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Wireless technology opens up a wealth of opportunities for printing in a diverse range of applications. In particular, Bluetooth is enabling end users to increase productivity and minimise costs, by eliminating the need for inconvenient, costly, and potentially hazardous cables.
An introduction to Bluetooth
Bluetooth is a secure short-range wireless communications technology, which enables a wide array of portable or fixed electronic devices to be connected without the need for cables. The technology can operate over a distance of 10 meters or 100 meters depending on the Bluetooth device class. Unlike other wireless technologies, Bluetooth does not require these devices to be positioned with a clear line of sight, making it extremely flexible and reliable.
Bluetooth enabled devices use short-range, ad hoc networks known as piconets to connect and communicate wirelessly. Each device can simultaneously communicate with up to seven other devices within a single piconet, and each device can also belong to several piconets simultaneously. These piconets are established dynamically and automatically as Bluetooth enabled devices enter and leave radio proximity.
With Bluetooth technology now accepted globally as a standard wireless communications protocol, the number of Bluetooth enabled devices in use has exceeded 1 billion, making Bluetooth applications extremely simple and cost effective to implement. Additionally, due to the popularity of the technology, entry level Bluetooth chips now cost as little as a few pounds, although integration costs can increase this a little.
Bluetooth and printing
Bluetooth wireless technology is ideal for printing applications, due to its ability to offer a more efficient and convenient alternative to cables. The applications in which the technology can boost productivity and profitability are diverse and vast, ranging from mobile printing applications in warehouses and delivery vehicles, to fixed printer environments in retail and hospitality environments.
The benefits of printing using Bluetooth
Cabling has long been a bugbear in many printing applications, limiting flexibility, leading to high replacement costs, and contributing to costly downtime while new cables are sourced and delivered.
By using a wireless alternative to conventional connections, such as USB cables, these problems can be overcome, allowing end users to streamline processes and increase productivity levels. In comparison with other wireless protocols, such as Wireless LAN, Bluetooth is extremely energy efficient and cost effective, making it ideal for applications where a constant connection is not required.
As it is omni-directional and able to penetrate solid objects, therefore, not requiring line-of-sight positioning, Bluetooth is ideal for busy working environments where space is limited, such as warehouses. Likewise, with sensitive information often required to be printed confidentially, Bluetooth offers the option of creating a secure connection.
Opportunities for Bluetooth printing
Bluetooth offers benefits in virtually anywhere printers are required relatively close to computers or handheld input devices. The specific advantages are dependent on the application, and range from increased flexibility to improved productivity levels.
Perhaps the most obvious applications to which Bluetooth is suited are those where handheld devices are used in conjunction with a portable printer, which is also carried or worn. This is ideal where receipts or tickets are needed to be printed on the spot. Bluetooth removes the need for cables in these instances, giving users added mobility, and making printing simple and safe.
Likewise, where vehicles are used, whether in the warehouse or on the road, Bluetooth can make much faster printing achievable. For example, printers can be mounted on materials handling vehicles, such as forklift trucks, removing the need for warehouse staff to go to a central printer to print off pick lists or labels. This can save a considerable amount of time and, therefore, lead to increased productivity. Similarly, where delivery drivers need to print off receipts or invoices at the point of delivery, a Bluetooth printer can be mounted on the vehicle dashboard so that documentation can be issued immediately, speeding up processes considerably and optimising customer service levels.
It is also worth noting that Bluetooth can offer significant benefits in fixed printer applications as well as mobile. For example, in retail environments, the health and safety issues associated with cabling can be eliminated, allowing staff to work freely and safely. Furthermore, multiple users can use a single printer, minimising hardware costs and enabling more efficient processes.
Common to all of these applications is Bluetooths ability to minimise the downtime that comes from damaged cabling and connectors, while at the same time eliminating replacement cable costs, which can have a considerable effect on a companys bottom line.
Bluetooth and Citizen printers
Citizens PD24 and CMP-10 portable printers with Bluetooth functionality offer an ideal wireless printing solution.
