May 22 2017

IoT and Smart Partnerships Shape the Future of Printing at Universities

New technologies and outsourced services help with costs and efficiency.

When the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shuttered several computer labs to reduce costs, they were in need of a more efficient solution for students to print. Enter the 28 smart printing kiosks connected to the Internet of Things.

“We felt there was a need to move away from lab printing so that students could bring their own devices and print pretty much anywhere at any time,” says Todd Jensen, UNL’s IT services manager.

The pay-to-print kiosks, located in high-traffic areas, can print from any device, cloud account or USB.

In preparation for the new kiosks, Jensen’s IT teams met internally to discuss the security — both physical and cyber — of the stations and how they would layer into their established robust network.

“It’s very independent of our campus network,” says Jensen. “It plugs into our network, but after that it is basically its own thing. To some degree it’s a walled garden.”

When installing the kiosks, Jensen says the IT team put in a VLAN architecture so the kiosks could run on their own isolated network.

Kiosks were placed in common areas that are open 24/7; Jensen and team members evaluate the traffic and usage patterns to see if they need to add more stations or change the locations of others.

Outsourcing Printing IT Helps Universities Save Money

Other universities have established on-demand printing kiosks to replace or augment their computer labs.

At Samford University in Alabama, print kiosks were added in residence buildings at the four corners of campus, the Samford Crimson reports.

After-hours printing is one of the most common requests I have heard in the five years I have worked at Samford,” says Jennifer Novotny, the university services manager.

Adding these printing kiosks has resulted in another perk for UNL: an outsourcing of printing support. From replacing the ink and paper to providing tech support, Jensen says their vendor is taking care of it all.

“It’s really a turnkey solution,” says Jensen.

At George Mason University outside Washington, D.C., a new partnership with Canon is working to not only outsource printing support, but to optimize it to their exact needs.

Canon reports that before establishing the print program, they will be evaluating the needs of students and staff as well as the output technology used to print. This will allow Canon to determine the exact printing tech that will be needed at GMU.

Overall, Canon is working to create “a dynamic and robust print program that helps reduce costs while simultaneously addressing technical and environmental burdens.”


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