The paperless world is a false promise. People will always print — no matter what. But they won’t always print their documents from their PC.
That’s the main reason I am so interested in EFI’s new M500 Station. It prints documents stored on USB drives, mobile devices and even cloud accounts. And it will let people pay for the pleasure with cash, credit card or a campus card.
Introduced on August 6 and available now, the EFI M500 Station is a device usually mounted on a pedestal nearby a printer. It has a 10-inch color touch screen with instruction pages that supports touch gestures for zooming, scrolling and selecting. You can preview files before printing and if you’re going to print anyway, you can use all the finishing options of the printer it controls. Optionally, Wi-Fi printing is possible by integrating the system with EFI PrintMe Mobile.
At the back end is EFI’s EP Server software, providing control and configuration of the EFI M500 Station, as well as the G3 Card Vending Kiosk (if installed) and EP Register with card reader. The software is installed on a local server and communicates with the card authorization services via SSL over TCP/IP to manage transactions. EP Server will manage the transactions involving credit cards, campus cards and cash cards. Its administrators control the M500 Stations as print-on-demand gods.
When I first heard about the EFI M500 station, I couldn’t help but think of my college days 20 years ago. We copied entire law books using a system that worked with a paper card, off of which a small part was chipped with every page you copied.
It was easy for the less honest to fool the system with fake cards. That’s why, back then, in each library on campus you had these librarians constantly on the lookout of suspicious activity. What a financial nightmare.
Systems like this new M500 Station ideally will make that sort of hacking a lot more difficult. Whether the M500 system will become successful remains to be seen. EFI reps told me there are a few trials in North America, as well as a channel partnership that is in the early stages, but that’s it. Additionally, for some strange reason only EFI knows about, the M500 will not be distributed in Europe.
I searched for comparable systems and found a couple. But as far as I can tell from datasheets, the M500 Station is more flexible and offers more sources to print from, more expansion options, and more simplicity for the end-user. — all if it lives up to expectations, of course.
Apart from previewing print-ready documents, the M500 lets you print directly from a USB stick through a front-facing port, from iPhones, Android devices, iPads, and from cloud accounts, including DropBox, Google Drive, Box, and PrintMe.
However, when printing from mobile devices, you’ll need to first email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you’ll receive a unique document ID. You have to enter that in a field on the M500 Station’s touch screen in order to print. Although EFI includes this functionality at no cost to M500 Station owners, it doesn’t make mobile printing all that easy. The Wi-Fi printing module should improve on this, but you pay to play.
The M500 Station works with virtually any Multi-Function Peripheral (MFP). Administrators have the ability to add new features and services as needs change. This should extend the life of the hardware, making it easier to earn back the initial investment. The back of the M500 Station provides network connectivity behind a locked enclosure.
Comptrollers will like the integration with campus billing and print management systems. Furthermore, the EP Server software includes modules with which you can adjust prices and tax rates, manage payment accounts for credit cards and perform software updates. Price changes made on the server are pushed to multiple connected devices.
Administrators can add and configure new services, including providers of cloud services and campus card systems. One installation of EP Server will enable management of multiple devices from one central location. Additional print and copy stations or kiosks can be added to the system. EP Server software also provides real-time status and diagnostics for all connected devices through a dashboard that runs on a PC.
And it provides reporting capabilities on usage.