Category Archives: I.T.
Demand for datacentre space has grown as more companies are using cloud-based data storage. Growth in Internet traffic and smartphone usage, including mobile apps and online video, is also driving demand. Datacentre REITs are currently performing well and are popular among investors who are attracted by their high dividend pay-outs as well as by growing demand for datacentre real estate.
The sector became overbuilt during the dot.com bubble and suffered when the bubble burst and demand dried up. The strength of the sector could push other datacentre companies to go public or adopt the REIT format. One example of this is Equinox a company operating datacentres for the likes of AT&T and Amazon.
REIT watches, REIT Café, recently drew attention to three particularly strong datacentre REITs:
• CoreSite Realty (COR), with market capitalization of $580 million, is most similar to CONE. COR is the smallest datacentre REIT, but its stock value has increased 33% since the end of October, and its dividend yield measures 3.6%.
• Digital Realty Trust (DLR) is the largest of the three data centre REITs with market capitalization of about $8.4 billion. Its stock value increased more than 16% since the end of October, and its dividend yield is 4.1%.
• DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT), with market capitalization of $1.5 billion, is the second largest data centre REIT. Its stock value grew 14.8% since the end of October, and its dividend yield measures 3.3%.
“This combination of low leverage and adequate liquidity places datacentre REITs in a good position to take advantage of acquisition and development opportunities that are in the best interest of the company,” said Jim Stevens, an analyst with SNL Financial. The data centre sector could double in size in the next few years, according to Stevens.
Exciting news concerns a new kid on the block CyrusOne (CONE). CyrusOne has raised $313.5 million when it sold 16.5 million shares at $19 on January, 18th. CyrusOne hails from Texas with 24 data centres in Texas and Ohio. The company is 72% owned by Cincinnati Bell, therefore bringing the total market capitalization to around $1.3 billion. Cyrus One has performed well during its first week. By Thursday, January 24th, shares of CONE were up more than 15% to $22.01. Cincinnati Bell, who purchased the company in 2010 for $525 million, will make a significant profit from the sale.
Notwithstanding on-going growth in the data centre industry, the sector faces increased competition, as firms like CONE show up on the doorstep and existing REITs look to grow. The increased competition could effect future expansion opportunities and result in lower returns. Although oversupply hasn’t emerged yet, investors ought to caution on the side of future overbuilding.
2013 is set to be a year when disaster recovery will be a principle feather in the cap of office parks wanting to add value to their office space products. This trend is scoring big business among leaders in the field.
So says managing director of property development and marketing company, Abacus Divisions, Org Geldenhuys. He points out those office parks like multi-billion rand Route 21 Corporate Park in Irene and Highveld TechnoPark in Centurion are prime examples of disaster recovery locations.
Geldenhuys says that Route 21 “offers redundant fibre optics and is well geared from a technology point of view. We are noticing an increase in tenants who are looking to house disaster recovery sites for their clients.” Such value added qualities lead tenants to see this as a way of reducing capital spend.
It’s clear that there is a trend among landlords to think smarter offering what could be argued as a full-service approach including shared networks and telephone infrastructure.
Geldenhuys also explained that in some instances there are even server rooms and sophisticated security that is available for sharing. Ancillary services such as generators are also increasingly available to apportion.
Given the austere financial circumstance business finds itself in right now, multinationals and other corporates are itching for something more for their trouble than just conventional same-old, same-old that’s been offered by many landlords up till now. It seems that disaster recovery, for many, is scratching the itch.
Remember those old printer’s trays that young girls, mostly, now a little older, used to put on their bedroom walls filled with the most hideous useless junk. I think the trays then moved to more sumptuous parts of the home and became centre pieces for more ornate and tasteful knick-knacks as the girls grew up. If you have printers trays in the house you now know what to buy for Christmas at the end of this year and if you were the recipient of some irksome little trinkets last Christmas, you know where you can put them now.
Well, as a pre-Christmas chore I found myself chipping and scouring away the layers of paint, especially from the corners, from my daughter’s printers trays that she inherited from my wife, that she had as a teenager back in the, never-mind. Clearly instead of their beautiful virgin wood, paint was applied with whimsy and little skill to the trays as often as a new fashionable colour got their attention. Alas the burden of restoration is a heavy one. If you find yourself being asked if you think the current colour of the printer’s trays is suitable, whatever you do gush madly at its beauty in order to avoid hard labour.
This got me thinking about when I was a library prefect at King Edward VII School. I had an unorthodox and engaging library master called Mr Sandom. He encouraged us to read all manner of works from the classics to the then, recently in vogue, fantasy literature.
Just before the Christmas holidays Mr Sandom took us library geeks, as we would be called today I suspect, to the then arty-farty suburb of Melville where we visited a house with a ye-olde genuine printing press, cabinets with draws similar to the printer’s trays that people used to put up on their walls in the 80’s. They were full of letters, numbers, punctuation, and many other characters, as well as space blocks.
