The Digital Pen

At the heart of our offering is the digital pen solution using Anoto Functionality™ – a simple but sophisticated process that enables users to write out digitized forms, transmit them electronically to Xcallibre secure servers (X-Station), and then have them sent on to their own computer system.

A Digital pen writes like a normal ball point pen, and is used with normal paper forms over any size, overprinted with a feint microscopic pattern of dots (Anoto dot pattern), which is barely visible to the human eye. With our solution, the pattern on each printed form and its pages, is unique, just like a fingerprint or unique barcode so that each form can be kept separately from another.

Making its mark Digital pen and paper technology combines the portability and social acceptance of traditional pen and paper with a computer’s ability to store, share, and act upon the information collected. Digital pen technology is more than just writing with an ordinary ink pen. Whilst the pen contains ink, looks like a normal pen albeit slightly thicker, writes on paper and is used in the same way as a normal ink pen, it is also a piece of high tech equipment. “Alongside an ink cartridge the digital pen also contains a camera that takes and stores images as the pen writes. Digital pens are used like ordinary pens – only they are embedded with electronics capable of storing time-stamped content.

Each Digital Pen contains an infrared camera, processor, flash memory, Bluetooth and rechargeable battery. As you write, the built-in optic lens automatically takes digital snapshots of the microdot pattern at a rate of between 50 and 100 images per second. Every snapshot contains enough data to enable the pen’s image microprocessor to determine the exact position of the digital pen, and to capture everything it writes or draws…like magic. No scanning, copying or rekeying handwritten information ever again.

This creates a digital image of exactly what is written with each pen stroke, position, time and date stamped. The time stamp is useful for knowing the time and order in which forms are completed and, for example, spotting fraudulent activity.

At any given moment the pen knows precisely where it is on the page, what page it is on and which pen strokes relate to each piece of paper.

For increased security, each pen has a unique identifier allowing all information recorded by it to be traced back to the source. The data stored in the pen is encrypted and then transmitted through a docking station, connected to a computer or a Bluetooth mobile phone and via GPRS to a central server for storage, handwriting recognition, further processing and analysis, or transmission to colleagues. Both methods of data transfer use secure 128 bit encryption.

Digital pens can typically store up to 100 pages of A4 text, sufficient for the electronic data capture requirements of most businesses. They have a lithium ion battery just like a mobile phone and are rechargeable. Each charge lasts the average user approximately 1 week of usage.

This may vary depending on how often pen usage is. The output from each completed form includes an image of the written form, a filled form, which includes any handwriting converted to text plus an XML stream of the converted handwriting.

X-Station software module can convert virtually any surface into a “digital surface” by covering it with the Anoto Microdot Pattern.

Almost invisible to the naked eye, the patented Anoto Microdot Pattern consists of numerous intelligent black microdots that can be read by the “eye” of the Digital Pen. When captured through the pen’s built-in optic lens, the pattern indicates the exact position of the digital pen as it moves across the surface. These snapshots are taken up to 100 times per second and ensure fast and accurate data capture every time.

Each tiny area of the microdot pattern has a unique combination of microdots with different reference positions. When the user writes on the surface, the digital pen captures information about what the user writes and where, by registering the pattern near the pen tip. The information is saved in the pen electronically and is immediately ready to be sent or downloaded as digital data.

The pattern enables different parts of the paper to be assigned different functions such as predefining various parts of a form.

Concurrently with the increasing importance of forms processing, handwriting recognition has become a supplementary technology of growing significance, which Anoto can use through partnering with numerous leading players in the field. Effective recognition and conversion of handwritten text to digital documents enables big savings for the users when forms enabling Anoto functionality are to be stored in enterprises’ computer systems.

Put the pattern to work for you: Make any surface digital with the patented Anoto Microdot Pattern.

Xcallibre works together with its partners to enable quality printing of the Anoto Microdot Pattern for a variety of business setups. Xcallibre always recommends the use of Xcallibre Qualified Printers and Xcallibre Certified Printing, but in certain cases this might not be possible or even necessary. In these cases, Xcallibre Tested Printers offer an alternative.

