The Future is Now: Mobile Print Trends in 2018 and Beyond

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The following was written by Brent Richtsmeier, chairman of the Mopria Alliance Steering Committee: “Every year at this time of year, we hear the same phrases and keywords trotted out: “new year, new you,” “resolutions,” “goals,” “reflection,” “fresh start,” and that ilk – normally found mostly in self-help books or motivational speeches, you’re probably seeing these buzzwords everywhere, from ads to headlines to your Facebook newsfeed.

Here’s another timely term: “trends.”

The start of a new year is a useful occasion to gaze into the crystal ball and round up all the current and rising industry trends to see what the future might hold. Keep an eye out for these six mobile print trends in 2018 – and beyond.

1 – Print isn’t going anywhere. The fundamental desire and need to print is a major driver of the mobile print industry. Industry leaders are recognizing this and adding mobile-print functionality to phones to make printing easier; for example, with the release Android Oreo, Google launched a default print service built into all Android phones.

Mobile printing is becoming even more relevant as applications that moved from the physical realm to the digital are moving back to the physical – for example, photos. People used to take photos on a physical camera and get printed copies; now, they take digital photos on a phone, but still crave the physicality of a printed photo to put in a frame on the mantel or hang in a locker or cubicle. There has been a major uptick in the number of users printing photos off their phones using new apps and programs, and the overall trend of bringing digital applications back to the physical world through printing is expected to continue. We’ve recently seen more introductions of printers dedicated to photos, as well as an entirely new category of device: an integrated printer and camera.

2 – Wireless technology is now the standard in the office. As workplaces started getting connected in the mid-80s, wired was the name of the game for decades – but that’s changing as in-building wireless networks become faster and more reliable, and as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies become more widespread.

This year, Gartner predicts, 40 percent of enterprises will specify Wi-Fi as the default connection for even non-mobile devices such as desktops and projectors. Cabling is costly to install, and for a device like a Wi-Fi-enabled printer, it’s cheaper to simply plug it in and let workers print from any device via the wireless network than it is to route and configure a connector.

Gartner also predicts that this will be the year that fully half of users will go to a tablet or smartphone first for all online activities, skipping a PC altogether. Mobile devices are increasingly becoming people’s go-to device, and with the need to print not going away, more users will be printing from their tablets or phones.

3 – Workplaces continue to strive for higher productivity. As workers become more mobile, working from anywhere – both in various spaces around an office as well as from home – on a variety of devices, enabling mobile print is a natural progression for many workplaces.

The ability to print from mobile devices makes a workplace more productive. All an employee needs to do is hit a few buttons from whatever device he or she is working on, from wherever he or she is, and the paper comes out of the connected office printer instantly – no need to stop working on one device and move to another to print.

And even though employees are transiting to working on tablets or mobile phones from a desktop or laptop, they still need to print; in fact, sometimes people print more, to give their eyes a break or to improve collaboration. As much as electronic devices and paperless workflows improve automation and reduce the need for paper, there are still reasons that documents need to be physical.

4 – New markets eye mobile printing. Healthcare is making a major push toward mobile printing as the industry works to simplify processes for patient-care management. HIPAA regulations dictate that printing be controlled very tightly within a hospital, so mobile print is making printing more accessible because doctors and nurses can print from trusted, secure, hospital-owned devices.

The legal industry is moving toward mobile printing because it makes it easier to print notes and documents when interviewing clients or collecting due diligence materials to build a case, creating mobility and enhanced productivity. Lawyers and clerks are changing their work styles to be more mobile just like other workers, and likewise require secure mobile print capabilities that integrate within current print management solutions for job tracking and auditing.

The insurance industry is another field ripe with potential. According to Frost & Sullivan, insurance-industry employees are nearly five times as likely as workers in other industries are to use an iPad or Android tablet as their primary work computer. Tablets with wireless access to back office systems and industry-specific software help claims adjusters and sales agents close sales and claims processes with greater speed; make fewer follow-up customer visits and phone calls; fill out forms with greater accuracy; and make fewer trips back to the office.

Employees can use these office-connected tablets to print forms and paperwork directly to the office instead of having to plug in, print from the road, and scan and email or fax it back, making employees more productive and creating a smoother experience for customers.

5 – Security continues to grow in importance. As more businesses turn to mobile printing, security is naturally a major priority, especially in the wake of recent high-profile cybersecurity breaches; no business wants to be the next Equifax. Many mobile print businesses or print-enabled apps are focusing on making print paths more secure and ensuring that the printer stack and connection between device and printer are locked down.

An enterprise print management solution (EPMS), which could be either based in the cloud or in the enterprise data center, can manage printing via individual mobile device, and many enterprises are moving toward this solution. These allow users to print in a queue as well as provide tracking for cost and security purposes. Often, they provide some sort of release so documents aren’t just floating out to a printer, unmanaged.

6 – More people are using apps that integrate workflows. Many companies offer an all-in-one mobile application that makes it a snap to set up, scan, print, share and manage a printer, as well as share documents and images through email, texts, and common cloud and collaboration tools such as Slack.

These types of applications allow nearly seamless integration of mobile print into workflows and apps people are already using, making it easy to manage content and print just about anything from a mobile device. These types of apps aren’t necessarily brand-new, but are becoming more widely used – a trend that seems likely to continue.

Moving Forward

While people love their digital devices and the mobility and flexibility they bring, printing remains a fundamental need. We haven’t yet gotten tired of doing things better and faster, and as both consumers and businesses continue to require printed content to manage personal and work tasks, the efficiency and productivity mobile printing allows means its capabilities will continue to saturate more markets and applications.”

Brent Richtsmeier is chairman of the Mopria Alliance Steering Committee, as well as an executive at HP leading new technology focused on mobility and cloud. Richtsmeier can be reached at brent.richtsmeier1@hp.com.

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