We all got into the spirit of the occasion and learned from the Mr Sandom how to create a page that we would print and place into our hardcover books that we had manufactured out of old maps as Christmas gifts the previous week. I distinctly remember that I had Iceland on the back and Nyasaland on the front. We didn’t just learn the rudimentaries of what it took to create a page of text the manual way we came away with a sense of achievement that a print out from our state-of-the art dot-matrix couldn’t do for us.
Which causes one to reflect, wither are we bound? Elsewhere in this magazine you will have read that inkjet technology exists that can produce droplets smaller than bacteria. Talk about sending the ‘flu a message. Then some Japanese guy had the bright idea while putting on his deodorant one morning: “if inkjet printing is just firing liquid at a surface why not spay stuff with perfume and other smells.” So maybe you’ll receive Christmas card smelling of roast turkey. And to think we got all excited in the 80’s about scratch-n-smell.
Whether it was yesterday, today or tomorrow, in the printing world higher and higher resolution seems to be that holy grail or fleeting horizon, reaching ever further, to working harder to produce clearer and better images and text, faster and faster, with less and less, in narrower and smaller spaces, cheaper and cheaper, with fewer and fewer people, using the fewer calories and lower wages, during reduced hours and….okay I’ll stops now.
It’s a mistake to think Lexmark’s ditching of inkjet printers is some kind of portent for the inkjet and allied industries. Industrial inkjet technology is booming and its future uses are broadening.
The year began with the announcement by Eastman Kodak that they would file for bankruptcy. Kodak which was synonymous with the world of photography had become a force in the printing market too. So it’s been a heads up for those in the industry to hear of Kodak’s cutbacks.
Before filing for bankruptcy, Kodak had already started to close factories and photo labs. It has laid off employees, declaring an end to the production of video and digital cameras and photo frames. Kodak had planned to sell off 1,000 of its patents to raise funds but has postponed the sale indefinitely and may set up a new company which will license the technology to generate revenue. Kodak is now officially out of the inkjet printer market, however press releases state that it will continue to supply ink for its legacy inkjet customers.
In the wake of this, came the news that Kentucky based Lexmark will stop making inkjet printers, focusing instead on laser printers, which are used predominantly in businesses. The decision will lead to a factory closure in the Philippines by the end of 2015. Combined with other job cuts, Lexmark will get rid of 1,700 jobs worldwide according the Washington Post.
Intriguingly shares of the company rose on the news, jumping over 15 per cent for a high of $22.75 on Wall Street as investors welcomed the news that the company would get out of what some have called a faltering consumer inkjet printer market. Lexmark’s division that included inkjet printers and supplies fell 35 per cent compared with the same period last year. This compared to 9 per cent decline for its laser and business inkjet division. Unlike Kodak, Lexmark is still planning to stay in the printer business just not the inkjet business.
How much of this has to do with a specific decline in the desktop inkjet printer market and how much is to do with big companies weakening at the knees in the current economic climate is uncertain. What is certain is that Kodak and Lexmark are sacrificing inkjets to save their business. In Kodak’s case, as part of jettisoning a bulk of its other business interests.
Of some concern for consumers is the closure of Lexmark’s cartridge manufacturing facility in the Philippines by the end of 2015. All development work on inkjet printing is also to be ceased, with all equipment and stock sold off. Conversely, in the short term, Lexmark’s exit from the inkjet market could spell savings for consumers: as the company sheds its stock, expect to see Lexmark-brand inkjet printers being sold at considerable discounts. While the closure of its official consumables plant could prove troublesome, compatible cartridges from third-party manufacturers should remain available for some time yet.
The Washington Post quoted from Paul Rooke, Lexmark chairman and chief executive officer, in a company statement that: “today’s announcement represents difficult decisions, which are necessary to drive improved profitability and significant savings, our investments are focused on higher value imaging and software solutions, and we believe the synergies between imaging and the emerging software elements of our business will continue to drive growth across the organization.”
The decision to pull out of the consumer inkjet market may be symptomatic of an on-going change in this sector. Comments on the blogs reflect that, while we’re taking and sharing more photos than ever before, most of them never get printed. Smartphones and tablets are changing the market as people can now easily keep stored documents on hand, obviating the need to print.
Also on the blogs are inkjet printers complaints about the cost of the ink – one often reads phrases like “a set of inks costs more than the printer” or “by volume, printer ink is more expensive than vintage champagne”. Of course there are reasons for this, however the fact remains that people are becoming resistant to paying for their printed photos among other things. Not that inkjets are just about photos. However despite having the ability to be a paperless society for decades, we insist on having hardcopy in our hands for far more than we would like to believe.
Of course when one speaks of inkjet there’s a whole world out there besides desktop printers that most office workers would not be familiar with. The industrial inkjet printing market was valued at $33.4 billion in 2011 and forecast to grow to $67.3 billion by 2017, according to Smithers Pira, the worldwide authority on the packaging, print and paper supply chains.
