Friday, May 23, 2008

Xerox: Putting glyphs to work in mortgage

Back when Atlanta-based Advectis was signing up wholesale lenders to its Blitzdocs system, the old bar code--which had been in use in other industries since, well, about as long as printing--was a shiny new tool the mortgage industry was using to keep documents together so they could be smoothly digitized into electronic loan files. That was a couple of years ago.

Last year, Xerox bought the company and rolled it into its Xerox Mortgage Services and the next month won the Mortgage Technology magazine Synergy Award for the Blitzdocs offering. Now, the bar code is old again and Xerox is rolling out a new way to encode paper documents for lenders interested in moving toward electronic documents.

As the news came out that Blitzdocs would be leveraging the Xerox DataGlyph technology, I kept trying to imagine what these things looked like. I kept picturing the two-dimensional codes the airlines have started stamping on boarding passes, but that's not what these guys are talking about. According to the company:
DataGlyphs encode information in thousands of tiny glyphs - diagonal lines that can be as short as 1/100th of an inch depending on the resolution of the printer. Each glyph slopes backward or forward to represent a binary 0 or 1. Glyphs are laid down in groups on a regular, finely spaced grid to form unobtrusive, evenly textured gray or colored areas. Even when groups of glyphs are large enough to be seen by the human eye, they form a pleasing pattern that is not distracting.
To us it looks like a smear of color. To the machine, it tells a story. And because it can be so small, redundancy can be built in, making it more durable than the old bar code.

I called on Judson Phillips, vice president of marketing for Xerox Mortgage Services, to find out what else would be changing now that the firm has been fully integrated into Xerox.

"Our goal is to pursue the same charter," he said, "(which is) going out and providing our network and our Blitzdocs solution to all participants in the mortgage space."

But he added that being part of a larger company was making that easier in some exciting ways. The DataGlyphs are "just the beginning." As lenders continue their move into all-electronic mortgages, the new technology will delivery more efficiencies, he said.

The company is also looking at some of the Xerox smart document technology (distinct from the mortgage industry's SMART doc, touted by Fannie Mae). While he didn't tell us what the company was planning, he did say that "there's not another player in our space that has the resources to do that kind of thing."

First, we'll have to see how lenders adopt the new DataGlyphs. At least one doc prep firm is already making them available and Phillips says a number of lenders are in pilot.

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