CountThings:  Bringing Image Recognition and Machine Learning to the Accounting Classroom

If you are looking for a free way to introduce students to how image recognition and machine learning can easily complete routine tasks, such as counting inventory, the CountThings app is just the tool. CountThings is a real-world tool used in various industries to simplify counting large quantities of items such as metal products, tubes, logs, lumber, pharmaceuticals, medical vials, livestock, animals, wildlife, and more. While the CountThings paid version is quite expensive, they do offer a free test version and provide sample templates that students can use to experience the app’s benefits. 

The free, demonstrator templates include Xs on white paper, coins, lines on notebook paper, and keyboard keys. All of these templates are normally easy for students to work with and access both in and out of the classroom.  I tend to use the coins template as it is easy for students to relate to counting coins and the time saved by automating coin counting.

To get started, students can download the CountThings app to their iOS, Android, Samsung, or Windows smart devices. Once the app download is complete, students can continue as a “guest” to utilize the free trial. Using the CountThings app is as simple as 1-2-3!

Step 1:  From the app, students select “Take New Photo” or “Use an Existing Photo”. Then students select the appropriate counting template. For example, if students are counting coins, they would select the “coin template”.

Step 2:  Students then click “Count”.

Step 3:  Finally, students review the count and take a screenshot, or they can select “Save”.

If you don’t want to use coins, have the students try the Xs on white paper, notebook lines, or keyboard keys counting template. All of these work the same way. Occasionally, the app will give students an inaccurate count, but if students repeat the process with a new picture, the inaccurate count is normally resolved.  

CountThings Coin Count Template Results

Because CountThings is a tool used in various industries, there are a few brief case studies available on their website that you could use for class discussions. Some other topics I’ve used for discussion include (1) the benefits and cost savings of image recognition and machine learning for inventory management, and (2) the accuracy or inaccuracy of this type of technology and why the template selection might affect the count.

CountThings is a simple and effective way to introduce accounting students to the real-world benefits of image recognition and machine learning applications. If you would like to try the CountThings app, download the app from your smart device’s app store.  To learn more about this technology and its real-world uses go to the CountThings website. Happy counting!

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