The printer-initiated scan-to-computer feature for network applications could be standardised and implemented at operating-system level
Most, if not all of the network-capable all-in-one printers that I have reviewed on this site have support for network-based scanning. This includes the ability to start a scan job from the printer’s control surface and have the job sent to the computer and handled in a preferred way. But this function isn’t handled in a smooth and reliable manner as judging from my experience when connecting the many different printers to my computer.
The current situation
This function is typically managed by a manufacturer-supplied “scan-monitor” program that is part of the “printer solutions package” and has to be up and running before you start your scan job from the device.
What can typically happen is that this functionality can end up being dependent on the way this “scan-monitor” program behaves. Here, you may end up not being able to scan via the network or not being able to start the scan job at the printer’s control surface. In some cases, you may be able to use the operating system’s scanning infrastructure such as Windows Image Acquisition, rather than the manufacturer’s scan tools to do a scan job,
Why integrate device-initiated scanning for networked hardware in to the operating system
The operating systems could support device-initiated scanning by offering functionality like “scan paths” that are available to each of the devices. Here, the devices could then expose the “scan paths” that are available to them based on their capabilities like colour scanning, automatic document feeder, etc. This means that if two scanners have the same capabilities, they have the same scan pathos for each computer endpoint.
This could include the ability to identify a particular computer as a destination for the scanned files; as well as allowing applications rather than the manufacturer’s particular applications to be the endpoints. This could allow for applications like OCR, bookkeeping, raster-to-vector and others to simply become “available” at the printer’s control panel rather than having to work the application’s user interface or find image files left by the scan monitor in order to benefit from the scanned work.
Here, it may cater for realities associated with the home or small-business network where there are many computers and, in some cases, two or more multifunction printers. This may be brought on by the use of a premium-level machine with all the bells and whistles like the HP Photosmart Premium Fax C410a or the Canon PiXMA MX-870 being installed in the home office and an economy-level machine like the HP B110a Wireless-E installed in the study, kitchen or bungalow and used as a “second” printer.
Another obvious benefit of the scan-monitor function being integrated in the operating system is that it works in an efficient manner. This will free up memory and other resources and allow for a quick response from the destination computer. This is compared to a significant time delay occurring when one instigates a scan job from the multifunction printer’s control surface as the scan monitor starts up and handles the scan job.
Points of innovation
The operating system working as a scan monitor can open up paths of innovation when it comes to imaging-driven applications. An example of this could include the use of the multifunction printer’s control surface for entering job-specific information. This is more so as these multifunction printers come equipped with D-pad, numeric keypads and touchscreens; as well as graphical screens and menu-driven operation. Applications of this could include entering the file name for “scan-to-file” operations, determining the nature and amount of an expense when scanning receipts in to a bookkeeping program or entering photograph-specific information when scanning a photograph.
It can also open up another path of innovation in having network-attached-storage devices become scan destinations without the need to remember FTP or other file-path locations for these devices. This can help with activities like archiving of paper documents or scanning of pictures to be made available on the DLNA Home Media Network.
Once we move the workload of device-initiated scanning to the Windows, Macintosh or Linux operating system, it can then yield many improvements to people who scan hard-copy material using the current crop of multifunction printers.