Print in 2024 will confront many of the same challenges and opportunities it faced over the last 12 months. However, while print itself may be a mature technology, the infrastructure around it is ever evolving and changing, and these will drive new trends for print well into 2024 and beyond.
The modern workplace has seen multiple upheavals in recent years, whether caused by technology, economic pressures, or global pandemics. Yet as businesses adapt - hybrid and remote working become the norm for many, there are other trends around print technology that will help small and medium-sized businesses continue to develop smarter team collaboration. Central to these trends are AI, security, and cloud data – here we look at the trends driving print innovation into 2024.
AI Impacting Print Processes
Few within the business community foresaw the sudden rise and impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had over the last 12 months. The proliferation of AI use is staggering and is set to be one of the fastest paces of change within the history of IT. For context, Cloud has taken a decade to become established, but AI will achieve the same level of adoption, pervasiveness, and impact in 12 months. One thing is clear, the trend for its use within business will only grow going forward.
On a print device level, we will start to see trends around AI simplifying and personalising the use of technology within a business, helping reduce the number of steps to accomplish a print task, or assist in helping to personalise how people use devices, for example.
For more complex processes around digitisation we are already seeing AI being used to contribute to document capture and workflows. Processes such as manual classification and information extraction from documents is no longer a laborious task as AI is taking over many of those roles.
Equally, AI is helping re-frame customer experiences by offering quicker access to support content, helping to deliver better experiences for our customers, for our dealers and service engineers and so on.
While AI can bring real benefits to a business, it also can raise the threat bar quite significantly too. Hackers and bad actors are already exploiting the technology to their own advantage.
A trend is already emerging around exploiting vulnerabilities ever more quickly, the result being that businesses won’t know what such attacks look like until they strike. Therefore it is imperative that both print vendors and customers keep aware of the developments within AI from a print security point-of-view to mitigate those threats. This means regularly evaluating processes and making sure that the business print security strategy is fit for purpose.
Small Business Print Security
The security of business information in both physical and digital form is never a trend, but a necessity. One area of an organisation that is often overlooked is print security – this is especially true in smaller businesses where dedicated IT staff expertise may be limited.
In 2023 we carried out brand-new research around IT security concerns within the SME community, and their approach to ensuring data security. We found that 32% of respondents said they had no IT security measures in place to cover office printers. In addition, Quocirca’s research this year showed that print-related data breaches are still common, with 61% of respondents reporting at least one data loss in the last 12 months.
Regardless of size, businesses must make print security a priority to avoid unauthorised access to company data, financial records, customer information, and other private material that could lead to legal, financial or reputational damages. As a result, everything within a business needs to be secure.
The trends we are seeing around print security can be found on both the physical and digital layers of the device. The device itself has a great deal of security functionalities embedded within it and part of our ongoing responsibility as a vendor is to inform and educate our customers around making the most of those security features.
Helping to overcome potential issues, threats, and vulnerabilities within print security Sharp recently released Complete Print Security that delivers ‘always on’ secure protection so that any potential weaknesses or security alerts can be rapidly identified and resolved.
Further reacting to the changing environment around print security and print management, Sharp Europe is responding to threats in new and innovative ways. Synappx Cloud Print, as part of our Print Management Solutions, is a simple, cost-effective cloud-based solution that takes the best of Sharp’s established on-premises solution Job Accounting II (JAII) and delivers it from the cloud providing options for on-premises and cloud management of printing tasks.
Cloud Data is Business Priority
Cloud as a technology is nothing new and migration to cloud-based services is no longer seen as a trend. Rather, how organisations make the most of the cloud services they have, and those they use, are seen as the growth areas.
Critical to the success of these services is how organisations deploy, secure, and use their own data. As with any digital tools, such services only work if access to the right data is in place. In turn, this means businesses need to be prepared to share their data. Therefore, the trend for 2024 and beyond is focussed on data and how it is being shared and used. This is relevant not only from a print perspective but across the business.
As Colin Blumenthal VP Sharp Europe IT Services, referenced in our IT Services predictions article, “education surrounding data security and ongoing technical support will continue to be a valuable trend in 2024.”
All cloud infrastructures, and company data, is protected from unauthorised outside access but depending on the type of licencing agreement that is in place, privacy from within an organisation can vary widely. Continuous monitoring and regular audits of cloud infrastructure help identify and address security vulnerabilities. This involves tracking user activities, configurations, and system logs.
Therefore, creating the right workflows for data access within a business is quickly becoming vital, especially in the age of AI where information can be filtered and accessed far more quickly than ever before. If the right data structures with the right levels of authorisation are not put in place, data breaches can quickly occur.
Sharp is in a fortunate position in that it offers a broad range of IT consultancy, including security consultancy. This means we can help SMEs ensure that data around print and beyond, who has access to it, and how they use it, is a priority within any business.
In the second part of our look at the print trends that will impact SMEs in 2024, we shall look at automation, sustainability, and how innovation is changing to reflect the ways in which offices want to print documents.
This article was compiled following a discussion with the Sharp Europe product marketing team: Jason Cort (European Director Product Management and Marketing), Rob Davis (Solutions & Services Business Manager), Claudio Roselli (Head of Product Management and Software Development), and Ben Lake (Senior Product Manager - MFP & Printer Products).