The PD24 has been designed to provide fast and quiet printing in a compact, lightweight, yet robust unit. Offering an efficient solution in a wide range of applications, including printing receipts for customers, producing packing lists for products, or documents from a PDA, the machine allows printing of up to 2 inches per second on a standard 4 wide roll and is capable of producing a receipt 6 or 150mm long in just 3 seconds.
Designed to be simple to use, the PD24 features Citizens innovative easy-to-load clamshell mechanism, manufactured from a robust elastomer, and an intuitive VuePrint menu system for quick configuration, with all data entry being via three keys located at the front of the unit. The PD24 uses proven direct thermal print technology and incorporates a long-life print head, capable of giving over 30 million pulses under normal operating conditions and of producing high resolution print-outs.
Completely compatible with Bluetooth technology, the printer provides and excellent wireless solution in a diverse range of applications. In addition, the PD24 can be operated from a number of different power supplies and is supplied with an easy-to-change internal lithium Ion battery and an AC adapter, designed to power both the printer and charge the batteries simultaneously. Alternatively, an optional two-station external battery charger can be used to recharge batteries overnight or between shifts.
For vehicle users, a car power adapter is available to operate and/or charge the printer. To further complement the portability of the PD24, a specially developed in-car mount is available in order to secure the printer in the vehicle to ensure that is does not slip or roll around during transit. Easily fitted, the holder connects securely with the mounting points underneath the PD24 and allows users to transport the printer easily without fear of damaging it. A new version using magnetic strips in order to make attaching and detaching the printer as quickly as possible is also available.
Where smaller print outs are required, the CMP-10 can offer a beneficial solution, able to produce 2 inch wide receipts quickly and simply. The CMP-10 is a small, lightweight mobile receipt printer that brings added functionality and convenience to any mobile environment.
Printing at 50 mm/sec, the printer affords wireless freedom through its Bluetooth interface. Weighing less than 330 grams, the CMP-10 uses a long-life lithium-ion battery that supplies up to 40,000 lines of 8 dots/mm (203 dpi) thermal printing on a single charge.
Bluetooth is a registered trademark of the Bluetooth SIG inc.
Q & A
Q. What is Bluetooth?
A. Bluetooth is a secure short-range wireless communications technology, which enables a wide range of portable or fixed electronic devices to be connected without the need for cables.
Q. Why should I use Bluetooth instead of cables?
A. Cable can limit the flexibility of printing applications considerably, presenting potential safety hazards as well as leading to significant replacement costs and downtime. Using Bluetooth eliminates these problems, offering a far more efficient connection method that optimises productivity by making printing simple and fast.
Q. What is the difference between Bluetooth and Wireless LAN?
A. Wireless LAN is designed to enable devices to be connected wirelessly to a network. As a result, it needs to be switched on constantly, requiring considerably more energy than Bluetooth. Additionally, Wireless LAN printers typically require larger batteries and are therefore ill suited to mobile applications. By contrast, Bluetooth offers an energy efficient solution, only needing to be on when it is required for use. Bluetooth can be significantly more cost effective to implement too, with most portable devices now incorporating Bluetooth functionality as standard.
Q. How do I choose between Bluetooth and Wireless LAN.
A. Generally, if you would have used a USB, serial or parallel cable previously, Bluetooth is ideal. If you are printing personally, i.e. creating a receipt for an action you have just done, Bluetooth is most suitable. If you were thinking of a networking solution (via Ethernet) then Wireless LAN is your best choice, for example, for picking lists in a warehouse, which are sent to a particular person. There are some instances where both technologies are suitable.
Q. Is Bluetooth secure?
A. Since its inception, Bluetooth has been developed with security in mind. Devices can be programmed to communicate with any untrusted device or only with other trusted devices, depending on the security level required. A trusted device is one that has already been paired with the devices trying to communicate with it, and has unrestricted access to all services.
