Axis Unveils Bluetooth Printing Prototype

Printing on the fly will soon not mean lugging around a portable printer but rather the ability to print anywhere at any time using wireless technologies.

Leveraging on Bluetooth and the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards, Axis Communications Inc. has developed a prototype for print servers bundled with the wireless standards. Described as the "first working solution for mobile printing", the prototype allows users to print information from their mobile device -- mobile phone, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or laptop -- anytime, anywhere by just pressing one key, according to Per-Johan Lundin, business development manager of the company's Document Division.

Anyone with a Bluetooth-enabled device can send information to any printer connected to a wireless print server and print out the information they need, said Lundin.

"Take the scenario of an executive flying for a conference in another city and has forgotten to print out the conference schedule. All he has to do is to locate the document from his laptop, scan his vicinity for products with Bluetooth, click on the location of a printer with Bluetooth servers connected to it, send the information by clicking on the print button, and the printer prints out his document."

The technology would need further refinement since the mobile device scanning the area will capture not only printers but also other Bluetooth-enabled products such as mobile phones, said Lundin.

"This is nothing revolutionary but an example of how to make life easier using Bluetooth or wireless applications."

Bluetooth can provide 723K bps (bits per second) transmission speed and up to 10 meters device-to-device client and 100 meters device-to-access point coverage.

"This can be seen as a cable replacement, and perhaps a little bit more as it enables a personalized area network," he added. "IEEE 802.11 is used for building wireless network due to its higher rate of data transmission."

It provides up to 11M bps communications speed and supports ranges up to 300 meters in open air and between 50 and 100 meters in office environments. Print servers with this wireless standard are intended for a corporate set-up or "hot spots" such as airport lounges, explained Lundin.

For now, the print servers are external devices but Lundin foresees that they will eventually be integrated within the printers once Bluetooth devices become pervasive. It will take around 12 to 18 months to integrate the external device as a built-in feature in printers, according to Lundin.

As Bluetooth and IEEE 802.11 already exist in the market, Axis plans to introduce the wireless print servers by first quarter of 2001. However, Lundin noted that the release of the print servers would be highly dependent on whether the wireless technologies, especially Bluetooth, take off as expected.

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