DSC-70 Novel approaches to the Living Costs and Food Survey

This project aims to explore the application of computer vision and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF). Specifically, we will produce a set of tools for automatically extracting textual data from scanned shopping receipts (optical character recognition, OCR) and then convert this unstructured text data into tabular form using various NLP techniques.

Team members

  • Lan Benedikt
  • Chaitanya Joshi
  • Sharon Hook

The need

Explore the use of receipt scanning data and barcode scanning data to replace manual data entry of the LCF diaries. The purpose is to reduce respondent burden and make efficiency savings, we will benchmark the automated process against the current manual process. Success measures are speed and data quality.


There is a clear goal to improve a production process. There is also a possibility for knowledge sharing with other National Statistic Institutes (NSIs) and the opportunity to reuse some of the other Data Science Campus projects, such as Optimus.

Data science

  • Image processing
  • OCR
  • Supervised, unsupervised machine learning (ML)
  • NLP
  • Data linking


  • LCF team in Social Survey Division
  • ONS Prices Division
  • Statistics Netherlands
  • Statistics Austria
  • Statistics Finland
  • Statistics Slovenia


31 January 2020

  • Nick de Wolf, CBS Netherlands, completed his week-long visit, excellent progress on image processing and optical character recognition of receipts photographed by mobile phone
  • first draft of the Eurostat report shared with the project team


19 February 2020

  • Eurostat report edited following peer reviewed feedback within the Campus
  • Eurostat report reviewed by Stat Canada as well (with very positive feedback)
  • Eurostat report will be shared with the member countries on the 29th February
  • The campus is in the process of helping the LCF team prepare business case for SR 20
  • Invite to HBS and TUS closing workshop (18th/19th March) confirmed by CBS/Eurostat (Phil to attend / prepare demonstration of LCF code)


  • March 2020 - final Eurostat Report
  • summer 2020 - business case for LCF implementation

Further information

Please contact datasciencecampus@ons.gov.uk for more information.


  • No updates yet.


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