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Mark Davis

The Benefits of Driverless Printing

How this innovative technology creates greater flexibility in the outputting of documents

Aug 1, 2023 8:57:16 AM


The last few years have seen a transformation in the way we work. The pandemic created an overnight shift in companies allowing for greater flexibility in the workplace. Hybrid-working has become the norm for several professionals. This has resulted in a change in workplace printing needs, such as device adaptability for a home office and greater device connectivity between the office and home. Lee Davis, Senior Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence, stated, “The technology is now in the printer, meaning IT administrators and end users no longer need to worry about updating the hardware or specific drivers and, therefore, missing out on improvements.”


Let’s take a deeper dive.


What Is Cloud Printing?

Cloud printing allows users to print from any web-connected device by routing print jobs between a PC, smartphone, or tablet and then sending them to an internet-connected printer. The traditional model of printing from a central A3 device in the office has altered to printing from smaller MFP and A4 devices in the office and at home. This has led to the rise of the print management system (PMS), which is designed to provide effective management as well as optimization of print devices and related printing needs.


In an office, for example, users can utilize a PMS to eliminate the need for printing from a specific device. This type of cloud printing eliminates the need for specific drivers to be installed on devices. The PMS contains the necessary drivers, and these are deployed via the cloud without the need to preinstall them. In terms of strengthening the link between home and location working, it also means that users can utilize their own devices to print from rather than having to rely on a device on location.


For end users, driverless printing enables them to schedule documents to print at any device whilst working outside of the network or on a guest network—providing them with a greater freedom of choice for where they print, without compromising on security. The restriction of only using one printer that matches the drivers installed on the PC is also removed for users by driverless printing. The cloud and the PMS enable users to utilize driverless printing to its full potential. IT administrators also benefit as they do not need to spend time and budget maintaining PC drivers for individual users. All maintenance and device management can be facilitated via the cloud, helping to improve efficiency and shift focus to other more important business needs.


The Benefits of Driverless Printing

Driverless printing provides several benefits to businesses and workers. For businesses, it can help save money on print budgets and significantly improve efficiency for maintaining hardware fleets and software. For the printer OEM, driverless printing means that repeatedly developing and releasing software for every model iteration that comes to market is no longer required. R&D into hardware and software improvement can be targeted to broader areas instead of constantly improving the technology available in current models. The need for print options and the creation of a specific page description language (PDL) are also removed. Instead, these two aspects of driver-led printing are amalgamated and deployed once rather than over several software improvements.


Of course, Adobe’s contribution to driverless printing can be backdated to the invention of PDF! All four driverless printing standards—AirPrint, IPP Everywhere, Mopria, and Wi-Fi Direct—utilize PDF as one of their PDLs, making it an integral part of the flexibility and high-standards driverless printing can provide for users. Regardless of the device in use to view the PDF, the file will be faithfully reproduced. Adobe’s print engines (Embedded Print Engine and PDF Print Engine) accurately reproduce PDF files just as they appear onscreen, leveraging the same technology that powers Adobe Reader and Acrobat.


Driverless Printing in Action

Many sectors have started to implement driverless printing initiatives to increase flexibility for workers and businesses. In banking, for example, some businesses have reported a cut of up to 45% in printing costs from automating their printing software updates, better management of their fleet through an intelligence PMS, and greater understanding of print volumes and why they are necessary. Insurance, a typically paper-heavy industry, has also seen many examples of successful implementation of driverless printing. For one global property and casualty insurance broker, users experienced the flexibility that driverless printing enabled, whereas IT administrators could better utilize analytics from the cloud printing solution to understand costings, fleet management, and make adaptations according to user needs.


However, There Are Challenges…

Although driverless printing has come a long way in terms of development, there is still more to do to ensure it can be used to its full potential. Device compatibility, for example, is a major issue that needs to be overcome. Legacy devices in workers’ homes would need their firmware updated or just replaced entirely. This adds an extra layer of expense, as well as the logistical implications of updating the firmware if the device does not support the cloud or has not been purchased by the company.


A major function of print drivers is to ensure that specific features designed to enhance performance are deployed to the device. If the device is marketed at the office market, the drivers will contain features designed to improve workflows in that area. For example, the driver may contain extensive functionality for adding watermarks to drafts to denote their level of confidentiality. If a driver does not update, or is not present on the user’s PC, employees will not be able to access and use this important market-specific functionality. The same goes for enterprise-level devices and larger production machines. Professional printers may miss out on functionality that aids their book printing workflow, thus hampering efficiency. However, without these specific drivers, the question remains as to how the necessary features will be distributed (it depends on what the worker is using the printer for).


Security is also an issue when drivers are not being used. Using the cloud or a PMS facilitated by the cloud increases the risk of a security breach. PMS companies are remedying these risks by incorporating features such as end-to-end encryption into their products, as well as providing greater support to businesses on how they can monitor security, train staff, and respond to breaches in a successful way.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

Despite the work that still needs to be done to make driverless printing a mainstream alternative to driver-led printing, the future is very bright for this technology. The benefits that driverless printing can bring to users far outweigh the current drawbacks, particularly in the mindset of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) style of device management, where users need the flexibility of working outside of a network or organizational facilities. Users and IT administrators are already feeling the benefits of the technology where it has been deployed, and businesses are reaping the rewards of cost savings and efficiencies that enhance other initiatives within the business. Organizations are also experiencing the greater freedoms that driverless and cloud-managed printing can bring for IT administration. As technology continues to develop and become more mainstream across the office, educational, and home workspaces, driverless printing might become the main way of printing regardless of the device used or where the user is printing from.


Written with additional input from Adobe.