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Xerox makes office equipment easier to use

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Engineers at Xerox are tackling productivity barriers and have designed ways individuals can use multifunction printers (MFPs) and apps to automate personal work processes.
An example could be a daily office chore such as scanning a document to your email, saving the file, and then uploading it to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. That takes time. But, what if a personal work app streamlined the process by handling these tasks in fewer steps, enabling the MFP to serve as a smart, connected workplace assistant?
“We’ve created a series of capabilities –¬ you could call it a toolkit — to enable users to customize printers and MFPs in a way that’s similar to how individuals use smart mobile devices to meet their personal needs,” says Keith Watson, part of Xerox’s Experience Design Group. “We’ve put the familiar interface of iOS or Android devices on to our ConnectKey-enabled devices. But it’s more than embedding a tablet into our products, our innovations aim to address the specific needs of our customers.”
With a familiar tap or swipe, for example, users can translate a document, scan directly to a client folder in the cloud or complete a loan application — whatever their work requires. Enhancements to the ConnectKey interface are included in the newly launched printers and MFPs.
“This launch marks a significant change in how work is accomplished,” says Steve Hoover, Xerox chief technology officer. “As the Internet of Things expands, the physical and digital worlds move closer together. Xerox innovations help office workers navigate by integrating their devices with the app world, creating an ‘open app ecosystem’ that makes it easier for workers to design how to best get their work done.”
In addition to focus groups and user experience testing, Xerox turned to its expertise in ethnography to enhance the ConnectKey platform. Ethnography is an in-depth approach to study human behaviour.
The ethnographic methodology, first applied to industry by Xerox social scientists in the 1980s, is a proven, systematic approach for capturing qualitative data about how people act in the workplace — what they do, what tools they use, how they interact with others and how they think in the real-life, natural settings where these behaviors occur.
“Every day we control our smartphones or tablets through a user interface that’s become so familiar it’s taken for granted. But behind the interface is complex software that helps us with tasks in daily life — getting directions in an unfamiliar city or checking airline fares, for example,” says Michael Kirby, manager of the AltaLink controller development group. “ConnectKey is the result of Xerox essentially re-imagining the user interface for an office portfolio.”
The ConnectKey portfolio now includes the Xerox VersaLink and AltaLink series. The VersaLink devices –are tailored to small workgroups and teams that work across different offices. The AltaLink series includes MFPs designed for larger workgroups. Both the VersaLink and AltaLink products share a similar user interface, which provides consistency to the workplace.