By Steven Hastings, IT Distribution Channel Director, Ricoh

There is no ignoring the increased use of smart devices within the workplace these days and as a result, we are seeing a rapid growth in mobile working across a wide range of business environments. In fact, by 2015, the world's mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion , also helped along by the fact that employees are now able to legally demand a change in work patterns to suit home life and flexible hours.

Smart devices are becoming ever more popular and with this in mind, businesses do not want employees to be bound by location and are encouraging them to be out and about on a daily basis, or working from home. In a growing trend for workers having no dedicated desk, some businesses are now only supplying a tablet, rather than a laptop meaning the traditional connection between a PC and a single printer just isn’t an option anymore. Employees are steadily being able to work from locations outside the office.

In order to effectively leverage the convenience and versatility of smart devices being used by the mobile workforce, businesses need to look at how documents and images can be safely printed as if they were in the office using a secure network.

Cutting out the middleman
The growing number of mobile workers who spend their time between a number of office locations are now demanding the same level of access to company documents, infrastructure and equipment, as they would if based in the office. Printer manufacturers are moving fast to keep up with this demand.

If a mobile worker is only visiting an office location for a meeting or catch up, having to email documents, PDFs and presentations back to a colleague’s PC or even connect a laptop to a new network to print, wastes many precious working hours. It is an unnecessary task for this modern, cloud-based age and in a recent survey by Ricoh, 84 out of 1,007 workers cited IT and printing issues as the biggest waste of time in their company3. Employees should have access to a speedy, flexible and secure solution between their smartphones or tablets to the office printer.

Manufacturers are rapidly establishing solutions to resolve this issue and the key development has been the creation of smart device applications for those wishing to print web pages, presentations, pictures or documents direct from a mobile device. These applications (apps) allow for easy printing of the data residing in cloud storage systems, PDFs, images, photographs and documents that can be hard to read on a small screen. Cutting out the middleman, or the PC in this case, and directly printing from a smart device can increase workflow and speed processes up. In addition, this will even benefit clients and visitors to a company who may require physical output prior to a meeting.

Secure printing
Mobile printing does come with security risks. For example, hackers are now turning their attention to the humble office printer as a possible weak link to gaining sensitive data. Also, employees themselves are notorious for leaving documents on the printer increasing the risk of physical data theft.

However, security features to combat such incidents are available. Printing apps now let users define passwords for documents that should not be seen by others. Prints are held in the printer’s memory until released by the users PIN, which is unique to each job. This eliminates unclaimed documents and reduces the risk of a data breach.

Thinking smarter
Businesses have faced many challenges in the last few years with the influx of mobile devices becoming essential tools for their workforce. Being able to seamlessly connect these devices not only to email and cloud services, but also to other office equipment like printers has had to be considered. Printer manufacturers have responded quickly to this demand with solutions that make the mobile workforce a reality.