According to a study by the Smithers Pira see (http://www.smitherspira.com/future-of-inkjet-printing-to-2017.aspx) inkjet is growing because it provides significant advantages across many supply chains. This inherent flexibility has attracted the attention of many leading print equipment suppliers and they have invested a great deal of money to develop new printing systems, much more than in any other printing technology.
As one might expect, inkjet printing is used for printing on paper and card in a wide variety of scenarios, including printing product labels, packaging, and paper media, but inkjet technology is also applied to printing tasks that many are unaware of.
To be precise Inkjet printing technology is the digitally controlled placement of small drops of liquid onto a surface, and it works just as well with dyes as inks. Inkjet printing on textiles is widely used in the fabrics industry. Inkjet printing is also frequently used for printing onto glass and ceramics to create decorative tiles and other interior decorating and architectural objects.
A recent study from Smithers Pira reveals that with recent and coming advances in inkjet technology, the global market value for inkjet printing is expected to more than double in the next five years, and the proportion of printing tasks utilising inkjet printing as opposed to other methods is set to increase from 4 per cent to 7 per cent of the market value of the printing industry.
Solar cells are an important part of building a sustainable energy infrastructure, and by using inkjet technology to lay down the components onto a substrate, photovoltaics can be produced more quickly and cheaply. Using inkjet printing techniques is significantly more efficient than traditional methods, and reduces wastage of expensive and environmentally-damaging chemical components by 90 per cent.
Quo vadis you may ask. What about tomorrow? Digital nanoprinting uses newly developed technology to produce droplets that are much tinier than ever before, tinier than bacteria. Using drops these results in radically more precise and high-resolution images. Scent Printing: Since inkjet printing is basically just shooting fluids at a surface, there’s no reason they have to be inks or dyes. Japanese scientists have been working on printers that can print long-lasting scents onto documents. Soon the rose on your Valentine’s card really might smell as sweet. Pharmaceuticals: Many people have to take carefully-dosed regimens of multiple medications and precise times during the day. Imagine if instead they could take exact, personally-tailored combinations and doses printed onto one pill with inkjet technology. (Sources: InkSplash and InkTech.com)
We’ve come a long way since the daisy wheels and dot-matrix. We’re now in the world of speedy and precise memjet printing and the like. Richard Remano VP of Technology and Solutions for Netherlands based Oce says that his company has been a toner based firm up until now and they have switched to being an inkjet based firm to take on the future. (see Interview at http://whattheythink.com/video/51850-oces-view-future-inkjet/) Inkjet’s future looks bright from here.
One may argue that ‘going green’ is not a sacrifice but rather an investment. Currently, green expenses are concealed. In the pursuit of all matters Green do we consider the concealed expenses? Let’s look at some common and not so common sense examples.
Home is Where the Heart is: the Micro Level
Seeking out the concealed expenses of going green requires common sense and no shortage of balance. A for instance: if you change from disposable nappies to towelling nappies you may preserve some trees; then again, you must now acquire a solution to cleanse those nappies without inflicting harm on the environment somewhere else. Similarly you will need to consider the environmental impact of producing the towelling nappy.
It’s all about research and how much effort you are prepared to put into this process. Then you need to stay the course, unlike those guys who menacingly change lanes on the highway and end up reaching the same destination as everyone else milliseconds sooner. Not finishing what you started may just increase your expenses. So pick a lane and stick with it.
A few practical examples.
Concealed expenses exist in so-called ‘green’ plastics; we do not see the waste in the manufacture of the product, or the disposal of it. Glass is still a far better choice, no matter how ‘green’ the newer, lightweight plastic bottle is said to be.
Preparing a compost unit for kitchen scraps and other household waste seems like a good move. But there are hidden expenses if you don’t research building it correctly. Creatures are attracted by the tiniest scent of decaying food. Rats, dassies and stray cats can move into your garden and home before you know it. It’s worth investing in an animal-proof compost bin, it will save on the concealed expenses of damages and presence of the abovementioned vermin.
Purchase the best and sturdiest recycle bins for your Mondi bags, (or whatever they have in your area.) If these heavy plastic bins are damaged the impact is severe on the environment since heavy duty plastic is a land fill’s permanent resident. Metal cans are best since they will break down. The concealed expense is the heavy plastic to the environment.
Planting trees seems unlikely to have concealed expenses, but when you consider the long term damage potential to water pipes, septic tanks and sewerage pipes, not to mention building foundations in just a few years of a poorly positioned tree, one can see why some common sense research is required. It may be the difference between gutters filled with fruit or lovely shade on a summer’s day.
There are concealed expenses to growing your own crops too. It’s important to factor into the equation the watering of crops, cost of tools and whether you’re prepared to do the labour yourself. Of course physical exercise is a plus on this scale. The rewards of healthier, fresher and more convenient food goes without saying, but it’s not free.
