How Moleskine syncs hand-written notes with digital devices

The company's Smart Writing System is intended to seamlessly combine the pen and paper experience with the convenience of digital products.

How Moleskine sync's paper with the cloud

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson talked with Moleskine head of digital innovation, Peter Jensen, about the company's Smart Writing System.

Watch the video, or read part of their conversation below:

Patterson: When I think about Moleskine, and I suspect this is fairly common, I think about the consumer. I think about my experience in a bookstore picking out the very handsome notebooks. And I think about the experience I have producing notes on nice paper and the feel of a pen in my hand. But much of your work has been with the enterprise.

Jensen: Yeah.

Patterson: Can you explain to us how you integrate with enterprise services and enterprise customers?

Jensen: Yes. So we have, let's say, a consumer angle and an enterprise angle. The consumer angle basically is about enabling consumers to connect with whatever services they want. On the enterprise side, you do meet all kinds of concerns in terms of data security encryption questions. And there, we're moving much more towards individual customer relationships. We have a significant business where we work with large companies, and increasingly our offering becomes very bespoke tailored offerings to that individual customer in order to make sure that their security compliance on the storage is observed, and they continue to use beautiful objects at the same time.

Patterson: Let's talk about the beautiful objects. There is a Moleskine product where I can write in the paper and I can see the notes show up on my smart phone. Tell me a little bit about how the pen and the paper work together with the cloud and the mobile device.

Jensen: So really it's a three-piece system. You have a pen, which has an optical sensor. You have paper, which has a hidden, very proprietary, pattern. And you have an application on your phone or your laptop, which works as a companion for all of this. And really, when we look at this, it's trying to put as many scenarios, work scenarios, into this as we can. We are traditionally a travel brand. So it makes a lot of sense for us to have a technology that is, let's say, roaming free, can work on the move, and you can take your notes whenever you want.

And then, when you're available, when it's available for you to sync to your phone or another infrastructure, you do that if and when you're ready. So a lot of this is building something that you could call loose coupled systems in the sense that they can work autonomously, but also in sync. On the paper side, it's really about this magical paper, we call it, where it's about putting something in the paper, a pattern in the paper, so the pen knows each page, which affords you to have a note taking experience that you're used to. You can go forwards and backwards. The pen will always know where you are, and is able through version control to ensure that you don't have redundant consecutive versions of the same note.

On the app side, it's really about ultimately moving the app ... or the data, onto your phone, still protected, however the phone is protected, and then ultimately moving it to an infrastructure if you like. So in many ways, you always have a digital back up or version of your notes, but you also have a very long life expectancy object here that will hold your data for a long time

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Patterson: And when you say move to an infrastructure, I assume this is a euphemism for Evernote or Dropbox, or any one of the cloud services that I as the consumer, or I, as the business, choose.

Jensen: Yes. So it would really be determining depending on how you're built, it could also be a Microsoft infrastructure, really deciding on where to put the data. And in many ways, there's always the limit of, let's say, corporate policies of determining where you can put your data. But for us, that's really about enablement about the corporate policies. That said, we're certainly going in the direction of building something that is far more tailored and more secure should the customer want that.

Patterson: And the technology, I assume this is an AI algorithm combined with OCR in terms of being able to identify your handwriting patterns, your page turn patterns, and what the image of the text looks like.

Jensen: It's less AI, yet, it's applied in a slightly different-

Patterson: How refreshing.

Jensen: Yes. It'll happen. But it's really by using a pen and a magic paper, you're actually continually tracking the movement of the pen over the paper, which gives you stroke data versus image data. And that is a far richer data piece. It also means it has the benefit of being able to travel in time, because the stroke data can be rendered at any given time in the future years versus an image or where there may be file complications over time.

That said, it's really about recognizing, interpreting, the stroke data, putting it through an OCR engine as you're saying, and being able to transcribe it into text, or determine what it is and process it into different formats of your liking. So if you are someone who takes a lot of notes, you may want to put it into text. If you're an artist, you can put it into an SVG format and continue working on it in Adobe Illustrator or a similar application. So it's really about enabling those two things. And from a brand point of view, it's really clear that our sweet spot is trying to mesh up creativity dimensions and productivity dimensions in a meaningful way.

When you talk about the enterprise, of course, that picture changes a little bit because you become ... you're at work. That said, certainly from my own behavior, I know my notebook has both personal and work related observation, so I'm quite protective about my physical notebook, yet that has no encryption.

For more of the conversation, check out these articles:

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  • Apple patents stylus to write on any surface, not just touch screens (TechRepublic)
  • Adobe revamps Lightroom in major Creative Cloud update (ZDNet)
  • How to use Apple Pencil with iWork apps (TechRepublic)
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