When’s the last time you physically copied something in the office? We’re willing to bet it’s been a minute, and probably because copiers have, for a long time, fallen short of our expectations for quality office equipment. But the photocopier industry isn’t what it used to be. When patent attorney Chester Carlson first invented the photocopying process in the late 30s, the commercial internet and the PC were still decades away. But digital technology is transforming the future of copiers. Now, printers and copiers have been reinvented, both as data endpoints and as office assets.
The merging of copiers and printers
Let’s talk classic pain points: Copiers using traditional xerography techniques can be expensive and difficult to maintain. Traditional copiers also have many moving parts, which can be prone to failure and difficult to replace. Welcome to 2017, where digital printing and scanning technology like HP’s A3 enables equipment to scan and reproduce documents with fewer components, which can lower cost and improve reliability. The future of copiers will see them merge with modern print innovations.
The need to copy documents will never go away, but companies have an increasing need to capture and manage images of their documents in some form of document management system. When you merge scanning and copying technology, benefits are soon to follow. Moving to a scanning technology that collects a document image while copying it allows users to preserve the image in a document management solution, making it available for printing later on. Users can tag the image with metadata and even make it possible to search the document’s text—given the right optical character recognition technology—deriving more value from the copying process.
The future of copiers will see them as more connected than ever before. A3 copiers are often sold on a leased basis, with service technicians who come to replace consumables and fix it when it fails. The higher the cost of maintenance, the greater the cost of the lease to the end user, as vendors fold the expense into the contract. Turning the copier into a connected device can bring the customer a winning combination of lower cost and higher up time.
By connecting the copier to a cloud-based monitoring service (essentially making it part of the Internet of Things), a vendor can monitor the status of internal copier components in detail. It can then use back-end predictive diagnostics software to spot problems before they affect the user’s service, and send a service technician out to fix them. Monitoring copiers like this also tells vendors when they’re running out of consumables. A constantly-updated picture of toner and paper usage enables the vendor to replace them when necessary, rather than analyzing past figures and making a guesstimate.
A focus on security
For years, poor security was the dirty little secret of the copier and printer business. Most digital business copiers have hard drives that store copies of the documents that they’re reproducing. They also store considerable metadata about those documents—all of which is invaluable to intruders. In the past, information thieves used to dive in dumpsters to get access to sensitive documents that employees had discarded. Today, they can scour a copier’s hard drive instead, either by hacking into the company’s network directly or by accessing end of life or previously-leased equipment.
In the past, security has been an afterthought in copier design. But as data thieves become more sophisticated, it needs to play a part in the future of copiers if they’re to continue being useful business tools. Designing copiers from the ground up with proper built-in data encryption and data wiping functions is part of every vendor’s responsibility—and every customer’s due diligence.
Up-time, security, efficiency, content management—technology has come a long way from the 30s to improve these processes, specifically evolving to eliminate office pain points. Designed for managed print services, innovative print and copier technology like HP’s A3 multifunction printer are a gamechanger for office workflows.