Finally products: Many consumers are prepared to pay a higher purchase price for green products. As many of these products have been marketed for relatively short periods of time, demand and supply for them is still limited and prices are higher due to a lack of significant economies of scale that are there for truly mass products.
Additionally the technologies entrenched in these items are new, keeping manufacturing costs high until companies figure out more efficient and cheaper ways of building these novel products. So the concealed expense is present but it seems it’s also understood by the consumer. Similarly, upkeep and repair costs will be higher than for conventional products, for the same reasons that product purchase prices are.
At the Macro Level
Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, and average solar-radiation levels range between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in one day. Solar power is a viable option for the future of power at the macro level, an ultimate green dream. But there are concealed expenses.
While it may seem like a wonderful notion to never have to pay for electricity again in favour of free, natural energy forms such as wind and solar power, the actual process of switching to this green living lifestyle can be exorbitantly expensive. While over time, these energy saving installations would pay for themselves and save you money in the long run, many people cannot afford these installations. Solar panels for example are incredibly expensive to the point where only the wealthy can afford them.
One redeeming situation is the Eskom Solar Geyser initiative whereby home owners are encouraged to replace their geysers with solar powered units subsidised by Eskom. The window opportunity closes in 2014 though.
Other rumblings are coming from Cosatu since many local firms producing solar power components have closed down due to cheap foreign imports. The resulting job losses are a not so concealed expense of going green.
On the wind power front, the Cape seems to be leading the way: applications for at least 88 wind farms have been received by the Eastern and Western Cape authorities and some of these wind farms are expected to have as many as 600 turbines located on them. Each wind farm application has to be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment. Each turbine is between 80 metres and 120 metres tall, the height of a 20-or 30-storey building.
While there has not been much public response to the wind farms, some communities have already lodged objections against the planned wind farms and one project, in Brittania Bay, has been delayed because of opposition from residents of the town. Elsewhere in the world objections are raised due to the harm caused to the environment, sound pollution and tarnishing of the natural scenery. Hence there is a concealed expense to consider there too.
So there are many ways to go green in the world but a word to the wise is to do it right, do the research and use common sense and weigh up what you’re prepared to spend/sacrifice when you’ve calculated the concealed expenses.
On the one hand we can save money by taking shorter showers instead of long baths to reduce water consumption, turn off appliances, cell phones and computers when not in use and to conserve battery power (subsequently reducing the need to charge them as often.) On the other hand there is a price to pay for “going green” whether it’s capitalising poor communities to acquire solar powered geysers or compromising the beauty of nature with wind farms.
The Environment has one fundamental code that nothing is squandered, and all is a nutrient for something else in the cycle of life. It’s also true that, there’s no free lunch.
Given that the Global Economic Slowdown continues and the prospects of a tight-fitting aftermath lingers, austerity measures are not just a Greek phenomenon. Companies across the world are having to look at lowering costs and streamlining operations. Furthermore, on-going research indicates a steady upward trend in favour of environmental responsibility in the workplace.
With a plethora of Document Management Solutions offered by companies like Equitrac and Xerox there is clearly a market for what in another time would simply be called ‘pulling in the belt’.
There are several document management practices that can help companies reach both their environmental and cost-reduction goals. From the sustainability perspective, these practices can significantly reduce the use of paper, thereby saving trees, fuel in shipping the paper, physical space to store it, and halting the eventual destruction of many files that end up in a landfill. It goes without saying that such measures need to go hand in hand with a serious commitment to recycling toner and ink cartridges.
According to the Environmental Paper Network, “If, for example, the USA reduces its office paper use by approximately 10 per cent, or 540,000 tons, greenhouse gases would fall by 1.6 million tons. This is the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year.”
Here are some practices that in themselves are a Document Management Solution to reducing costs and carbon footprint.
1. Making use of Technology: Companies need to make use of the technology they. Multi-Functional Printers have so called “smart” technologies such as Scan-to-Email/File Folder, Personal Mail Box, Document Routing and Fax-from-Desktop in order to decrease paper and ink/toner used in printing. A recent study came up with three per cent in the reduction of paper used.
2. Getting the most out of a page: Building a habit of reducing the size of the font; setting the margins for a wider fit; checking ‘widows and orphans’ all with the intention of adding more text to a page can reduce needless printing and paper use by a significant percentage.
3. Ban banner pages: A banner page, the page that prints prior to a user’s file prints with username and machine name information. Research in the industry estimates that organizations can reduce their consumables cost by up to 20 per cent by abolishing banner pages from office print jobs. According to “Cost Cutting Initiatives for Office Printing”, Sharon McNee and Ken Weilerstein, Feb. 2008, a 1,000 person organization could cut up 1.6 million pages and save R268 000 per year by eliminating banner page printing.
4. PIN authentication: Cartridge Save reports that one in ten documents sent to the printer are not collected or end up being resent. What companies could do to reduce extemporized print costs by up to 10 per cent is to implement a PIN authentication system.
