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HP App Uses NFC Phones to Authorize Document Printing

The ePrint application provides a way for companies to make sure that sensitive printed material does not end up in the wrong hands, or in a wastebasket.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 21, 2014

Hewlett Packard (HP) will release a new app for Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled smartphones that will allow users to easily authenticate themselves before printing any documents. The touch-to-authenticate app, known as ePrint, will be available for download starting on June 1, the company reports, and will provide a more automated option for users of HP's Access Control technology, which prevents printers from printing any document until an authorized individual identifies himself or herself at the actual printer.

Some of HP's enterprise-class printers, such as the LaserJet M476, already come with a built-in Texas Instruments RF430CL330H NFC RFID tag that includes a wired serial peripheral interface (SPI) or inter-integrated circuit (I2C) interface to connect the tag to the printer, enabling the printer to receive data transmitted from NFC-enabled smartphones and other devices. The company offers its JetDirect 2800W card reader (with a built-in NFC RFID tag), which can be installed in a printer's Hardware Integrated Pocket (HIP). The HIP, a feature of all LaserJet MFP mobile printers manufactured in or after 2008, allows users to plug in a variety of accessory devices that add functionality to the printer.

The ePrint app will be available for download via the Google Play website, starting in June.
NFC technology is already part of HP's touch-to-print feature, with which a user can present an NFC-enabled phone or tablet to a printer in order to initiate the printing of a document or other material directly from the handheld device. The printers—which are NFC-enabled via a built-in NFC tag, or the NFC tag incorporated in a JetDirect 2800w or Wireless 1200w HIP accessory—come with HP Mobile Print Accessories software that enables automatic printing. A user does not require an app, as the phone would employ the NFC peer-to-peer protocol to automatically upload the document file wirelessly to the printer and begin the printing process.

Since 2008, HP has also been selling a server-based Access Control Secure Print Authentication solution that allows companies that have a large quantity of HP's enterprise-class printers onsite to ensure that no document is printed in an unsecured way. For example, says Todd Gregory, the company's director of marketing for managed services, 25 to 30 percent of pages in the corporate environment, on average, are printed but never retrieved. This practice of printing documents without retrieving them presents a security risk for businesses, and also wastes paper.

Therefore, HP's Access Control solution was developed to enable the printing of a document only when an authorized individual comes to a printer to retrieve it, according to Jason Carney, Hewlett-Packard's Access Control product manager. An employee at his desk first presses the prompt on his or her PC to print a document, and then walks to a printer. A company may have multiple printers onsite, and a single queue to manage the printing jobs. In this case, the print jobs remain in the queue on HP's Access Control server until an individual identifies himself or herself at a specific printer. The printer forwards that data—a password, for instance—to the server, and prints the material if prompted to do so by the Access Control system. Until the NFC solution becomes available, the worker must provide identification credentials either by entering an authorized PIN into the printer's keypad, or, if a proximity RFID card reader was installed in the HIP, by tapping a proximity badge at that card reader.

The printer sends the PIN or badge ID number to an HP-hosted server via a cabled or wireless connection, and—if the printer receives an authorization from the Access Control software—prints the document. Otherwise, the queued document is never printed.

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