Despite the decrees by a handful of large tech companies, most of us won’t have the luxury (or burden, depending on your situation) of working from home indefinitely. And when we do return, most of us will be a little more aware of the microscopic dangers lurking on every surface—including on the MFP’s control panel. Sure, an easy low-tech solution is to put a container of disinfecting wipes next to the copier and ask folks to wipe it down between uses. But most control panels were not designed to be hit with rubbing alcohol countless times per day, and doing so could lead to abrasion to the screen’s overlay and the characters fading from the faces of the hard keys. So vendors have introduced, or are working on, solutions that will all but eliminate the need for users to touch the control panel.
Print-management software developer PriApps LLC has rolled out its PriApps Touch-Free solution which, when used in conjunction with the company’s platform, enables contactless sign-on and secure print retrieval from any mobile device. Users can even initiate copying, scanning, and faxing from the app without having to touch the MFP. This is a welcome addition to the PriApps platform’s full functionality that includes features that help reduce hardcopy costs, increase document and device security, improve user productivity, as well as eliminate waste.
Other leading print management platforms also enable contactless print retrieval. For example, YSoft’s SAFEQ print services platform allows users to release pending secure-print jobs via the SAFEQ Mobile Print app on their phone, rather than having to go through the menus on the MFP.
On the OEM front, Konica Minolta offers its bizhub Remote Access app for Android and iPhone devices. Using the app, users can control the touchscreen control panel buttons and the hard keys on the latest i-Series MFPs. The bi-directional communication that takes place over the office’s Wi-Fi network ensures that the user is seeing and interacting with the MFP screen essentially in real-time.
Moving beyond apps, several leading device makers offer voice-control options for their MFPs. Originally intended to increase accessibility to the equipment for users with disabilities, the HP Accessibility Assistant connects to the USB port of supported MFPs and allows users to speak commands (170 voice prompts are supported). Select MFPs from Sharp support an Amazon Alexa-powered add-on that enables natural-language control of common functions via the familiar Alexa voice assistant. Similarly, Xerox AltaLink MFPs can be equipped with the Gabi Voice add-on from Gabi Solutions. This solution uses cloud-resident AI technology (powered by IBM’s Watson) to interpret a user’s spoken commands to control the MFP accordingly.
As companies look for ways to make employees feel more comfortable returning to the workplace, solutions such as these can remove one more barrier. And even after the pandemic fades into memory, these solutions will have the continuing benefit of making the office MFP easier and more convenient to use.