It’s no secret that mobile device usage is directly impacting the inkjet industry. Vendors are looking for new ways to differentiate their inkjet AiOs with added connectivity capabilities to complement a growing market for smartphones and tablets. Vendors are also adjusting to a shift in content consumption and productivity from PCs to mobile. Imagine a world in which you could print directly from your smartphone or tablet without complicated setup. One of the newest emerging trends in the printing industry that provides this capability is called NFC. However, the technology is very new with a small install base, making it unclear if NFC will be more successful in the future.

What is NFC connectivity and why is it a feature on inkjet AiOs?

Near field communication (NFC) is a standards-based connectivity technology, which allows NFC-equipped devices to exchange data by touching them together or bringing them within close proximity. NFC technology has gained a lot of attention over the last couple years, as it has become featured on consumer electronics such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

NFC has also been adopted by various industries including transportation, finance, and healthcare to increase the speed of information transfer and reduce operating costs. For instance, public transport operators use NFC phones to read transport tickets. Some parking meters even allow NFC-capable phones to pay through PayByPhone’s meter setup. In the healthcare industry, companies use NFC tags to transfer treatment information from clients to medical professionals.

Recently, inkjet AiOs have joined in on the fun by providing users with NFC connectivity, allowing them to access their AiO’s printing and scanning capabilities with their NFC-enabled device. Unlike WiFi, which requires time-consuming steps such as device discovery and setup, NFC gives users a seamless way to connect with their printer that is reportedly easier, faster, and more secure.

Which inkjet vendors offer NFC-enabled devices?

Brother recently launched inkjet AiOs that come standard with NFC connectivity. Brother touts that it is the first inkjet AiO manufacturer to offer “touch to connect” capabilities through NFC, which was highlighted in the recent announcement for the $149 MFC-J870DW, the flagship model in its Work Smart series of AiOs. Need an A3 inkjet AiO? No problem! Brother also launched its NFC-enabled flagship Business Smart Pro MFC-J6920DW, priced at $299.

Anyone else?

Brother certainly wasn’t the first to think of adding NFC capabilities to printing devices. In fact, Samsung introduced the first NFC-enabled color laser printer and MFPs with the recent launch of its C400 series. Even LG offers the PD233 Photo Pocket Printer, which gives users the option to print 2”x3” photos using NFC. HP is also planning to launch NFC accessories for its LaserJet devices this Fall, indicating that HP expects demand for the technology among larger businesses.

What does the future hold for NFC-capable printers?

NFC connectivity may continue to gain traction in the printing industry, as vendors attempt to diversify themselves from their competition. However, not all vendors appear ready to embrace NFC technology.
Two recent AiO refreshes from Canon’s PIXMA and Epson’s Expression lineups do not ship with NFC capabilities. Instead, these vendors continue to focus on refining WiFi Direct and cloud connectivity. In the mobile device segment, Apple’s recent announcement for the new iPhone 5S/5C disclosed that the high-end smartphones will not include NFC, suggesting that the company does not see a role for the technology in the future. On the other hand, Samsung sees huge potential for NFC and its impact across the company’s product portfolio.

NFC connectivity is certainly a novel feature among AiOs and it will be interesting to see which other vendors decide to follow suit. NFC addresses many obstacles to driving mobile print jobs and it is up to manufacturers to communicate the technology’s benefits to increase adoption.