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Much more than a peripheral device – the humble printer is now your office assistant

Much more than a peripheral device – the humble printer is now your office assistant

Leading vendors offer advanced printing solutions that incorporate state-of-the-art features bringing high-levels of functionality to your fingertips

At one time printers just printed – that’s all they did. Now in the age of the internet connectivity and ubiquitous cloud services they do much more. They are nothing less than another powerful device with a range of highly specialist functions, that meet the expectations of customers that have been transformed with the development of digital technology. Printers play a crucial role in the digital workplace and nowadays they offer apps, true mobile access and increased security. We spoke to experts from three vendors that operate in the Middle East to find out more about the latest developments and models.

Ayman Aly, Marketing Manager, Canon Middle East

How is the role of printers changing in today’s digital environment?

Today, printed communication plays an important role in customer communication, determined by preference, impact and the ability of written communication to be well documented. As companies embrace an integrated approach to communication, print is increasingly being linked to digital communication either through augmented reality or QR codes. This approach harnesses the benefits of both mediums which greatly improves personalisation and results in better customer response and engagement with brands.

Have printers moved away from being devices to becoming workplace assistants?

Print service providers must evolve from offering only print services to being an integral part of their customers’ marketing and communication strategy by helping them link print to digital communications. With the incorporation of new technologies and innovations such as improved document workflows and an intuitive user experience, these devices can also enhance end to end productivity by going the extra mile.

How is the role of the printer changing from being just a machine to a connected device?

A printer’s role is no longer limited to transactional printing. Equipped with advanced technology, printers can nowadays be integrated with a variety of services in order to ensure that they are being utilised for efficient customer communication. Whether it is via connecting to an existing network, offering cloud based solutions and/or analytical tools. The end result, ought to be work flow ease and convenience as well as a measurable metric which allows for the analysis of a campaign’s effectiveness.

How are mobile and cloud based solutions incorporated into your products?

Canon has a broad range of connectivity solutions which offer new opportunities for smarter ways of working through mobile or cloud-based services. Canon mobile printing and scanning provides the flexibility required by a mobile workforce while cloud-based solutions and services offer fantastic new opportunities to make information and powerful services accessible anywhere. For instance, a customer can print directly from cloud services, such as Evernote, Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, from the printer screen or remotely from his or her mobile phone or tablet using Canon PRINT app. In addition, many of the customer communication tools are based on the cloud which reduces IT and administration inconvenience at the printer’s side.

How are you enhancing the security features of your printing devices?

All Canon products and software solutions are fully compliant with the latest IT security standards. In addition, Canon offers printing security applications which control printing options and offer ID and fingerprint recognition to release printing jobs and to access the job history of the device as well.

Do your printing devices have the ability to recognise users through fingerprint recognition?

Our products offer user authentication via a fingerprint reader for enhanced security.

Pui-Chi Li, Head of Marketing, Xerox MEA

How the role of printers changing in today digital environment?

While at first the printing industry may seem to be at odds with the exponential growth of digitisation, it is in fact an essential part of the office ecosystem. Developments have meant that we have not only embraced this trend, we have looked at how we can help our customers to face the challenge of digitisation in their own business. Xerox commissioned a study of 600 IT decision-makers and influencers, the desire to transform to a digital rather than paper-based enterprise is clear and strong, but for most, it is still out of reach.

By implementing ever-smarter tool sets on devices to help streamline work processes, offering apps, which allow truly mobile access, increased security and analytics, optimise workflow; printers continue to play a key role in the digital environment.

Have printers moved away from being devices to becoming workplace assistants?

Yes they have, Xerox for example introduced 29 new ConnectKey®-enabled printers and multifunction devices that transform traditional printing devices into smart, connected workplace assistants.

The ConnectKey printers and multifunction devices are cloud ready with one-touch access to the cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive or Office 365. They are also mobile friendly, making the job of printing from your mobile devices quick and easy.

How is the role of the printer changing from being just a machine to a connected device?

With IoT trends today, almost all devices are connected to the internet and printers are not an exception. I would reframe this question by saying, how can printers not be connected in the modern workplace environment. Our offices are no longer bound by a specific location or time, a lot of working professionals prefer a fluid workplace and connected and cloud enabled devices allow such environments. We can work together while being countries apart, print from anywhere in the world, send documents to our emails, cloud storage units, shared folders like Google docs and Drop Box, anything you can imagine. Looking at the working style of Millennials it is hard to imagine modern workplace without being agile and constantly connected.

How are mobile and cloud based solutions incorporated into your products?

A mobile device became the work hub away from the workplace with Xerox® ConnectKey® Technology. Users can now manage work from anywhere, via laptop, tablet or smart phone. Download, share, print, scan, distribute and even translate documents on the go, simply by tapping an app.

By using the ConnectKey Technology optional Wi-Fi feature and the organisation’s cloud service to connect everyone’s mobile devices to ConnectKey MFPs with native mobility including AirPrint, Mopria, Google Cloud Print, and the Xerox® Android Print Service Plug-in. Plus, DropBox™, Google Drive, and OneDrive are pre-installed on VersaLink® printers and downloadable from the AppGallery on AltaLink® MFPs.

Do your products have any translation abilities?

Xerox® Easy Translator Service is a comprehensive suite of cloud translation services that is ideal for mid-sized business that have the need to translate documents. Users can choose from an express or a professional translation.

