Hands-On Test: Add Mobile Printing to Virtually any PCL Printer or MFP with Mobile Printing Hub

Mobile printing has been a hot topic in the printer and MFP industry for quite some time now, and various solutions abound, with well-known services such as Apple AirPrint, Hewlett-Packard ePrint, and Google Cloud Print available. However, since all of these solutions require an Internet connection, none of them work with printers that lack Internet access.  Alternately, mobile-device users can choose from a variety of wireless printers that feature support for direct mobile solutions such as WiFi Direct Print and NFC (Near Field Communication) Touch-to-Print.

Even with these features though, mobile printing is often not easy for a majority of mobile users.  Consider the case when printing from Apple iOS and Android: 1) with iOS, you can use the  built-in AirPrint that requires WiFi network access; for Android you must locate, install, and set-up some sort of mobile wireless print app that has built-in print drivers; 2) if you wish to connect without network connection via WiFi Direct Print and/or NFC Touch-to-Print, you must locate, install, and set-up the apps required for their use; and 3) make these apps work in conjunction with the mobile operating system and any printing applications. Granted, email print (email the print job to the printer’s IP address) is an easier proposition, but not all mobile apps support it, and there’s minimal control over printer setup.

That said, while mobile printing is possible for the most part, this scenario still leaves users of mobile devices looking for a convenient printing solution for the tens of millions of non-networked printers still in service. (And, even with networked printers, users still often need permission to connect to the proprietary network that the printer’s installed on.) Moreover, you can’t physically connect to printers via USB cable with mobile devices. Finally, millions of printers lack the modern conveniences of built-in HP ePrint, Apple AiPrint, WiFi Direct, and Google Cloud Print. This leaves many users with no other solution besides remote printing via the cumbersome Google Classic Cloud Print that, in spite of its lofty name, requires a host of  land-based hardware in order to perform reliably. For instance, with Google Cloud Print:

  • Any printer(s) that you wish to use for Cloud Classic Print must be traditionally installed with print drivers on the PC host.
  • Google’s Chrome Web browser must be installed on the Internet-connected host PC.
  • The host PC must be powered-up in order for the process to work.
  • You must ensure that the Chrome Cloud Print background task is running.
  • With your new Chrome Web browser, you must visit the Google Cloud Web site and establish a virtual printer connection between the host PC and Google’s Cloud Print Service.

Finally, virtually all market-research data indicates that the need for mobile printing will only increase. For instance, Forrester Research describes 29 percent of the global workforce as “any-time me, anywhere information workers” – workers who use three or more devices, and work from multiple locations.

There are tens of millions of perfectly good printers and MFPs in use out there that could use a shot of life-boosting WiFi technology in the arm. How does one make it easier to enable mobile printing on those legions of printers?

A Unique, Versatile, and Affordable Solution

Smartphone and tablets have already become key tools for mobile workers, but being able to print from them is far from ubiquitous. Enter the TiS Mobile Printing Hub solution that facilitates mobile printing in an easy and intuitive manner. Simply connect the Mobile Printing Hub to the USB port of virtually any PCL-compatible printer or MFP and printing from your mobile device is easy as touch to print.

MPH Box (1)

With an MSRP of an affordable $99, the Mobile Printing Hub (MPH) is a neat solution from Teco Image Systems, which has been developing and manufacturing scanners and MFPs for over 30 years . The MPH is a compact and portable device that fits in your hand and weighs just 2.3 ounces (65 grams) and lets Apple and Android mobile users print to any PCL printer or MFP equipped with a USB 2.0 Type B port. There are two versions of MPH available: 1) a Personal Version; and 2) an Enterprise Version. USB Type A and B cables are included.

Key Features

Product Type: Portable USB-powered printer hub
MSRP (Personal/Enterprise Versions): $99/$Not available
Supported Printers: View supported printers
Power Requirements: 5.0V Micro USB
Dimensions (HxWxD) and Weight: 0.7″x2.6″x4.3″ (18x67x109 mm), 2.3 ox (65 g)

Mobile Printing Hub Specs

Key Advantages

  • Print wirelessly from iOS and Android mobile devices to printers that lack WiFi or network support, with no print drivers required.
  • Pocket-size portability.
  • Easy to use.
  • Simple USB Plug and Play setup.
  • A single solution for multiple brands and models of PCL printers, MFPs, and All-in-Ones.
  • No need for WiFi network infrastructure when using WiFi Direct Printing or NFC Touch-to-Print from mobile devices.
  • Save on the cost of new printers and protect investments in existing printers by equipping them with up-to-date wireless functionality.
  • Security advantages include:
    • Guests that use mobile printing don’t require access to the organization’s network.
    • A cloud service is not required.
    • There is no need to email a potentially sensitive document to a third-party cloud-printing server.
    • There is no need to deal with the myriad of security and privacy issues related to connecting to a PC. or printing from a USB drive, as documents are processed through the MPH and sent directly to the printer.
    • Built-in WiFi WPA-2 protected access and data encryption.

How Does it Work?

With the Mobile Printing Hub (MPH), users can print PDFs and JPEGs from their smartphone or tablet via WiFi Direct, QR Code, or NFC (Near Field Communication) Touch-to-Print. An MPH for Android (4.0 or later) or Apple iOS (6.0 or later) app allows mobile access to virtually all PCL printers and MFPs that are equipped with a USB port. For security, there’s support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)-2 for data encryption.  Best yet, there’s no network infrastructure required, and unlike similar solutions. there’s no need for print drivers – accessed neither locally nor via the cloud.

First, connect the MPH device to the USB host port of a PCL printer. Power-on both devices. Once communication is established, two LED indicators light up on the MPH’s control panel. At this point, the printer becomes AirPrint compatible for printing from Apple iOS mobile devices. An MPH app for Android remote devices provides easy connection via wireless NFC Tap-to-Print and QR code, and doesn’t require any underlying network infrastructure. The benefit for users is convenience, and enabling mobile printing with the many older non-wireless printers and MFPs out there, while IT administrators should appreciate that users – such as guests – aren’t connecting to their network.

Test Results and Observations

While the MPH was recently launched in Taiwan, and shown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, it’s not yet available in the United States. Note that the firm is working on setting up a sales channel for the MPH in the United States and if there are any questions, contact TiS representative David Burke. Nevertheless, we recently received a Personal Version of MPH and subjected it to a Hands-On Test. The Enterprise Version is not yet available but will arrive later this year.

Unboxing and Installation
It only took a matter of minutes to un-box and install the Mobile Print Hub.

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