Widespread use of mobile devices – both at home and within the workplace – has encouraged development of another, new mobile technology: printing. In the last few years a variety of mobile and cloud printing technologies have emerged, all designed to support the any time, anywhere needs of today’s mobile users.
Antonio Leone, Marketing Manager, OKI Data Australia, explains the printing options available for mobile devices and provides a guide to identifying the best approach for your needs.
One of the fundamental concepts behind mobile computing devices is the ability to free yourself from the desk. When using a tablet or smartphone, there’s no need to wait to get back to the office before capturing customer or order information. Consumers can search for retailers, place an order for goods, book tickets or even apply for a loan while out and about, without the need to return to the home computer.
But what happens when you need to print the information you’ve just entered? When you need to give your customer confirmation of their order, or physically hand over the ticket you’ve just purchased? One of the most common printing problems today occurs when companies adopt BYOD (bring your own device) policies, but forget to consider how staff will print from their personal phones and tablets.
Fortunately, there are a number of technologies that solve the problem of printing on demand. Some solutions use mobile technologies, others the cloud. The one commonality is that all require access to a mobile print compatible device. While this may prove a limiting factor for older-generation devices, it should not be a barrier for modern mobile equipment.
How it works
Cloud or mobile printing works by creating a connection between the smartphone or tablet and a network, wireless or web-enabled printer. The connection is made either through:
- mobile printing functionality that resides on the mobile device, such as Apple’s AirPrint;
- the cloud, for example using Google Cloud Print
- a device-agnostic application that is downloaded to the mobile phone or tablet
- a server-based application that sits on another computer or the network server.
The idea of applications – server or device-based – is not new and this kind of approach is fairly well understood by most technology users. However, the Apple and Google offerings herald a new approach to the problem of printing on demand and because of this, they have both rapidly captured the attention of mobile users.
Developed by Apple Inc, AirPrint makes printing from Apple devices such as an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch easy. All you need is a compatible Apple iOS device and a printer that supports AirPrint. There is no need to download software or printer drivers and there is no need to spend time configuring devices or printers.
Google Cloud Print
Google Inc,’s cloud printing service is compatible with iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It enables users to print from a smartphone or computer using Google Cloud Print enabled apps, providing the user has a compatible device and a printer that is Google Cloud Print Ready. Like AirPrint, it is a simple, no-fuss solution compared to printing approaches of old.
A few ground rules
Whatever approach you, or your office, decide on when considering mobile printing, there are three basic rules to remember.
1. When using mobile applications or device-based functionality, the mobile device must be connected to the same Wi–Fi network as the printer. Without this, there can be no communication between the devices and no printing.
2. A printing application is required in most cases. AirPrint devices excepted, most smartphone and tablet devices do not have a built–in printing capability. Therefore a special application is usually required to allow the device to print. Some of these applications are free; others need to be purchased.
3. Printer compatibility must be considered. At first glance, trying to decide between the various available mobile printing applications can be confusing. Before making any final decisions, check which printers the software supports and the features it provides. It’s also not a bad idea to do some research starting at the other end of the equation. Take a look at printer vendors and potential printer models, then compare the results to the compatibility lists of the applications you are interested in.
Once you’ve made your choice, you simply need to download the application that makes the most sense for you, based on your device and the type of network you’ll be accessing in order to print.
Planning makes it simple
Before you embrace BYOD in the workplace and before you spend hours entering data into your mobile device, give some thought to how you plan to move that information from the screen onto paper. Printing from a mobile device isn’t difficult but you should be clear on how you plan to achieve it before adopting the practice at home or in the office.