Introducing Co-op Paperfree

Hello, I’m Tom, and I’m the Chief Product Engineer at CoopDigital. That means I do a bit of writing code, a bit of design and a bit of pointing at whiteboards. I’ve been here since January, and it’s been an incredible first six months. There’s a brilliant, excited team here, and I’m proud to be part of it.

You might have seen Mike’s speech from our AGM, where he set out our ambition to be, amongst other things, trusted with your data. That’s a big topic and no small feat, but we’ve been working on an experiment to help us understand what it might take.

If you’re anything like me there’s a lot of paper in your life. It just keeps turning up: envelopes full of bills, bank statements, notifications about pensions, and so on.

Often they go straight in the recycling, but sometimes I keep things around because I *might* need to refer to them again in the future. So they get thrown into heaps and piles that move slowly from the kitchen to the stairs to the attic.

Many of the people we’ve spoken to in our research feel overwhelmed by their documents: information is never to hand when they need it, things get lost, and they take up loads of room.

We think we can help, with a simple, secure app to help you go paperless. Our working title is Co-op Paperfree.


You get your documents into Paperfree by scanning them with your phone’s camera. We make the contents of the scanned photos searchable using character recognition, so you can always find what you’re looking for without needing to organise too neatly ahead of time.

But Paperfree isn’t just for storage. We’re exploring ways of to make your life easier with automatic reminders for expiry dates, and ways of safely sharing with housemates, for example.

And of course, these important documents are increasingly digital, so we’ll be supporting those equally.

For most people this is some of the most sensitive data they hold, and we’re very aware of the security and privacy risks, both technical and social. We’re working alongside Sarah Gold and her team at IF, to ensure we put our users in control of their data. We’ll talk more about this in a later post.


So that’s a quick introduction to Co-op Paperfree. It’s the first prototype we’re developing in this area, and we’re excited to have a handful of our colleagues testing it right now. (Gulp!)

If you’re interested in working on this, or products like it, we’re hiring engineers, designers and user researchers.

If you are a colleague or a council member and want to find out more you can join us at our regular show and tell which is every other Tuesday 9.30 on the 10th Floor of 1 Angel Square. The next one is the 19th July, hope to see lots of people there.

Tom Taylor

13 thoughts on “Introducing Co-op Paperfree

  1. Debbie Verrechia July 5, 2016 / 8:21 pm

    Is this show and tell available to view online as many of us colleagues don’t work in Manchester?


    • gailalyon July 5, 2016 / 9:16 pm

      Not currently, but we will be blogging regularity and we have a tumblr with week notes on that we will share. Is it something that you’d like to learn more about?


  2. Charles Roper (@charlesroper) July 6, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    There are several apps that do this already and they’re all good. Off the top of my head, there is Evernote, Microsoft Office Lens and (my favourite) CamScanner. I’m not knocking what you’re doing here but I am interested in why you’ve chosen to develop this particular app. Seems an interesting choice and not something I’d automatically think of Co-op doing.


  3. Neil Dickinson July 8, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    Sounds interesting, one question, will you be able to organize the documents?


    • gailalyon July 13, 2016 / 6:34 pm

      Yes you can categorise them


  4. juniemo July 10, 2016 / 10:56 am

    Whilst I appreciate the cost savings of going paperless, and see it can be useful in certain circumstances, I find I often want a hard copy on which I can scribble thoughts and highlight areas of interest. I find it hard on my eyes to read from a screen for a long period of time and continually scrolling right and left is frustrating..
    So for me paperless is OK but not all of the time and I hope that most Council papers will continue to be hard copy (although Powerpoints viewed on a desktop or laptop work well)


  5. Rachel July 14, 2016 / 8:41 am

    It is a great idea but like someone else has posted, this functionality is available for free already. I use Office Lens to scan in information and then save it to OneNote where it becomes searchable, shareable etc.


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