Printers and Device Management

When people think of remote device management (RDM), they don’t think about printers much.  Many companies use RDM to manage their secure data on employee mobile phones.  They use these systems to remotely wipe data if an employee leaves, or it’s stolen. They also use them to update applications, content, connectivity settings, view statuses, and troubleshoot issues.

So what does this have to do with printers?  Many people don’t realize that many printers are as smart as your average smart phone.  Some may be even on par with your average desktop computer.  They are often more expensive.  Printers are no longer just output devices.  Some have true operating systems like Android or QNX.  They can store files like fonts, pictures, and print templates.  They can alert users to problems, and be configured for any number of connectivity situations.

Wireless and data security isn't usually an issue with printers, but other device management functionality is very relevant.    When dealing with large and/or widespread deployments, being able to update settings, files and OS remotely can be very important.   Remote troubleshooting and verification can be a real cost saver for customers.  Companies that don’t think about deployment and updates spend much more time and money handling these issues than those that have planned for it upfront.  Zebra has several tools as well as plugins for some major MDM software providers.  These can be found on the Zebra Link-OS website.   

As a developer, I encourage you to think about these things when creating your apps.  You should always check if a printer is ready to print before sending your print job.  You can use the stored file system to pre-load pictures and fonts to really customize the print out.  Storing these files also speeds up the time to print.   You should also consider the possible need to verify the printer is set up properly to work with your app.  If you stop to consider the printer as just another device, and treat it that way, you can make your customer experience seamless.

Robin West

Integration Architect