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Mobile printing targets safety market

Brother targets public safety sector with PocketJet 6 printer

Though on-the-go workers have been taking advantage of mobile printing for a few years now, Brother International Corp. has updated its mobile printing strategy with the PocketJet 6, aimed at a new market.

“Who we’re really targeting this at is public safety,” says Brian Caldwell, senior manager of product planning with Brother. Several police units in the United States currently use the PocketJet 6. “Fleet installs” are the goal, with Brother aiming to have printers deployed to about 100 cars at once, Caldwell says.

Launched in Canada, the PocketJet 6 is the follow-up to the PocketJet 3 model. The printer can run on battery or be plugged into the wall or a car’s cigarette lighter. It prints on paper up to 8.5 inches wide that is pre-cut, rolled or fanfold, at up to six pages per minute, and a fully charged battery will print 100 pages. Including the battery, the PocketJet 6 weighs 1.3 pounds, much lighter than competing products such as HP’s Officejet 100, which is more than five pounds.

The printer comes with integrated USB 2.0 and IrDA interfaces, and an optional Bluetooth interface. Brother also supplies drivers for Windows and Mac and software development kits for various mobile platforms, including BlackBerry.

The Ontario Provincial Police currently have 500 PocketJet 3 mobile printers deployed in cars around the province for printing paperwork like traffic tickets, according to OPP project manager Harry Alkema.

“Basically it brings efficiency to the paperwork,” he says. The printers also provide accountability and reduce the time an officer needs to spend at the side of the road and how long a driver is held up.

“We wanted something very compact,” Caldwell says. “Inkjet is an option, which some competitors use, but does limit you if it remains in your car overnight,” he says, since ink can freeze.

Instead, the PocketJet 6 uses thermal printing. Though some thermal paper has been linked to health and environmental problems, such concerns didn’t come up when developing the PocketJet 6, Caldwell says. “It is still biodegradable paper,” he says.

Resellers have had success with the product so far, according to Caldwell. “It’s definitely a growing market,” Caldwell says. Sales people and government officials who work frequently from the road often use mobile printing to save time. “They’ve done well in the insurance industry,” he says.

Profit margins for resellers are in line with the rest of the printing industry, Caldwell says. Though he was unable to provide any concrete numbers, Caldwell says margins are highest on the supplies and accessories used with the PocketJet 6, including the paper and car adapters.