5 Ways Multifunction Devices are Becoming Computers

Posted by Steve Knutson on April 5, 2012

The multifunction device is living up to its name and re-inventing what it means to be “multi-functional.”

A multifunction device, sometimes abbreviated MFD, is an all-purpose piece of equipment that prints, faxes, copies, scans and emails information. First introduced in the 1990s, these all-in-one devices initially targeted small businesses. At the time, they carried a heavy price tag and while they integrated various uses into one device, print quality suffered.

With more competition and use came improved quality and applications; and today, manufacturers are rolling out a series robust models with new features that are significantly increasing their functionality.

During a recent visit with some of the leading MFD manufacturers, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how today’s technology is defining the “next generation” of these devices and making them more like computers. Here are some of the key features and functionality that users can – or soon will be able to – do directly from the device:

1. Scan and save smarter: Forget dumping the documents to a shared drive or emailing them to yourself so you can save. Users can scan and save a document directly into its respective folder by integrating with document management systems such as M-Files or Alchemy. The best part is the screen interface preferences can be customized by work groups so users can view folders they routinely use and quickly save a document to a particular folder.

2.  View and edit: This functionality allows users to send a file to the device and then view it before it is printed. This is particularly useful when trying to print back-to-back or on pre-printed paper such as letterhead. Then, instead of walking back to the desk to make any necessary alterations, users can make layout and size edits right from the device. That saves times and print waste.

3. Black out sensitive information: This replaces the traditional black Sharpie organizations use, most often public agencies, by automatically removing personal identifiable information on documents that are scanned on the device and available for “public” viewing.

4. Protect classified information: This feature eliminates worries that someone may see sensitive information printed by another user and reduces the need to have dedicated devices in certain offices. The integration of Card Access Control (CAC) technology allows users to send a “private” document such as a performance review and not have it print until their finger is scanned.

5. Customize software: The opportunities are becoming almost endless because of the device’s ability to act like a computer and integrate customized software specific to your industry or need. This allows the device to proactively report problems to maintenance staff, identify when it is running low on supplies and even order them automatically.

Future models will increasingly resemble computers. Many multi-function devices already have keyboards as part of their design and touch screens with a similar look and feel to an iPad are under development. The functionality of these devices will make them another computer on the network in business, all in an effort to increase usability, productivity and profitability.

As published at MinnesotaBusiness.com. 

Topics: multifunction devices