to send them via their phones when out the office. The application is integrated into the finance company’s backend computer systems significantly reducing the turnaround time on an application. Furthermore, the finance agent can choose to have the forms automatically faxed to other finance companies by simply checking their names on the form.


Sillero is developing an application for all the lifecycle documentation for donor funded HIV/AIDS ARV clinical trials and on-going management of patients. DP&P technology enables drug/dosage related problems to be picked up immediately – truly a matter of life and death. The clinics are situated near mines in a wide geographic area.

Other health sector applications would include:

  • Doctors’ Prescriptions, with the ability to check drugs against a formulary, automatic billing and instant delivery to a dispensary of choice
  • Emergency services, allowing the condition of a patient to be conveyed to the receiving hospital before arrival. In addition, the billing time is reduced dramatically


Sillero has developed a number of applications for an insurance company, ranging from broker compliance to customer debit authority. A sophisticated application to do real-time quotes based on the requirements filled out in a form was also done.

Law Enforcement:

Sillero has been involved in designing applications for law-enforcement, but by their nature, cannot be discussed.

However, Law Enforcement sector applications would include:

  • Crime-scene investigation notes
  • Traffic violation ticketing
  • Complaint dockets and statements
  • Border control documentation
  • Firearms registry and control


Sillero has developed an application for proof-of-delivery documentation in the glass industry. Not only does it provide for an instant record of proof-of-delivery, but also for the recording of delivery shortages, breakages and returns. This is integrated into their backend ERP and accounting system, which can automatically generate credit notes.

Another application developed by Sillero is linked to a workflow system. As soon as any annotations are detected on a form, an operator is alerted who is then able to contact the driver before he leaves the customer’s premises.


Sillero has written two applications used in the merchandising to cell-phone outlets. Problems, comments, promotions and stock delivery details are recorded. Competitor information is obtained and analysed.

For one of the applications, the entire IT system was outsourced to Sillero who managed and maintained all the data, reports and processing.


Sillero has developed an application to process applications for cell phone contracts. Different parts of the application are sent to different departments, and the time to approval has been reduced from days to minutes.


As can be seen, DP&P applications are and can be used in a wide variety of sectors. Among those that would reap enormous benefits would be:

  • Housing and Development
  • Local Government
  • Social Services

“Why Sillero?”

Sillero has the experience, in-depth knowledge of the technology, proven delivery capability and the tools to deliver world-class DP&P applications. We've been involved with this technology since shortly after it was made available to developers in 2003.

This experience has taught us a number of things:

  • DP&P is not a "silver-bullet" technology, and should only be used where the circumstances justify it
  • Good form design is vital to a successful DP&P deployment
  • Customer's consistently under-estimate the total cost of managing traditional paper forms
  • DP&P solutions have to be actively marketed with the organisations.

Sillero has a team of highly skilled technologists, process consultants and form designers. Sillero’s South African customers include:

  • ABSA
  • Aurum Health
  • Beyond Outsourcing (service providers to Vodacom in South Africa)
  • Capital Software
  • Cell C
  • Full Signal (Nokia Service Providers in Sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Liberty Life
  • The Motor Finance Corporation
  • Moonstone Compliance (Pty) Ltd
  • PG Glass
  • Ultimate Fund Administrators

“Need to know more?”

Now that your appetite has been whetted on this wonderful technology, you will want to know more, and discuss your requirements with an expert. Contact Page.