ConnectKey Software Harmonizes the Office and the Cloud

By RP Siegel
Credit: Xerox.

Xerox is a company transforming itself from a developer and manufacturer of copiers and printers into a provider of services and solutions. Throughout the transformation, they have attempted to retain the tradition of technological innovation that has been a hallmark of the company since its inception.

ConnectKey, a comprehensive office solution, reflects the company’s deep roots in IT going back to the heyday of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), known for its cutting-edge computer science research.

Siddhartha Bhattacharya, global marketing manager in the Office Products division, told Tech Trends Journal that ConnectKey is a software ecosystem that was developed to respond to four longstanding customer challenges: fragmentation of devices, reliance on unstructured data, security, and the cost of managing documents.

In designing ConnectKey, Xerox studied the way that people in offices interact with each other and their equipment.

In today’s office environment, workers deal with a wide variety of IT device types. Additionally, people are bringing their smart phones and tablets to work and want to integrate them into their jobs. ConnectKey handles that integration, allowing comprehensive support for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives.

Most offices are inundated with electronic data, but there is still a lot of information communicated in paper documents. How do office workers deal with all that, while achieving the kind of productivity demanded of them?

To address this problem, ConnectKey offers tools that can scan documents to email or the cloud as well as interface with such popular applications as Google Docs, Evernote, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Dropbox. ConnectKey also features cloud-based optical character recognition (OCR), which converts the scanned image into an editable document.

Security is a major concern for businesses and multi-functional printers (MFP) are typically a vulnerable entry point for would-be intruders. ConnectKey is the industry’s first lineup of multifunctional printers protected by McAfee from outside threats, according to Xerox. Furthermore, Cisco System’s TrustSec secures data paths between devices and printers.

Cisco and Xerox have also teamed up to enable the ConnectKey devices to be part of the Cisco EnergyWise ecosystem, allowing customers to realize significant energy savings through a new power management interface. This is the kind of innovation that Bhattacharya called, “services led, technology driven.”

These types of strategic partnerships are simplified by Xerox’ adoption of an open standard that they call the Extended Interface Platform (EIP). Unlike most competitors that are trying to build in integrated vertical solutions, this open architecture allows independent software vendors and developers to embed their own applications into the multi-functional printers.

This allows any enterprise to insert customized functionality, such as their own personalized welcome screens or direct messaging to employees and customers, into the machine’s user interface. These applications can also be used to automate repetitive tasks.

ConnectKey also features a remote interface capability. This allows the MFP’s interface to be brought up on any device on the network. Not only does this allows users to program printing and scanning jobs from the convenience of their desktops, but it also allows customer support personnel who may have been contacted to resolve an issue to access a machine’s control panel and internal memory, as if they were standing right in front of it.

An open application programming interface (API) allows for embedded lightweight, serverless solutions which are great for small and medium businesses, since they eliminate the need for costly print servers. This helps to reduce the cost of managing documents, as does the common user interface across all ConnectKey platform products, which significantly reduces user learning time.

All told, the ConnectKey platform currently supports 16 MFP products ranging from desktop office printers delivering 20 prints per minute (ppm) to light production printers capable of producing to 136 ppm. The company expects to be driving this feature set down market to its even smaller A4 printers in the near future.

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