I've talked a little bit about why the Visible Value Chain, providing visibility to a company’s assets, is so important when designing enterprise apps.  Zebra helps enable this by providing item and transaction level tracking.  This is great, but if you can't aggregate it, analyze the data, and provide meaningful actions based on it, it is just data. 

 

The topic I want to discuss today is cloud connectivity.  I know it's boring and not a printer specific topic, but it's important for anyone writing applications.  I've written a number of database based applications to aggregate and distribute data to multiple users, but they have primarily been internal applications. Recently, one of them needed to be accessed to someone outside our intranet, and I found I had to learn again what the internet was all about and what it's turning into (as well as security, web development, etc). 

 

Those of you who have long experience with web development are probably sniggering behind your hands right now.  For most of my working life, I've written software for hardware that has had little internet capability.  I'm not talking about networking, we've got a long history of strength there, but true cloud connectivity is very recent for us.  So my understanding of cloud software has been limited. 

 

With some of Zebra's most recent printer and firmware releases, we've added cloud connectivity.  We've done this through websockets that allow our devices to automatically connect to cloud or locally based servers.  Websockets are a newer standard communication protocol to enable client-server communications.  It is integrated into HTML5 javascript.  We've also created a server-side SDK to make it easy to communicate that way. 

 

If you are wondering why you should care, think about this.  Most web apps that need to print use the local drivers on the user's local computer.  If you are in an enterprise situation though this is not always ideal. The other option uses a Bluetooth application on a handheld computer, tablet, or smartphone.  This again is problematic and causes more work as you have to integrate printing in the app for whatever OS your customer is using. What if you need to send information to a device that is not in your local location?  What if you want to have the server decide where to print, rather than the user?

 

There are several tools out there but most are not designed to integrate well with enterprise cloud software.  The Zebra Link-OS SDK allows you to update or create apps in the cloud that can check status, send files or print jobs, and discover Link-OS printers, even if they are on different networks entirely.

 

  This is just one more step towards having a more interconnected world.  When the everyday devices like printers can connect to the cloud and tell you their status, it brings your customers that much more visibility.