VAR Ubiquitech and Xerox have collaborated on a tailor-made print set-up expected to boost business opportunities at the University of Exeter’s new Innovation Centre.
The two-building Innovation Centre, opened in April, hosts and supports the R &D activities of 30 public and private sector customers, with a view to adding 10-20 more individual customer organisations.
According to Pat Johnson, technical marketing manager at Xerox, the Centre is conceived as a world-class knowledge community that will open doors to national and international markets and investment.
The Centre needed an efficient yet secure print infrastructure that would enable it to serve its various customers. It was a classic case of a VAR seizing an opportunity to upsell when it appeared.
“Two years ago, they were looking for a scanner to scan in some documents,” said Johnson. “And when I went out there, I said, ‘we could take this a lot further than scanning documents’. We showed them how they could use the distributed scanning and brought on one of their groups to use as part of a pilot.”
Xerox became an official Technology Partner for the planned Centre, and a managed multifunction device (MFD) infrastructure was designed. The system centres on two Xerox WorkCentre 7665 MFDs that support the vendor’s web-based Extensible Interface Platform (EIP).
EIP lets the Centre incorporate custom-built document management and print applications, configured for the 7665s’ touchscreens, as needed to assist its customers.
“Other MFDs have a web or Java interface, but ours is built on Web 2.0 and we did not release the platform until we knew the market was ready,” said Johnson.
Only two MFDs are needed because users from all 30 customers can access the print network from their PCs and, eventually, mobile handsets. The machines do not print out until the job is authorised.
The new set-up reportedly means the Centre uses 30 per cent less paper, according to Johnson.
Xerox selected Ubiquitech by searching through its 100 Alliance Partners across Europe.
“We work with about 30 in the UK through our basic framework, and had 12-15 possibilities,” said Johnson. “They all bring something different.”
Crawley-based Ubiquitech has five staff, including a development team, locally, and a total of 35 at its Copenhagen headquarters.
Mark Hope, managing director of Ubiquitech UK and Ireland, said the open source approach offered increased flexibility that remained cost-effective for customers.
“You are not paying licensing fees, and you can build customised solutions more easily,” he said.
He has spent years working on Windows and, while the platform was excellent, solution development could take eight, nine or even 12 months by which time, customer business needs had often changed.
“We found that we could offer the flexibility to plan closely to what the Innovation Centre wanted in terms of security and deliver quickly, in about two months,” said Hope.
X marks the spot
Ubiquitech’s own secure print management, cost control and accounting application, X-Out, was deployed, but suffered some compatibility hiccups around network accounting issues initially. The VAR is working on ironing these out, and expects to have X-Out running on the 7665s again in about a month.
“We are on top of that,” said Hope. “We synchronise with Xerox network accounting, so information on print and copy coming back from the actual machines is accounted in real-time. It is working OK, but we want to switch across to the new solution.”
X-Out lets authenticated users enter a number on their PC so they can retrieve their documents at any printer whenever they are ready, rather than having to use a swipe card or password at the machine.
“We have excellent dialogue with them via our chief developer for Xerox to get an understanding of the issues involved,” said Hope.
“The main challenge was when they said ‘We are not going to give you the user names and passwords [for our customers]’. That’s standard, but because the Centre hosts different businesses they do not want to be liable if anything goes wrong.”
Customers would have been nervous about sharing authentication details via a system that caters for a number of different and unrelated firms. The information is encrypted and customer authentication data is not stored on a central database.
“Basically, we give each user the ability to type in their own number [at their own PC] when they want to print. Every problem is an opportunity,” said Hope.
Dr Robin Jackson, director at the Innovation Centre Director, said Ubiquitech was the clear choice of print management reseller.
“Their solution using Xerox technology has helped bring our vision to fruition. They also delivered visibility and cost control.”
The new set-up improves productivity, budget and waste control and customer service, which the Centre sees as dovetailing with its environmental and knowledge community commitments.
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