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Smart printing for the connected workplace

Steven Swift, co-founder of IDeAs, a European network of independent document advisors shares his thoughts on how apps are redefining the role of the office MFP

Steven Swift
Steven Swift

Samsung appeared to be the only exhibitor at Apps World, XLR8 at Excel London, talking about print solutions, and certainly the only representative of the major printer OEMs with a stand there. That may say something about Samsung’s different approach to linking print and workplace solutions, which reflects their heritage in mobile technology.

That is not to say that other printer OEMs are not developing apps to manage workplace solutions, but the fact that none of them chose to exhibit at Apps World may hint at their view of apps as add-ons to their hardware, rather the key element in their proposition to customers, which is how Samsung sees Apps – with the added advantage that theirs are based on the Android mobile platform.

Print volumes as a whole are going down, and that is squeezing revenue and margins for both printer OEMs and their channel partners. How to replace those lost print revenues is a hot topic of discussion and there is a lot of attention focusing on workflow solutions and apps. A central element in this thinking has been how to redefine and broaden the role of the office MFP, to leverage not only its printing and scanning functionalities, but also its processing power and connectivity, to make it into a hub for communications and workflow management.

HP has long talked about the MFP as the on-ramp for office documents, and has built on this idea to develop a range of workflow solutions targeting vertical market segments. This year has seen major announcements from Konica Minolta, with their new concept of the Workplace Hub and Xerox, with its launch of new product families with Connect Key technology to facilitate workflow management, and the development of apps to support this.

Big changes

To succeed in capturing a bigger share of workflows and associated revenues, the print industry needs to take account of some of the big changes taking place in the office and the way people work. First among these is the growing importance of mobility. More and more people spread their work among multiple locations, including home and while they are travelling. To do this, they need technology that works equally well wherever they are, including the ability to share information and print documents while they are on the move.

Linked to this is the growing requirement to use the same devices and technology for personal as well as work purposes. This applies to smartphones and tablets, but also extends to other devices and functionalities, including printers – and will broaden to include many more types of devices as the Internet of Things becomes a reality.

Demand for customisation

Print volumes going down
Print volumes going down

The growing demand for the flexibility for workers to adapt and personalise their own devices and technologies for work purposes as well as their personal communications, is driving the next big change in the way we work. The obvious and most common way of customising devices is through the development and installation of apps.

For this to succeed will require apps that can readily be adapted to work across multiple platforms and tailored to meet individual users’ needs. It will no longer suffice to produce standard apps that work on only one type of device or operating system.

This goes to the heart of the Samsung proposition for the connected workplace. As the world leader in mobile technology, it is perhaps uniquely well placed to spearhead a massive expansion in apps-led development and customisation of workflows, which is exactly what it is proposing with its new Smart Services initiative, built on the Smart UX Center.

Samsung says that using its vast experience in this area and allowing developers to use familiar tools such as Android will cut the average development time for a Smart UX Centre app to 30 days, compared to nine months for a typical embedded printer app using current industry standards.

At Apps World Samsung was able to show some impressive apps and workflow solutions that are already being used by customers. These include: Remote Call – a solution for service technicians working in the field, with integrated communications linking phone and online support, to help them deliver same day service to customers, and MobiSystems Office Suite – providing one app to view and edit documents, working across Android/Dex and Smart UX.

There are also plans to take Smart UX to the next level, beyond traditional printing, with innovative solutions including: Self-serve automated shipping system, linking weighing scales, barcode scanner and NFC/card reader, and Self-point health solution, linking medical scales, smart watch and blood pressure measurements.

The big question

The big question now is how this will translate into the HP world, when the acquisition of Samsung’s print business is completed. It appears to fit very well with HP’s own strategy of developing more sophisticated services and solutions. However, will HP be able to integrate and manage this initiative with its organisation and technology, and in particular with its channel?

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