Could blockchain technology change print manufacturing?

Blockchain technology could be set to shake up print manufacturing like 007’s Martini. How, you ask? And, more importantly: what is blockchain technology?

Good questions! Whilst blockchain sounds like a piece of Mr T’s jewellery, it’s slightly more intricate than that. Blockchain is the technology underpinning digital currency Bitcoin. It is a means of recording and storing data such as a digital ledger of transactions, agreements and contracts.

Blockchain tech files away the filing cabinet. Data is instead distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. Blockchain is currently converging with the internet of things. From cars, buildings to computers, the network connectivity pillow is beckoning blockchain to lay its head upon it.

What does this mean for print? Well, print manufacturers are already embracing digital transformation. And that’s precisely why blockchain is exciting. The print revolution is upon us and blockchain might just usher in the next evolutionary step …

A blockbusting print experience

Do you remember the office printer of 15 years ago? Ah, that’s right, you’ve spent the last 15 years in therapy trying to forget. Fortunately, printers have come a long way since then.

How? Because print manufacturers dabbed on their best cologne and smooth talked their way into a mutual relationship with network connectivity. Offspring were soon to follow in the guise of multifunction printers. And, like most proud parents, print manufacturers declared to all that they are ‘smart’. In fact, they’re really smart.

These devices are embedded with software and apps. They make work life easier. They talk to each other. They share data. They are remotely monitored by managed service providers. Workers connect to them from home, in the office and, depending on their vocation, the top of Mount Everest.

Thanks to the digital transformation, data has never flowed more freely. But this free movement of digital data has thrown up some key challenges in the world of office print. And that, readers, is security.

Like any network connected device, security is always a concern. Print manufacturers accordingly shored up their products like Fort Knox. But, as the network connectivity landscape continues to expand, the risks are bound to become more diverse.

That’s where the potentiality of blockchain technology comes in.

Blockchain, blocking threats

A stir of the tea leaves reveals a future in which blockchain technology in harnessed by print manufacturers as a means of authenticating device and user identity to protect data and transactions.

Question is: how would this work? Well, were print manufacturers to reel in blockchain, things would look different from device conceptualisation, to production, install, to end-of-life. Much like Batman’s sleep habits, it would turn the whole print supply chain on its head.

In this Brave New World, Blockchain would be there from start to finish, infusing each and every device with its own digital soul. This means its whole history could be tracked. And, not only that, the resultant ledger would be imprinted with a history of data exchanges it engages in with other machines, online services and humans (assuming we still exist!).

Right now, blockchain technology is in its infancy. Even so, it does hold some mind-bending possibilities for print. At the risk of getting (a few years) ahead of ourselves:

  • Blockchain technology could produce printers that autonomously carry out actions such as self diagnostics, paying and order consumables, whilst scheduling maintenance
  • Printers could chatter among each other deciding when to run to reduce electricity consumption and who should print off what and when
  • Increased data would reveal intricate insights to help print manufacturers to perfect their devices

Blockchain is the new kid on the block that holds all the potential of becoming a game-changer in the print industry. Sure, the tech is in its infancy, but as businesses like Britcom, Ethereum and Microsoft continue to develop it, the many applications it can offer our industry will become more apparent.

From security, usability to reliability, blockchain technology could be the voice of a future printer generation.

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