5. Duplex by default: Decrease paper use by up to 50 per cent. Largely multiple-page documents don’t necessitate the text to be printed on one side of the page. With the necessary policy decisions in place and the technical staff on board it’s quite feasible to alter office protocols and make duplex printing of multi-page documents the norm.
6. Workgroups work: To varying degrees, trading personal desktop printers with workgroup MFPs shared by departments can make a powerful impact. A high end financial services company replaced 1,100 copiers and printers and 1,000 fax machines with 400 MFPs. The move jettisoned 1,700 machines that now no longer consume resources based on their operation, maintenance, and ultimate disposal.
7. Scanning should be the norm: Instead of copying and storing physical documents, organizations can scan and store electronically. Employees can retain digital copies that they can distribute electronically, and at the same time avoid accumulating files filled with paper. In a recent industry survey, senior executives involved in document management indicated that document scanning has a high impact across the greatest range of business goals that include “reducing costs, increasing competitive advantage, enhancing regulatory compliance, and improving customer service.”
8. Recycling Toner and Ink Cartridges: The reduction of carbon footprint due to recycling of cartridges cannot be overestimated. We can take all the necessary common sense precautions above and undo it all by not recycling our cartridges. Used cartridges can be remanufactured many times over and keep plastic, steel, aluminium and rubber out of landfills. If you buy remanufactured cartridges, you save oil and 7kgs of waste.
In the final analysis, each company is like an individual with its own needs and priorities. Before you rush out and purchase expensive Document Management software perhaps two or three of the above practices could be enough to make a significant and sustainable change to your budget and your green conscience.
Unnecessary printing could be what’s putting your business over budget and causing productivity to stumble. An exaggeration? Not according to a cursory glance at the burgeoning industry aimed at “Document Management Solutions.”
If you know anything about working in an office environment, you’ll know that if you wander about peeking into the out trays of printers at the end of the day, unfailingly you’ll observe papers overflowing from every orifice of every machine. These are either uncollected or unwanted jobs, extra copies of work that weren’t needed and so on. “Document Management Solution” companies claim they have the answer, but first what is the question?
Cartridge Save is a UK supplier with a reputation for being more than just a cartridge supply company. A recent study conducted by Cartridge Save polled 1917 people in businesses with a minimum of 100 employees. It was discovered that a business of this capacity would squander the equivalent of R57 000.00 annually on preventable printing.
A further breakdown reveals that each participant unnecessarily printed two sheets of paper a day. That’s 800 pages per company per working day. Cartridge Save posited that if that business used say, an HP Apollo printer, printing 795 pages per cartridge, that business would go through five cartridges a week on redundant printing. At a minimum of R220.00 per cartridge, that’s around R1100.00 a week or R57 000.00 a year wasted on needless printing.
Looking at in terms of ink, each business would be wasting 20.2 litres of ink a decade on pointless print jobs, as each standard Apollo P-1200 ink cartridge contains eight millilitres of black ink, with 1000 millilitres in a litre.
Ian Cowley, Managing Director of Cartridge Save is reported to have said: “We wanted to conduct this research to emphasise to large businesses how much money they are wasting each year on needless printing. These figures only equate to value wasted on ink and ink cartridges; paper and toner have not even been factored in, so the true cost to a business would be much more, all factors considered. I cannot stress enough the importance of cost management when it comes to printing. I strongly recommend that businesses look into the costs of its printing services.”
Enter “Document Management Solutions.” Equitrac is one of a few companies offering software aimed at plugging the hole created by, end-users print splurges every day. Equitrac claims that on average, 10 to 15 per cent of volume prints remain uncollected daily. Meanwhile, Green printing solutions GreenPrint cites research that the average user waste R680.00 on paper and ink for unnecessary prints.
Upon the installation of Equitrac on a company network, administrators can use the suite to set and enforce policies that ensure that users only print what they need using the least expensive approach possible. Equitrac is compatible with Windows, NetWare, UNIX, and Linux print servers.
A principle feature of Equitrac’s solution is the “Follow-You Printing unction.” No that’s not an anti-stalking device. Using Follow-You, a user must go to the machine and key in a password or swipe an ID card before the machine will complete the job. Any jobs that don’t end up collected are deleted after a preset period of time.
An example of a benefit of this would be; consider placing a document in queue upstairs that is needed for a conference on the ground floor. Being absent minded you forgot to collect it before going to the conference. Instead of having to arduously wander upstairs again, you could find a printer on the ground floor, type in your code, and retrieve it there. The security benefit to Follow-You is noteworthy since documents with delicate information won’t get nabbed from the printer before they’re collected by the correct owner.
Other features include administrators being able to limit the number of colour prints a user can make, or what the user can print in colour. An example would be the creation of a policy that any document printed from a browser would have to use black ink. Similarly a policy could be set prompting users to print internal documents as double sided documents. High volume jobs could be redirected to larger capacity machines.