Q. Which Citizen printers can use Bluetooth?
A. A wide range of Citizen printers offer Bluetooth functionality, including its portable PD24 and CMP-10 models; for the latest Bluetooth enabled Citizen printers, visit www.citizen-europe.com
Q. How do I configure my Citizen printer to use Bluetooth?
Like most Bluetooth devices, you need to create a bond between your PDA, computer, or phone, and the Citizen printer. If you choose to set a PIN code or any secure protocols, then this must be done first on the printer. Then you need to ask your computer to create a link using the SPP protocol.
Glossary of Bluetooth technology
Ad hoc network: An ad hoc network is typically created spontaneously, requires no formal infrastructure and is limited to both a temporal and spatial extent.
Bluetooth wireless technology: Bluetooth wireless technology is a wireless communication link, which operates in the unlicensed ISM band at 2.4 GHz using a frequency hopping transceiver, and is based on time slots. It allows real-time AV and data communications between Bluetooth hosts.
Bluetooth device address: A Bluetooth device address is a 48 bit address used to identify a Bluetooth enabled device. The address can be referred to as BD_ADDR in technical specifications, or as a MAC address on Citizen printers.
Bluetooth host: A Bluetooth host is a computing device, peripheral, cellular telephone, access point to PSTN network or LAN, etc. When connected to a Bluetooth controller, these hosts are able to communicate with other Bluetooth hosts.
Connectable device: A connectable device is a Bluetooth enabled device that is in range and periodically listens on its page scan physical channel so that it can respond to a page on that channel.
Connecting: Connecting is a stage in the communication between devices when a connection between them is being established. Connecting follows the completion of the link establishment stage.
Connection: A connection between two peer applications or higher layer protocols mapped onto an L2CAP channel.
Creation of a secure connection: This is the procedure of establishing a connection, which includes authentication and encryption.
Creation of a trusted relationship: This is a procedure where the remote device is marked as a trusted device, with a common link key being stored for future authentication and pairing (if the link key is not available).
Device discovery: Device discovery is retrieval of the Bluetooth device address, clock, class-of-device field, and used page scan mode, from discoverable devices.
Discoverable device: A discoverable device is a Bluetooth enabled device that is in range and periodically listens on its page scan physical channel so that it can respond to a page on that channel. Discoverable devices are typically also connectable.
Encryption: Encryption is a method of encoding data to keep it secure.
Known device: A known device is a Bluetooth enabled device for which at least the BD_ADDR is stored.
Link establishment: Link establishment is the procedure for establishing the default ACL link and hierarchy of links and channels between devices.
Link key: A link key is a secret key that is known by two devices and used to authenticate each device to the other. It is also commonly referred to as the PIN or Bluetooth code.
Pairing: Pairing is the process of establishing a new relationship between two Bluetooth enabled devices. During this process, a link key is exchanged, either before connection establishment was requested or during the connecting phase.
Passcode: A passcode is recommended to authenticate incoming connections when pairing devices. It can also be useful in situations where you require additional assurance that you are connecting to the device or person you expect. A passcode can normally be any alphanumeric combination of keys. It is worth noting that passkeys are valid only for the connection and may be different for other devices or users.
PIN: A PIN is a user-friendly number that can be used to authenticate connections to a device before paring has taken place.
Serial Port Profile (SPP): A Serial Port Profile (SPP) defines how to set-up virtual serial ports and connect two Bluetooth enabled devices.
Service discovery: Service discovery is the procedure for querying and browsing for services offered by or through another Bluetooth enabled device.
About Citizen Systems Europe
Citizen Systems Europe operates from locations throughout Europe covering the EMEA region. It offers a wide range of printers for industrial, retail, healthcare and mobile applications specialising in label, barcode, portable and point-of-sale printers. In each case, the companys products are sold and supported by a network of specialised partners.
Citizen Systems Europe is a wholly owned subsidiary of Citizen Systems Japan and part of the Citizen group of companies, a global organisation that manufactures products ranging from its world-famous Eco-Drive watches, calculators, mini-printers and industrial printing systems to machine tools, quartz oscillators, LEDs and other electronic components.