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England's 158-Year-Old Land Registry Uses Xerox Technology to Digitize Data

Since Queen Victoria sat on the throne, HM Land Registry has recorded every change in ownership of property in England and Wales—a mountain of data that has grown over the decades to more than 25 million titles, covering 87% of the land in these two countries. And, as they say, they’re just getting started. HM Land Registry’s objective is to “become the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data."

Every day, HM Land Registry receives 2,000 to 3,000 hard-copy applications, drawings, photographs, and ID documents to be processed by Xerox in Xerox’s off-site facility that day.

“Maintaining the integrity of the Land Register for England and Wales, while delivering excellent customer service, is our reason for being,” says Eve Foster, Central Operations Manager, HM Land Registry. “With Xerox as our bridge between physical and digital, we are more efficient — without any compromise in quality.”

It all started four years ago when the HM Land Registry kicked off a project with Xerox, to transform its paper-based catalog and document submission process to a digital system that ultimately modernizes the entire document workflow.

Using Xerox’s Production Workflow Management platform, Xerox began to digitize new applications, to extract key data including both information and images. Because people make large financial and legal decisions based on these documents, there is no room for error with any scan, missing data, or unreadable record.

"It’s all about quality,” says Nick Clifford, the Xerox Client Manager who works with HM Land Registry. “The data needs to be as close to perfect as it can be.” Just how accurate? “The measurement has to be 99.5% accurate or higher,” says Clifford. “The quality control is very strong."

Submissions often include photographs, drawings, and cursive text. Automating data extraction from these types of documents tended in the past to require an extra layer of manpower, with caseworkers double-checking and re-keying incorrect or incomplete data.

To reduce the need for extra work, Xerox and HM Land Registry have been working on a pilot program to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into the review process and transition it from humans to machines. The new service within the Xerox Production Workflow Management platform is intended to better perfect optical character recognition, which can learn from manual intervention. The idea is that each type of application (combining automation and human intelligence) will increase the accuracy over time. Ultimately, the technology will reduce manual intervention to the most difficult cases, such as interpreting handwriting.

Already, the platform (supported for now by human indexing) can learn that a hand-written “t” that looks like a “7” really is a “t”. Eventually, the platform will recognize many variations of the letter “t” and verify it without the need for human involvement.

In the future, HM Land Registry hopes to remove all human intervention in straightforward applications, while preserving its historical archive and leading their industry into a new era.

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