On top of the functionality aimed at reducing waste, Equitrac provides reporting that can let administrators know, down to a device level, how printing resources are being used. Of course Equitrac is just one Document Management Solution out there. Others include:
– A.N.D. Pcounter Comprehensive printer accounting and management suite.
– Pharos Uniprint, Blueprint, and Omega Document Accounting, Cost Management, Output/Print Management.
– Print Audit 6 Comprehensive print management solution to analyze, reduce and recover printing costs.
– Xerox Page Accountant™Easily control access to color output while keeping its cost manageable.
– Xerox Secure Access Unified ID System™ Card security enabling users to authenticate at MFP& securely retrieve print jobs.
– YSoft® SafeQ® Integrated printing solution for accurate MFP accounting, security, and access control and follow-me.
Although reducing energy consumption remains a prime priority on companies’ sustainability agendas, there are plenty of rands and trees to be saved via better management of MFPs, printers, copiers, and the like. Find a solution that suits you.
Is the iPad 2 an indispensable tool in the future of commercial property?
Could the iPad 2 be changing the way commercial real estate agents and their clients conduct business? The property industry has had time to exhibit the effects of the Apple’s iPad 2’s arrival earlier this year.
Commercial real estate agents can take business lists and construct .kml files in Windows and Google Earth and literally drive into a designated area and have ones clients plotted on the map. From there one can, for example call up colour-coded maps breaking down a given area’s commercial space into office, retail, industrial. Other helpful apps included are PDF Expert, DropBox and SiteMap.
DropBox is a cloud storage facility where you can ‘drop’ files, photos and documents so as not to take up storage space on the device. Those same files are then available at any time to edit access and manage.
The bonus is that the any file saved to DropBox is also automatically saved to all the user’s computers, iPhone, iPad and the DropBox website!
Commercial real estate companies and their clients are also able to make use of the QR (quick response) code reader function. (You may have seen those 2d barcodes that are shaped like a square and look like a chessboard designed by someone on the morning after the night before.) The codes are becoming all the rage for marketing and advertising in industry publications. By scanning the barcode with the mobile device, the user is taken directly to a website for more information and an extension of the marketing experience with media clips and other free downloads.
Property specialist on the road have expressed how they feel completely mobile and delight in being able to access their computer from anywhere in the world. Apps like Keynote, Numbers and Bloomberg have been described as useful business tools when preparing for a meeting with a client.
Now with cloud printing (the ability to print to any device from the Cloud.) property agents can print out maps, contract forms and other information while mobile.
Another plus with the iPad 2 is that it starts up instantly, while a laptop takes several minutes.
One broker heading up a large commercial property group started using the iPad 2 for business purposes this year. His group, which specializes in retail space, recently launched its own application.
The app allows brokers and clients to search all ‘for lease’ or ‘for sale’ properties listed by the company. There are over 1, 2 million square meters of commercial property listed out of one East Coast UScity’s office. One can view, print or email all detailed information on a specific property with ease. For agents out in the field, information can be provided immediately with one touch.
There is also a GeoMeasure app that provides simple measurements and distances between sites. Invaluable when in the field doing site work for clients.
DocuSign is an electronic signature service that helps manage document needs from one’s iPad2. An agent can get proposals, contracts and any other documents signed directly from the device.
Also available is the Penultimate, a handwriting app that allows one to take notes, sketch and organize right on the iPad. Notes can also be emailed; actually you email the whole notebook! It has been described by users as very user-friendly and provides accurate penmanship with or without a stylus.
Having had time to see its application to the workplace, commercial property industry users definitely see the iPad and other tablets being the future of all businesses and particularly in commercial real estate, where the speed of gathering information and making well-informed, intelligent decisions can make or break a deal.
Have you ever seen reruns of those cigarette advertisements from the fifties and sixties where the doctor comes on recommending smoking as good for a healthy body and mind? You have got to laugh. Just like everyone laughed at those who first put forward ideas that smoking may be harmful to our health. It may seem a little unfair to make the comparison to emissions from laser printers but it’s a line worth pursuing if the Queensland University of Technology insists on updating its research on this subject.
When research was released in 2007 by theQueenslandUniversity that too much quality time spent with your laser printer may be harmful to your health there was a bit of scare. The Australian Federal Government launched an inquiry. According to Professor Morawska, who headed up the study, printers emit ultra fine particles (UFPs) that are believed to be a catalyst and even a cause of respiratory diseases. Alas Hewlett-Packard printers have been fingered as being among the worst emitters, followed up by Toshiba. A cursory glance through the list of printer though, shows a disproportionate amount of HP printers were used in the study.
In an updated version for the paper (Aug 2011)( http://eprints.qut.edu.au/17917/) This statement is made in the preamble: “We present experimental evidence that indicates that intense bursts of particles are associated with temperature fluctuations and suggest that the difference between high and low emitters lies in the speed and sophistication of the temperature control.” Morawska’s study determines that when the printer toner and paper pass over the hot printer roller, chemicals known as volatile organic compounds are released into the air. These compounds then react with ozone in the air and condense to make UFPs.