The service has key features such as Instant machine language translations from MFP, phone or PC, easily translating and localising over 40 languages including Arabic and French, with output available in over 20 file formats, world-class OCR (Optical Character Recognition). Furthermore, human translation is available for the ultimate in quality and speed. Depending on the length and complexity, you can put your English language document on the scanning glass and get your Arabic version printed in less than 30 seconds.

Such features can add significant value and agility to many verticals across the Middle East region, especially when legal translation certification is not required, this can help different organisations and governmental institutions to collaborate with their regional and international partners at a much faster pace. We can definitely see how education, government, banking and finance, healthcare and many other sectors can benefit from this feature. In addition to Easy Translate, all ConnectKey printers are enabled with an Arabic language interface specifically designed for this region.

How are you enhancing the security features of your printing devices?

In October 2017 Xerox was named a leader in the first IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Security Solutions and Services Hardcopy 2017 Vendor Assessment1 report for its commitment to enterprise security and its broad portfolio of print and document security solutions.

Xerox takes a comprehensive approach to security with proactive threat intelligence, addressing security threats before they become issues. With Xerox’s Managed Print Services (MPS), security configurations are easily set and monitored, remediation is automated, and intrusions are tracked in devices, documents and data.

Xerox security solutions span four key aspects in a multilayered approach: intrusion prevention, device detection, document and data detection, and external partnerships such as with McAfee.

Printers today are as technologically sophisticated as personal computers. They are also equally vulnerable to hacks and security breaches. Especially wireless printers and MFPs that can be accessed remotely.

Xerox security features include:

Xerox® Secure Print that allows you to control the print timing of your documents. Enter a passcode to send a job to print. The printer holds the job until you enter the same passcode at the device, releasing it to print.

Image Overwrite which electronically ‘shred’ information stored on a printer’s or MFP’s hard disk as part of routine job processing. Electronic deletion may be performed automatically, on-demand or on some devices, scheduled. The Xerox® Image Overwrite print security process uses a three-pass algorithm originally specified by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Data Encryption that secures the data that moves in and out of a printer or MFP or is stored within the device using several different protocols for encryption, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Internet Protocol Security (IPSec).

Access Control/User Authorisation through restricting Specific functions (such as scanning or accessing customer data) by user and by function according to access control limits set by a system administrator.

Removable Hard Disk Drive Accessory/Kit that allows a system administrator to quickly and easily remove hard drives and lock them up for storage, which eliminates risks of unauthorised access when the device is unattended. This is helpful to secure print data that is subject to legal regulations (such as HIPAA or PCI), or might have a customer database containing sensitive information.

Network Security to ensure your device behaves like a good network citizen, many Xerox printers and MFPs include features that protect them from unauthorised remote access. These secure print features protect the confidentiality of data as it moves across your network, to and from the printer. These print security features include IPFiltering, IPSec and SSL/TLS data encryption, digital certificates, network authentication and 802.1x device authentication.

Do your printing devices have the ability to recognise users through fingerprint recognition?

We do offer this option as part of our customisation effort at additional cost to our customers when high levels of security are concerned, but currently it is not a default feature of ConnectKey Workplace Assistants. We, however, offer a high level of personalisation allowing all the users to have their independent access that will help them to retain their privacy when necessary and for the management to control the access level each employee is given.

Hozefa Saylawala is Sales Director, Middle East, Zebra Technologies

How is the role of printers changing in today’s digital environment?

Customers’ expectations have changed with the development of digital technology and our personal experiences with technology are also driving our business expectations. We are now used to carrying powerful mobile devices in our pockets, with internet connectivity everywhere and services delivered from the cloud. Whilst the printer’s number one job is still to print, it can also take advantage of these technologies to deliver an improved service for the customers.

Have printers moved away from being devices to becoming workplace assistants?

There is no doubt that printers have become more powerful, enabling them to become more central to the task they are required for, with improved connectivity and computer power allowing them to take over the tasks that might have traditionally been performed by a PC connected to a printer. So, the printer is becoming another powerful connected device with a range of unique specialist functions.

How is the role of the printer changing from being just a machine to a connected device?

Think about the printer as a network device that prints, rather than the other way around. Investment in software and connectivity will continue to drive the change in how the printer performs and how it is used.

How are mobile and cloud based solutions incorporated into your products?

Our Link-OS printers incorporate cloud connectivity as a fundamental capability. So for example, you can use our printers to collect data from attached devices such as scanners, send it to cloud based applications and print. On mobility, not only do we have mobile printers, but all our Link-OS printers can link to our Android based enterprise mobile computers, so applications can print directly, regardless of location.

Do your products have any translation abilities?

The user interface menus on our premium category printers can operate in multiple human languages, however these are not automatically translated from say French to German. In terms of machine language, the Zebra printers are able to understand multiple commands from competitor printer devices.

How are you enhancing the security features of your printing devices?

Security is increasingly an issue for printers; as they become more capable then the security risks also increase. Our printers have very good security however we continue to work on security enhancements for all the devices and you can expect to see additional developments to our printer software in 2018. Our printers are refreshed from time to time to ensure that they offer the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, supporting the latest wireless security standards.

Do your printing devices have the ability to recognise users through fingerprint recognition?

Not yet but it is possible to connect accessory devices such as fingerprint readers to some of our printers.