The potential applications for blockchain can impact the commercial printing industry. Blockchain technology could provide a way to track the unique history of individual devices, by recording a ledger of data exchanges between it and other devices, web services, and human users.
The blockchain ledger could be extended to register updates, patches, and part replacements applied to any product or device throughout its lifetime. This would make it much easier to track progress in removing security vulnerabilities and to send out warnings and notifications to product owners.
Smart contracts promise to take blockchain to the next level, enabling devices to do more than just exchange information. Blockchains can enable smart devices to become independent agents, autonomously conducting a variety of transactions. Consider a printer that can diagnose, schedule and pay for its own maintenance or pay for consumables automatically, based on the purchase history. Or a fleet of printers that negotiate with other devices for priority so that they run at an appropriate time while minimising the cost of electricity.
Meanwhile, easily tracked and authenticated blockchain data from connected MFPs gives manufacturers more and better data about how their products perform over time, enabling them to improve quality. This also helps them drive more lucrative sales and services such as proactive replacement of consumables and parts.
Companies can use the same blockchain to store metadata on which users have used an MFP, as well as record their usage. Immutable records of when PIN numbers were used to pull a print job from a network storage device, or logs of document scans being made by a user and exactly where the scan result went to can be useful in managing both internal and external governance.
Blockchain technology and standards are still emerging but the concept offers fascinating possibilities for the commercial printing industry. There may still be many technical obstacles to overcome, but it has the potential to be the missing link to address scalability, privacy, and reliability concerns of printers in the ever expanding IoT world.
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