The temperature of the printer is crucial. The hotter the temperature, the more particles are produced. In the Sept 2011 (http://eprints.qut.edu.au/15414/) update this statement is made: “However, fundamental gaps in knowledge still remain, for example, it is not clear what makes a printer a high emitter or why some models alternate between being low and high emitters.” It’s apparent that different models made by the same manufacturer can produce very different levels of particles. Two machines of the same model type can also differ in their emissions, if one has recently done a lot more printing, it’s likely to create more particles.
Morawska believes the study gives manufacturers all the evidence they need to produce safer laser printers. “We’ve shown why certain printers are high emitters and this information should be used by the manufacturers to design printers that are not high emitters, high emitting printers should not be allowed on the market.” She said.
Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) response is: problem? What problem? The public relations department released this statement to the press with regards to UFPs: “The results confirm previous research that such UFPs are predominantly not toner particles, and suggest that they might consist of volatile substances and water vapour. These results substantiate HP’s position that such UFPs are not specific to laser printing technology. UFPs also form under conditions where no paper and toners are present in the printer.” It should be pointed out that other sources of ultra fine particles include vehicle exhausts, burning wood, candles, and cooking.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute inGermanybluntly say that they found no evidence to support theQueenslandUniversity’s claims, after examining the makeup of chemicals released from laser printers. “One essential property of these ultra-fine particles is their volatility, which indicates that we are not looking at toner dust,” said Tunga Salthammer, a professor who worked on the study. They determined that such airborne materials include paraffins and silicon oils that evaporate when a printer’s fixing unit, which attaches dry toner ink to paper, reaches temperatures as high as 220 degrees Celsius. The study did not describe how breathing in those ultra-fine chemicals could affect human health. Printer makers belonging to the German Association for Information Technology partly funded the research.
Rather than focusing on the chemical composition of emitted particles, Morawska’s study focuses on their concentration and volume (a technique that is also used to rate the effects of second hand smoke). We may need to consider whether the particles referred to in the study toner particles? Do they have carbon black (a Class 2B carcinogen) or some otherIARC(INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER) -rated carcinogen in them? This remains unclear. HP has argued in its public statements that its printers meet all accepted standards in terms of particle emission. HP public relations released a statement saying. “Testing of ultra fine particles is a very new scientific discipline. There are no indications that ultra fine particle (UFP) emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks. Currently, the nature and chemical composition of such particles whether from a laser printer or from a toaster cannot be accurately characterized by analytical technology. However, many experts believe that many of the UFPs found in common household and office products are not discrete solid particles, but may be condensation products or small droplets created during thermal processes.”
One thing for certain is that we ought to watch this space for new information as it would seems that it may be an over reaction to have health warnings on our printers just yet. In the meantime, it may be advisable to follow some of Professor Morawska precautions: Avoid standing over the printer when printing; If you work beside a high volume printer, consider requesting either your or the printer’s removal; Make certain your office is sufficiently ventilated with air from outside; Those with asthma or other chronic conditions should be advised to position themselves at a suitable distance from busy printers; Locate heavily-used printers in well-ventilated areas, away from people. Okay, now take a deep breath and print this out to read outside.
On the first day of Autumn 2011 in Tokyo, Japan (Spring day in South Africa) Epson, that name synonymous with printers and printing, announced that it was expanding its cloud printing services for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Epson’s growing portfolio of cloud services stamps a claim on providing customers with greater freedom allowing the printing of documents and photos directly to Epson printers from a mobile device.
Tablets and even commercially used smart phones have no embedded printing system, although many printers now offer the option to directly print images by enabling the printer to convert images to print data. This form of printing cannot, however, be used for documents.
How can the user print from a device not designed to print? The solution is cloud printing.
Smart phones, as well as tablets are rapidly replacing notebooks’ function as constant companions in everyday business life inSouth Africa. Alas, one vital utility is missing: the ability to print. Although we live in a digital age we face many circumstances where printing is still required, many times on the spot. Hardcopy is required for contracts to be signed or simply to read long documents in paper format more easily. This is where cloud printing is finding its niche.
Enter Epson Connect which we can divide into Email Print and Epson iPrint solutions.
Email Print is a service that allows customers to print out email and attachments by simply sending an e-mail from their mobile device to an enabled Epson printer. By using this service, people on the move print out essential e-mails and attachments such as documents, presentations and tickets on Epson printers in their home, office, and other locations.
Epson iPrint is a print application for the latest iOS- and Android-based devices. You can now download the Epson iPrint application and connect to a WiFi enabled printer. This way the user can print out a wide range of contents ranging from photos and documents to recipes, coupons, and web pages.
Epson has also declared its commitment to supporting mobile solutions provided by other companies. Currently though Epson’s applications are aimed at iPad, iPhone and iPod touch (iOS-based) terminals and Android terminals.
