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Smart printing: Changing our working ways

With more and more professionals neglecting their notebook PCs in favour of smartphone and/or tablet devices for their day-to-day productivity needs, this has caused a significant shift to occur in the way work is done in the office and on the move.

With more and more professionals neglecting their notebook PCs in favour of smartphone and/or tablet devices for their day-to-day productivity needs, this has caused a significant shift to occur in the way work is done in the office and on the move. PATRICK BUDMAR reports.

As professionals turn to their smart phones and tablets to put together and print their reports, presentations and documents, IT administrators have been presented with new opportunities and issues that need to be addressed. To meet the ever growing needs of their workforce for printing of content via their smart device, IT professionals have had to look beyond traditional technology solutions and turn to manufacturers to fi nd the latest solutions.

CONNECTING WITH EPSON CONNECT

Printing documents is the staple of any offi ce, big or small. While printing was limited for a long time to the vicinity of where the PC was situated, as the printer had to be connected to the PC via a USB or Ethernet cable, the growing popularity and adoption of wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth has meant that such functionality has also been incorporated into printers. Since portable devices such as smart phones and tablets allow users to browse the Internet, use email and word process, the expectation to be able to print this data is also there.

Epson is one printer manufacturer that has recognised the rapid adoption of smart devices by enterprise and commercial customers, and is now incorporating wireless printing functionality in its offerings. Epson has been rolling out its Epson Connect initiative, which supports Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print functionality across a range of printers. The two main pillars of Epson Connect are email print and Epson iPrint, which are designed to deliver the means to connect customers and contents from anywhere to any device.

“With email print, customers can print emails and attached files by assigning an email address to the printer and sending them to the printer’s email address,” Epson Australia director of marketing communications, Mike Pleasants, said. “This enables printing from anywhere an email service is available.”

Epson iPrint, a printing and scanning application for iOS and Android devices, also forms a large part of Epson Connect and enables users to connect with printers and scanners on a local network. The application is currently available for around 20 Epson printers and the range of support is expected to grow in the future.

“At the same time, new Epson printers will be made Apple AirPrint ready to allow Apple devices to print on local network printers and Google Cloud Print ready to enable customers to print from their web apps such as Google Docs and Gmail by using any device with a web browser,” Pleasants added.

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ENABLING THROUGH HP EPRINT

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is another printer manufacturer that has seen a lot of opportunity in the mobile printing space and has forged ahead to add support for the technology in its own offerings. HP’s range of Web Connected printers allow users to connect them to the web and to the world directly through its HP ePrint function, which allows end users to print from any Internet connected mobile device - much like Epson’s technology - just by sending an email to the printer’s unique email address.

“Our printers also incorporate Airprint, which provides the ability to simply print wirelessly from an iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch,” HP South Pacifi c imaging and printing group vice president, Richard Bailey, said. “HP Print Apps is another feature that allows end-users to get direct access to online content without turning on their PC including colouring books, puzzles, calendars, forms, news and more.

“With HP ePrint, business users can print anytime, anywhere from any mobile device, Bailey said. “The touch screen grants access to business apps to store and print forms, news, archives and more. This device also comes with the ability to Airprint from Apple devices and has the ability to access Business Print Apps such as Biz Tree, Yahoo7 Daily News, Google Calendars and Google Docs, all direct from the touch screen without the need to turn on the PC.“

Then, for those who need printing on the go, HP Offi cejet 100 Mobile printer has been designed to fit their needs. This printer is a compact, durable device with built-in Bluetooth wireless technology allows users to print document at their convenience while on the go. Smart devices such as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Nokia Symbian are supported by HP Offi cejet 100 Mobile, which retails for $399 and is available from major retailers.

“For flexibility and convenience, this printer allows mobile users to produce professional-quality documents in the offi ce and on the road,” Bailey said. “It offers a complete mobile printing solution at an affordable price.”

MOBILE PRINTING AND SECURITY RISKS

While smart devices have helped to mobilise work forces to increase productivity in numerous areas, as with most new technologies there are some caveats that users need to be aware of. Mobile printing has enabled the user to print documents at their convenience from their location and time of choice, but it is this very freedom that might present some pitfalls in maintaining the integrity and security of data.

“People have concerns about the security of content that flows wirelessly between devices or through dozens of nodes on the Internet,” Epson’s Pleasants admits. “Users should always be aware of security issues with any new technology, but they should also consider how this risk compares with leaving documents lying around the office or home, or throwing them out in the rubbish where you lose all control over what happens to them.”

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Pleasants points out that security software and protection systems are being enhanced all the time and views it as a diminishing risk. The rapid growth of social networks and online shopping has also shown that many people are prepared to accept a degree of increased risk in return for greater convenience and sociability, and in the process they have adopted a more relaxed approach to security when working from their mobile device.

“Mobile print workers are looking for the same simplicity and security in their mobile printing system that they have in their offi ce environment,” HP’s Bailey added. “Smartphones are simple and a mobile printing solution must follow suit. Carrying cables, remembering USB drives and logging on to VPNs while working remotely can all get in the way of business at hand.”

To ensure that their customers have usability with security when printing, both Epson and HP have incorporated secure technologies such as Epson Connect and HP ePrinter respectively to ensure that the users’ data is safe whether they are sending a print job via email to a printer across the office, from a café down the street or across the world.

GREATER MOBILITY WILL EVOLVE PRINTING

As smart phone and tablet based printing is still in its infancy, there is still a lot of room for growth and innovation in the area. Epson and HP both see further possibilities created by an increased use of smart devices and the new opportunities presented by the cloud.

“Mobile and cloud printing is a rapidly evolving suite of technologies that will deliver signifi cant increases in effi ciency and productivity in the next few years,” Pleasants said. “As our networks change from hundreds of thousands of dispersed hubs into one centralised resource, the cloud, the ability to deliver scanned or print based content anywhere at any time will be a competitive advantage for individuals and businesses.”

Bailey sees business decisions being made at a faster rate because of mobility, and as a result, businesses will need to manage this increased pace effectively through streamlining business processes. While technology helps businesses become more mobile, the content and information that they want to access must also be available wherever and whenever they want it.

“We’ve reached a global tipping point in business as the world over is becoming more mobile,” Bailey said. “According to Forrester Research, by the end of 2012, more than one-third of the global workforce will be mobile information workers, and many will use smart phones. Smart phones are becoming increasingly integral to doing business, with more than 20 per cent of information workers spending at least three hours a day using smart phones for work.”