New e-BRIDGE CloudConnect from Toshiba Provides Dealers with Remote-Device Management and Monitoring
For any copier/MFP dealer, one of the keys to customer satisfaction is keeping their copier/MFPs up and running. To that end, Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) is introducing e-Bridge Cloud Connect, a cloud-based solution hosted on the Microsoft Azure SQL database platform, and which provides remote-device monitoring and management, requires no software installation, and is designed to provide a competitive advantage for Toshiba dealers.
In a Webinar held last week, Toshiba executives laid out the details on the new solution, which will be available free-of-charge to dealers and customers, with the first roll-out in August 2014 to North America, and with a pilot program scheduled for Europe, and later to Asia. According to Steve Tungate, vice president and general manager of Service, Supply Chain and Innovation for TABS, e-Bridge Cloud Connect is “a device-to-cloud-based system for managing devices in the field; it will increase service efficiency.”
This first rollout of CloudConnect is primarily a service tool designed to provide a competitive advantage for Toshiba dealers. “Hardware is becoming more commodity-like – this will help separate us from others. This is about being able to manage customers’ products to separate us from the rest of the industry,” says Tungate. Other releases with enhancements are scheduled for the future.
By providing real-time remote management, CloudConnect is designed to improve the overall service process, by reducing service calls, reducing the need for on-site servicing, and providing dealers’ service personnel with real-time critical device alerts, device-configuration, and service-data collection and analysis. With it, dealers’ service technicians can, for instance, remotely operate the Toshiba’s control panel, download firmware, check device configuration, apply device configuration, see service trends, obtain meter readings and service data, replicate device configuration across a fleet, and configure real-time device alerts. Service can customize device alerts – for instance, it’s usually unnecessary to receive an alert for every time a paper tray is opened – specifying which device alerts to communicate. Service personnel can also pre-flight (configure) device configurations, eliminating the need to do this manually. They’re also able to configure security settings, for instance, enabling hard-drive over-write, and/or disabling print from/scan to USB drives.
With CloudConnect, the MFP also routinely sends device configuration and alerts to CloudConnect, where specified data rules are compared against actual device data. CloudConnect issues notifications based on specified rules and policies; the MFP checks for and downloads updates and executes them.
All communications use SSL communication, and by default, the MFP communicates data once a day, after business hours, in order not to increase network traffic. Access to devices at the Web portal is provided based on dealership number, so that when dealer service personnel log on, they see only their dealership’s devices, not other dealerships’ devices .
According to TABS’ Louis Ormond, director of research and development for TABS, in order to monitor a Toshiba device via CloudConnect, a firmware update is required for devices in the field. CloudConnect is currently compatible with current-generation Toshiba e-STUDIO MFPs (see list below), but in the future will be compatible with legacy e-STUDIOs and eventually with third-party devices (however, the most functionality will be with Toshiba devices). As noted, compatible e-STUDIO MFPs in the field must be upgraded; however, new production machines are having compatibility embedded in the factory, so no update in the field will be required.
Toshiba e-STUDIO MFPs currently compatible with CloudConnect consist of the following:
- e-STUDIO 2550C series.
- e-STUDIO 2551C series.
- e-STUDIO 5055C series.
- e-STUDIO 6570C series.
- e-STUDIO 507 series.
- e-STUDIO 857 series.
According to TABS’ Ormond, the value to customers is elimination of meter reads, faster service response times, reduced service time, and no secondary server/application is required. TABS chose a cloud-based solution as being the most cost-effective, while providing scalability, while it says the Azure platform is a secure, robust platform and complements Toshiba’s existing partnership with Microsoft.
Ormond also notes that many enhancements are on the way for the new solution, noting, “This is a platform for us that we’ll continue to enhance…We view it as a platform for the future.” Future enhancements may include a closed system for highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare that cannot use cloud-based systems.
Most existing dealers already have such solutions in place that are interfaced with the data from their existing service management system–the heart of the service end of the business. These systems are also equipped to handle a myriad of other device makes and models, including those that do not have an e-Bridge controller. Consequently, it seems unlikely that an existing Toshiba dealer would attempt to integrate e-Bridge CloudConnect into their existing system. On the other hand, it’s an easy way for new or new multi-line dealers to easily set up a printer-management platform for e-Bridge equipped e-STUDIO devices.