But there are others putting their hands up and reaching into the cloud. Cortado, formerly ThinPrint, is a founding member of what has become known this year as the Printing Alliance. Cortado claims to offer the leading cloud printing solution for mobile printing. Documents can be stored in the cloud and then printed using Cortado Workspace from smart phones and tablets to any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connected printer, regardless of device, printer or file type!
The printing alliance is made up of OKI, Kyocera, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Brother, Dell, Develop, Funkwerk, Kodak and Toshiba. All available here inSouth Africa.
Cloud printing with Cortado Workspace is direct printing, without turning on a PC, taking place on the printer connected to the mobile device. This can either be a printer within the same Wi-Fi network as the device currently located, or via a Bluetooth printer, or to a network printer in the organization. Cortado Workplace is currently available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, BlackBerry, Android and Symbian devices. All you have to do is 1) Download and install Cortado workplace on your mobile device. The app is free from App Store, Nokia’s OVI store, Black Berry App World and Android Market. From there you are prompted to do the usual registration process and then you are ready to work.
But the options for South African’s don’t end there. The long awaited Google Cloud Print arrived in September. It allows you to print to your local printer through Google Cloud Print-enabled apps on any computer or smart phone. If you want to connect your printer to Google Cloud Print, you need to have Google Chrome installed on a Windows XP,Vista, or Windows 7 computer with an attached printer. Enabling the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome makes your printer work with Google Cloud Print-enabled apps like Gmail for iPad, iPhone, and Android. It really is as simple as that.
With the growth of cloud-based computing, it is becoming more relevant for businesses to facilitate printing in the office through a cloud-based printing system.
The uniqueness of what is being offered by Epson, Cortado’s Cloud Printing Alliance and Google is that they are all non-destination specific. Users print to the cloud, not to a specific print device. “Users can find enabled locations using Google Maps, approach a device, login, and choose their document, print and go.” says Glenn Moore of Core Print Solutions.
This could certainly make the lives of professionals and others working in the field a great deal more productive. They won’t have to stop their critical activity as output is now available. Owners of print devices also enjoy the timeliness of information communication. The list goes on.
So if your head is in the clouds and someone asks you “a penny for your thoughts” you can cheerfully reply that you can just give them a printout.
(See : QR Codes expanding you experience for and introduction to QR Codes)
So how do QR codes work?
A QT code is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) A matrix code, also termed a 2D barcode or simply a 2D code, is a two-dimensional way to represent information. It is similar to a linear (1-dimensional) barcode (that we are used to seeing on our products at the shops already), but can represent more data per unit area.
How QR Codes work is by embedding links or text inside a series of black squares and then users can use their cellphone camera with a barcode reader application to translate the barcode and show them either the webpage, text or contact information embeded in the barcode which either gives users more details about the product, object or place or even connect to a wireless network. This act of linking from physical world objects is termed hardlinking or object hyperlinking.
For example tourist in London can now scan in the QR code found on a well known landmark, like the Big Ben and have displayed, as a result, on their phone everything from the history of that famous building to a virtual tour.
Currently in South Africa Woolworths is having a sale; if you scan the QR code in your local Woolies window you will see details of the sale and links to all manor of items up for grabs including online shopping.
The impact has been so great inJapanthat McDonalds inJapanis using QR codes on its packaging to direct customers to a webpage displaying nutritional information about the different products.
If you buy Johnson & Johnson products you will notice that they have started implementing these codes globally on thier products, they can be scanned with a 2D barcode scanner, which contains vital information, about the product, like Manufactured date, lot number, expiry date etc.
Most smartphones now come with preinstalled QR code readers; for those that don’t, downloading them is a very easy process. Once the QR code is installed, you just have to point the camera to the code and the phone scans and links you directly to the desired information provided by the generator of the code.
CellC’s PhotoCode reader is available by following these steps:
1)SMS your name to 32357; 2)Receive an sms with a download link; 3) Click on the link to download
Others may download a reader at:
http://reader.kaywa.com for most phones including a Java Reader.
QR Codes can be used using:
Apple iOS: no QR code reader is included, however there are nearly 60 apps that are either free or for a small fee that have the ability to scan and perform hard-linking to URI.
Nokia’s Symbian operating system includes a barcode scanner which reads QR codes,
BlackBerry’s come with an App World application that can scan QR codes.
Google’s mobile Android operating system can be used to read QR codes using their own Google Goggles application or 3rd party barcode scanners like ZXing or Kaywa.
Windows Phone 7 is promising an update that will be able to scan QR codes via the Bing search application. However Microsoft have brought out there own Code, the Microsoft Tag. Visit the site below and there you can learn follow very easy steps to download the software to make use of it.
Quite simply anyone with a computer can generate a QR code. All you have to do is search the Internet for “QR code generators”. There are several sites that will illustrate how you can easily link information to the code.
http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ is one very good example that opens with a simple wizard into which your desired information in entered and then your QR Code is generated. Have Fun.