Printing trends

Multifunction printer features evolve to meet today’s tech trends

October 31, 2016
by Steve Smith

Today’s technology forces coupled with changing work styles preferences in the modern office are having an impact on the capabilities print vendors are building into today’s multifunction printers. Here is a closer look at four trends and examples of how they present themselves in today’s products.

For many customers the need to safeguard company and customer data is growing in importance, a trend that has accelerated lately thanks to increased regulations and punitive measures for information breaches. The modern MFP or printer is a sophisticated network device and as such IT managers face many of the same security considerations for print devices as they do for PCs or servers on the modern network.

Securing information on the MFP requires the ability to overwrite latent data left on the Hard Disc Drive when a job is processed. Encrypting data residing on an HDD so that it is illegible is also an option and can often be employed simultaneously with the Data Overwrite feature for two layers of protection. Data can also be encrypted in transmission to ensure that it is not legible in the event that it is intercepted before or after reaching the MFD/printer. For applications where extreme security is required a removable Hard Disk Drive is available from some vendors so that the HDD may be physically secured after hours in a location other than where on the device.

Modern devices offer the ability for IT personnel to turn off certain protocols that are not required and to close ports related to protocols. This ensures that there are no open ‘holes’ available for unauthorized or unnecessary types of data.

The ability to ‘authenticate’ users before they are permitted the ability to even use an MFD/printer is an important security feature. This can be as simple as a numeric user code that must be entered at the control panel at walk-up or as sophisticated as swiping a proximity card at a reader and the user’s credentials are then validated via the network authentication system. For clients who are serious about security, compliance to industry standards for security are mandatory. The current standard is IEEE2600.2

The second trend we are seeing is the increased need to support Mobile Printing within the enterprise. As mobile work and BYOD environments continue to expand, the need to access a printer from smartphones and other mobile computing platforms is increasing. It is now common for vendors to offer mobile device apps (iOS and Android are most common) for printing—and sometimes also scanning to and from their hardcopy devices.

Many vendors are also integrating support for Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print to support the needs of organizations embracing these specific platforms.
Still other ways of offering mobile printing exist such as cloud based services or even integrated software offerings that offer mobile support as part of a broader authentication, tracking and chargeback solution.

Connecting to cloud applications is another relatively recent development in the industry. Users now have the ability to browse the internet directly from the control panel and print web pages or documents without the need for a computer. Cloud ‘connectors’ can also be installed on the device to enable interaction with cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, cloud-based fax services and more, right from the device operating panel.

Finally, many MFP vendors have devoted a great deal of time and effort to updating their device control panels to offer a modern tablet-experience. The best among these are those that most closely resemble one’s experience with a smartphone or tablet. Just about all vendors have moved to colour touch screens and have increased the size of the panels up to 10.1”, just like the typical tablet device. Others have designed their panels to support the actual gestures based interaction that people have become used to on their phones and tablets – namely the ability to: pinch and flick to change the size of displayed images or move items on the screen to expose more selections and to hold down and drag items around the screen to customize the look of the interface. The ability to change or customize the background displayed on the screen (display your company logo) or to display banner messages for users at the device (“Consider the environment—double-side your print and copy jobs.”)

Supporting digital work streams, information sharing and collaboration, and mobile access to information, the multifunction printer has not stopped evolving to meet the changing needs of the digital office.
Steve Smith is Director Strategic Marketing at Ricoh Canada Inc.