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ISVs and VARs should consider wireless printer selection as an integral part of the IT solution design and development process to ensure meeting varied connectivity requirements
In a recent press release about the global mobile printer market, VDC Research revealed that the industry grew 6 percent to $290 million USD in 2014 and is expected to increase to $371 million by 2018. The Natick, MA-based research and consulting firm’s release also noted: “Increasing demand for print-as-you-go functionality, flexible connectivity options, and printer payment processing and acceptance will be anchors for mobile printer market growth in the next 5 years.”
We are already seeing the rapid proliferation of mobile printers deployed in enterprise IT solutions across a broad range of industry sectors including: manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, transportation, retail, and direct store delivery (DSD), as well as in mobile field service, home healthcare, and government inspection and licensing organizations.
In fact, a large number of the mobile enterprise software applications developed and implemented by ISVs, VARs, software developers, and system integrators for these industries call for the use of portable wireless printers in tandem with smart electronic devices, such as a laptops, tablets, smartphones or handhelds. The printers need to be compact, lightweight and rugged — and must be capable of reliable printing performance virtually anywhere, indoors or outdoors.
Unfortunately, too often the mobile printer becomes an afterthought rather than an integral part of the solution architecture and development process. This oversight can be problematic, both for solution providers and their end users.
Comparing Bluetooth And Wi-Fi
Typically, most mobile printer models on the market offered wireless connectivity in one of two ways. They can be dedicated Wi-Fi or dedicated Bluetooth, or they can provide dual wireless protocols with each one activated through a toggle switch provided for end users to designate the preferred mode, depending on the application.
To clarify what this choice means, it is important to note the differences between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications technologies as they relate to mobile printing:
- Bluetooth is a wireless protocol commonly used for exchanging data between portable and fixed electronic devices over short distances using UHF (ultra-high frequency) radio waves.
- When it comes to driving wireless printer activation, Bluetooth pushes data on the handheld with a command that goes directly to the printer.
- Wi-Fi is a wireless protocol that meets the 802.11 standard, which also enables data interchange but does so by connecting and transmitting information to and through a wireless local area network (WLAN).
- Wi-Fi pushes data and a print command to the network, which then activates the printer to print, while data is simultaneously captured and recorded into the centralized network.
Key Advantages Of BOTH Bluetooth And Wi-Fi Simultaneously
Now, thanks to advances in wireless connectivity technology, VARs and ISVs and their end user customers no longer have to choose between dedicated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi mobile printers. Nor do end users have to toggle between the two modes, depending on what workflow is currently being performed — a choice that can be confusing and error-prone for non-technical users.
In today’s marketplace, there are new and innovative new mobile printers offering complete dual wireless connectivity, with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless protocols activated and operating at the same time. Here are several advantages of selecting a printer with dual simultaneous connectivity capabilities.
- For VARs, ISVs, developers and integrators, standardizing on a single printer for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi provides greater design flexibility and fewer SKUs to manage and maintain.
- For retailers, manufacturers, transportation and logistics firms, and other businesses having multiple uses for mobile printers, standardizing on a single dual-protocol printer can provide for simpler purchasing and result in economies of scale.
- For end users, printers offering simultaneous dual connectivity capabilities help reduce confusion and eliminate errors by ensuring that both modes are always ON.
Choosing the right mobile wireless printers for any industrial application is important to ensure smooth sailing in implementing and using the solution today and into the future. That’s why solution vendors and their end user customers need to collaborate right from the start in making printer selection an integral part of the solution’s architecture, development and design.
Raul Palacios is a senior product manager for Brother Mobile Solutions, a provider of mobile and desktop thermal printing products for a wide range of mobile businesses. For more information, visit brothermobilesolutions.com.