Qualified Printers
Xcallibre works with printer manufacturers in qualifying printing equipment, such as standard office colour laser printers, to ensure top-quality printing and printing products. Qualified printers are always recommended, especially when the quality of the printed microdot pattern is of critical importance to the performance of the complete system. The qualification includes extensive tests and requirements specified by Xcallibre. The following printer manufactures offers Anoto Qualified Printers:

  • Fuji Xerox
  • NEW

Tested Printers
Xcallibre has compiled a list containing both qualified printers as well as the results of printers tested by Xcallibre, Xcallibre partners and printer manufacturers. The Tested Printers support basic Anoto functionality and allow faster and less extensive tests compared to qualified printing. Tested printers are (ideally) suited for PC-centric solutions and solutions/products that may not require the same quality level as the qualified printers offer. With tested printers customers also have a broader range of printers to choose from. The list with qualified and tested printers can be found here.

General printer requirements

  • Color laser printer (600/1200/2400 dpi).
  • Postscript support is preferred.
  • 128 Mb RAM (minimum).

Creating digital paper is computationally intensive. Nearly 700 000 impressions of the Anoto dot pattern are laid out on a letter or A4 page. This, with the small size of individual dots, means that your printer needs to be capable of high-density printing, typically 600 dots per inch (DPI) or greater. It also means the printer will need more memory to process the large temporary files used for the dot pattern background and the content you wish to print in the foreground. What’s more, since the pen reads the infrared signature of carbon in black ink, only printers with black, carbon-based Ink can be used for printing Anoto pattern. Laser toner typically has the characteristics, but not all Inkjets used carbon-based inks; therefore printing on inkjets depends on a) the ink provided with your printer and b) the DPI density of your printer.

To handle this also other printer characteristics are important:

  • Printer memory/RAM.
    – 128Mb RAM min, 256Mb or more preferred.
  • Fast printer CPU.
    – Dictates how quickly the pages are processed and therefore printed.
  • Ability to disable image colour enhancements.
    – The CMY to K conversion is especially critical. This conversion is quite common, but will corrupt the pens ability to read the printed dots correctly (since K in the layout will be mixed with the pattern).
  • Printer language.
    – Ask your chosen pen solution platform provider which printer language their solution support. Where possible use a Postscript/PCL printer. Some solutions, for example LivePDF, will work fine with just PCL.
  • In other words, just because the general printer requirements are fulfilled, it doesn’t mean that the printer is capable of printing the pattern in a satisfying way. Consider both speed and quality, so select a printer with care.

Other surfaces
Apart from printing on paper, custom print technologies are also supported, such as printing microdot patterns on plastic tablets, whiteboards, transparent glass surfaces or LCD screens.

From anywhere to anywhere, anytime: Transmit and access your digital data instantly.

  1. The digital pen user transfers data in one of two ways:
    Wirelessly, by ticking a box on the paper (or other patterned surface), interpreted by the pen as a “send” command, the pen will use Bluetooth to instantly send data via a mobile phone.
  2. Or via a USB port, by connecting the pen to any PC via USB port.
    Sent data is in proprietary Anoto PGC format and can either be handled locally or routed to the application server associated with that specific document for further processing.

The application receiving the PGC data extracts all information using an Application Programming Interface (API). The APIs are available both for PC and server environments. The pen data includes all information about the pen strokes written on the page, including:

  • The location (coordinates for each pen camera snapshot taken by the pen);
  • Exact time of when they were written;
  • Who wrote them;
  • The identity of the paper form and of the specific pages.

Data may be exported in any preferred format to suit the recipient system. Typically, data may be exported as a picture (for example, in .GIF format), but most often it needs to be translated into letters and digits by character recognition software. This requires, for example, an .XML file as an input. Finally, data can be integrated into the enterprise’s back-end system for further processing and automation of subsequent procedures.


The digital pen is the tool that, together with the Anoto patterned paper, enables you to store and transmit basically anything you write or draw to anywhere in the world.

The main parts of the digital pen are a digital camera, an advanced image-processing unit and a Bluetooth radio transceiver. It also contains an ink cartridge so that you can actually see what you have written or drawn.

The digital pen does not have any buttons or display. It looks and feels like an ordinary ballpoint pen and you use it in the same way. You activate the pen by simply removing the cap and deactivate it by replacing the cap again. It couldn’t be easier.

