by Greg Walters
What does "scan once, print many" mean? Anyone? Bueller ... ? Back in the good old days of analog copiers, pagers and dinosaurs, the scanner on copiers needed to take a “picture” for every copy made: When 10 copies were requested, the scanner moved across the original 10 times. You can imagine how this added to the wear and tear of a device and repeated, on-site service.
Once devices became digital, the need to scan for each copy ended. Instead, one picture was taken, digitized and available to print for each image requested.
It was a common demo technique to place an original on the glass, touch 10 copies, and while the batch was being output, raise the ADF. In the analog world, this act would result in copies of open lids and black space. Prospects were known to gasp because the digital photocopier kept churning out copies of the original, even with the lid raised.
Digital devices carried another cool quality; they connected to a network. As time passed, somebody in the copier world pondered, "if a copier can connect to a network, why can't it “talk” with other machines?"
Smart people saw the benefits of remotely communicating with devices. Error codes, usage history, ROM upgrades and current status were just a few data points service departments would value. Machine to machine (M2M) communications came to copiers —or was it the other way around?
Nowadays, everything is connected. Refrigerators, doorbells, microwave machines, automobiles, cows, plants, cameras, mobile phones, coffee machines — not just your printers, copiers, servers, switches, PCs and mobile devices. This connectivity brings convenience and enhanced customer experiences and as you’ve heard, greater risk. Does your refrigerator have the computing power to bring down your neighbor’s secured switch, hack into their hard drive and steal ABA and routing numbers?
Perhaps not. But what if your toaster, every toaster on your block, in your city, state, country or universe combined processing power to form an attack?
Enter something called “blockchain”.
If you are not familiar with the phrase, check it out — a detailed explanation is well beyond this entry. The Harvard Business Review describes it as "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way."
My best description is a “self-regulated, decentralized security process, metamorphically similar to a digital chain of custody that, once established, cannot be altered.” It’s an oversimplification, but you get the point. Let’s just say that blockchain methodology can secure anything of value, like copiers, printers, print jobs, and bitcoins, connected to the internet.
So what? How does this apply to your everyday technology business? Can you sell more copiers by talking about the IoT? Do your “down the street” prospects care about your connected devices and blockchain?
Does anyone in the C-suite consider copiers and the Internet of Things in the same instance?
I don’t think so.
So no, do not go to your next appointment and spew about blockchain and the latest bitcoin movement. Stick to the 30-minute value proposition (brag sheet).
From the seasoned and proven box-mover to the fresh-out-of-college sales rep, paying attention to blockchain and the internet of everything is a practice in self preservation.
This technology does not commoditize niches, it REMOVES channels. Think about it. Once the machines all talk to themselves there will be:
No more cold calls.
No more contracts.
No more technicians.
No more meter reads.
No more parts delivery.
No more sales managers.
No more help desk tickets.
No more installation process.
No more professional services.
No more pre-installation surveys.
No more last day of the month sales.
No more owners pushing hardware placements.
Think I’m wrong? Ask your local Inacomp or Computerland technician and see what he has to say about industry consolidation. Oh, that’s right, all those PC dealers are gone. A similar thing is happening to us.
But this isn’t unique to our copier niche. HVAC, building management, food and coffee services, uniform companies, building maintenance, and custodial programs will fade into the Internet of All.
This is your personal opportunity to pivot out of a consolidating sector into a more interesting, open and exciting realm.
I’ve always said, “if you can sell copiers, you can sell anything.” Today, I’d modify that to “If you can sell managed services, you can sell anything.” Your ability to translate a solution into positive business impact is an art that ports over to every “X” as a service.
Keep your ear to the ground, stay open to new ideas, try not to fall into the 30-day equipment cycle, and be alert for the next “scan once, print many” movement, outside of copiers.