Sharp National Dealer Meeting: Foxconn Benefits, Smart Office, Smart MFPs, Smart Meetings, and More
New Smart Office Products
Sharp envisions the smart office founded on a fusion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, or AIIoT. In a nutshell, this enables employees being able to work virtually anywhere, reflecting the rise of the mobile workforce, with business information at one’s fingertips, and smarter, more efficient conferencing. Down the road, for instance, this could mean employees working in their self-driving cars, where they could view presentations, and share and collaborate even when stuck in traffic on the road.
According to Sharp’s Vince Jannelli, SIICA associate vice president of software and product management, fluidity is the best way to describe the trend in the office. For instance, as we see the rise of the distributed (remote and mobile) workforce, that would mean remote workers can come into the office and get quick and easy access to office services such as printers and conferencing tools. This distributed workforce is also sparking growth in collaboration software; a whole new collaboration category has emerged, including Dropbox, Hipchat, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, etc,
Along with, and, although not often perceived, Sharp executives noted that meetings take up a great deal of company resources and money, and is seeking to change this with more efficient meeting solutions. Sharp is working with Foxconn to develop technology to make meetings more efficient, including meetings that can be quickly initiated with voice activation, and which enable remote participants to quickly join the meeting from any device, with meeting content then stored in the cloud for easy access or printed.
The copier/MFP is still a key part of this smart office, with Sharp reaffirming its commitment to the copier/MFP – and also noting an alleged lack of new products from rivals. “It’s almost like the copier has become a six-letter dirty word,” noted SIICA’s Albregts. “The copier is still very important to the ecosystem.”
On that note, Sharp showed 20 new document-system products: two production printers; new A4 monochrome copier/MFPs; new A3 color copier/MFPs; and new A3 monochrome copier/MFPs. It also introduced two new categories: the Skywell water generator, and Thecus on-premise network-storage device, as well as three new displays, and four desktop monitors. All of the new document-imaging products have a common design (both color and mono), and common supplies and accessories – for instance, inter-changeable document finishers even across different generations.
The six new A4 products were made in collaboration with Foxconn, and represent Foxconn’s first participation in a Sharp project, according to SIICA’s Shane Coffey, associate vice president of document product management at SIICA. Sharp dealers had been asking for Sharp-made A4 products, not something from another manufacturer. Coffey also noted that Sharp will refresh products quicker so that dealers will have a new model to offer when a copier/MFP comes off lease.
Among the copier/MFPs previewed was a smart MFP that features voice recognition and commands via Amazon’s Alexa voice-recognition system. The system, which will be available next fall, enables users, after authenticating themselves, to use voice commands to make copies, scan to email, and call for service (triggering transmission of relevant service information). It features a tablet-style user interface and customizable user interface via Sharp OSA. The system shown below uses the Alexa voice-recognition system, but the final product may use a voice-recognition system supplied by Foxconn.