The camera

pen camera
The dots of the Anoto pattern are illuminated by infrared light, making them visible for the digital camera. Digital snapshots, at a rate of 100 per second, are taken of the pattern. (The ink from the pen is not visible to the camera. Therefore the pattern is not degraded by your writing.)

The image processor
The image processor calculates, in real-time, the exact position in the entire Anoto proprietary pattern. During image processing, snapshots are compared and information about how the pen is held is also gathered and stored.

The memory
All the data from the image processor is packaged and loaded into the pen memory, which can store several fully written pages.

The Bluetooth transceiver
The information is transmitted by the Bluetooth transceiver, either directly to your computer, or forwarded via a relay device (e.g. mobile phone, personal computer or handheld device) to the Anoto Look-up Service. From here some information will be forwarded for further processing elsewhere.

Ink cartridge and force sensor
The pen holds an ordinary ink cartridge to make visible all that you have written or drawn. A force-sensing resistor measures the stylus tip force.

Diagram of the digital pen components




Modern technology with a familiar feel: The Digital Pen works and feels like a traditional pen, but captures everything you write as digital data in real time. That’s what it means to write live. Xcallibre has combined small-sized, cost-efficient components with low power consumption, and a long battery life, to create the most versatile digital pen ever. Built-in Bluetooth and USB capabilities keep you connected, and with minimal to no additional training or changes to your business processes required, you can write live, right now.

Write on any surface: With the natural feel of a regular pen you can write on any surface that has the proprietary Anoto Microdot Pattern. This unique pattern works with the pen’s built-in camera to determine precise positioning on any surface, ensuring fast and accurate data capture. From whiteboards and paper sheets, to tablets and displays, or even a variety of mobile devices, the pen tips are suited to fit the desired surface, allowing you to always write digitally.

Scan barcodes: By simply ticking a box on pre-printed form or card, your pen converts into a bar code reader.

Precision positioning: Digital pens provide exact positioning on any Anoto microdot patterned surface, be it paper forms, whiteboards or glass displays. Additionally, pressure and absolute time for each position are all recorded. When this signature information is combined with world-class handwriting recognition capabilities, the resulting editable text far exceeds any other OCR solution.

Transfer in real time, anywhere: Captured data can be sent in real time via Bluetooth to different devices, such as computers, servers and mobile phones, or synchronized via USB on a computer. Simply adding the proprietary Anoto Microdot Pattern to any surface eliminates the need for buttons or a receiver, just check the send box and away it goes.

Reliable and durable: With more than 7 years of experience providing easy-to-use, intuitive, reliable and durable digital pens for an array of purposes and environments, Xcallibre is the one to trust.

Software Compatibility

Microsoft Office 97 or later

Microsoft Outlook 97 or later

Lotus Notes 5.0 or later

Software Requirements

Xcallibre X-Station Software

Anoto digital writing applications

Custom business solutions enabled by Anoto

Handset/Device Compatibility

The digital pen technology is supported by all the major mobile networks and is compatible with most leading handsets and devices.


Bluetooth wireless technology is the global short-range wireless standard for personal connectivity using a broad range of electronic devices. As members of the Bluetooth Signature Group, were are committed to supporting this technology through the development of the Digital Pen.

Computer Requirements

IBM or Compatible PC

Windows® 98, Windows® ME, Windows® 2000 or Windows® XP

Pentium II 300 Mhz processer (500 Mhz or higher)

RAM – 128Mb minimum (256 Mb recommended)

Internet Access

Microsoft® Internet Explorer 5.01 or later, Microsoft .net framework

Available USB port

CD-ROM drive

Email support requires a MAPI – compliant email client

Digital pens are far more discreet and less visible than higher risk alternatives such as laptops or tablet computers – so personal security is enhanced.

Data security is ensured by rapid, accurate capture and verification, transmission encryption, intelligent routing, mirrored servers in completely secure locations. For increased security, each pen has a unique identifier allowing all information recorded by it to be traced back to the source. The data stored in the pen is encrypted and then transmitted through a docking station, connected to a computer or a Bluetooth mobile phone and via GPRS to a central server and X-Station software for storage, handwriting recognition, further processing and analysis, or transmission to colleagues. Both methods of data transfer use secure 128 bit encryption by default.