Why Bluetooth Low Energy is the Best Option for Mobile Printing

People most commonly think of Bluetooth as the wireless technology that allows them to connect a mobile device to a car or an earpiece. Bluetooth has given rise, however, to a newer generation of wireless technology – Bluetooth low energy (BLE) – which was first introduced in 2011. Today, BLE is the best option for mobile printing and other devices that require short bursts of connectivity.

In order to understand why BLE is perfect for all mobile printing needs, it’s important to know the difference between Bluetooth and BLE. Bluetooth connectivity is designed for devices like wireless headsets and speakers, mobile phones, and is ideal for streaming applications such as Pandora or Netflix. In comparison, Bluetooth low energy (also known as Bluetooth 4.0) is exactly what its name says: low power consumption wireless technology.

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How does BLE work?

Bluetooth and BLE both operate on the same 2.4 GHz ISM band. Unlike regular Bluetooth that uses a lot of power, BLE stays in sleep mode until a connection is initiated with a mobile device. The connections are short bursts because the data is traded quickly. Bluetooth low energy devices’ energy consumption levels are so low; one device can run on the same battery for years. Obviously, Bluetooth low energy isn’t going to work for Netflix, but its’ perfect for devices that only need to exchange data quickly and intermittently, like a mobile printer.

Who can use BLE devices?

BLE is perfect for devices that don’t need to stream large amounts of data continuously. This universal-low power wireless standard makes it easy to connect any product to a smartphone or tablet. BLE is the wireless technology used for personal fitness devices (like Fit Bits), as well as for monitoring sensors and mobile printers in taxi, rideshare, and delivery applications.

Where can you use them?

Bluetooth low energy mobile printers are small and light, and can easily be carried by servers in restaurants, delivery drivers, and workers in intermodal facilities and warehouses. They can be used to print invoices, labels, receipts, and other documents.

Star Micronics has several BLE-enabled printers ranging from compact models that measure only a few inches and fit into a pocket or apron, to more robust options all at affordable price points. Star’s mobile printers are perfect for indoor/outdoor use, field service and restaurant environments where they could get wet or dropped. These devices also come with an external power cable so they can be charged anytime, anywhere, even on the road.

Easy to use, even for BYOD workplaces

BLE printers are compatible with a large installed base of mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Star’s line of mobile printers is easy to use with any Apple iPad® or iPhone® BLE device and doesn’t require pairing. There’s no limit on the number of devices that can be connected to the mobile printers, making it the ideal solution for a BYOD (bring your own device) workplace. Employees don’t need to hunt for “their” tablet or mobile device; they can grab any equipment to complete the task at hand. Star’s mobile printers are also compatible with other operating systems, including Windows and Android.

BLE connectivity is the perfect option for mobile printing. These compact mobile printers are energy efficient and cost-effective for restaurants, rail yards, airports, and delivery services that need to print on-the-go receipts, labels, and create invoices. Learn more about Star Micronics’ SM-L200 and SM-L300 BLE portable printers.

Solutions for Printing from Web Browser-Based Applications: WebPRNT

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Receipt technology has advanced dramatically in the last several years. Previously, in every transaction, a customer would pay for their purchases at the POS terminal and accept a printed sales receipt as a proof of purchase in case they needed to make a return or exchange. Mobility, however, has revolutionized POS and changed the process of providing a customer with a receipt.

Star Micronics has developed a variety of printing solutions for mPOS, including two that facilitate receipt printing from Web-based applications via HTTP(s) and from a project on an Android device or iOS hardware such as iPad®, iPhone®, or iPod touch®. These solutions, WebPRNT and PassPRNT solve common problems merchant often encounter with mobile printing.

Print from a Web Browser-Based Application with WebPRNT

WebPRNT, which enables device-agnostic receipt printing technology, supports HTTP(s) requests used in Wed-based applications. It facilitates printing on any Star Micronics WebPRNT-enabled printer – including receipt, label, and kitchen printers – from any local device running a Web-based application.

This low cost, versatile solution to printing from Web browser-based applications allows users to print high-quality POS receipts with professional, crisp graphics on Star’s line of WebPRNT-compatible printers.

How It Works:

You can use any device you want when you download WebPRNT, so businesses can eliminate the need to spend money on upgrading their current hardware. This solution enables local printing from a device with a browser to a compatible WebPRNT printer (desktop or mobile) on the same network.

WebPRNT is easy to read, maintain, and modify for developers. It works with XML tags or a JavaScript software development kit (SDK) that is integrated into the Web application’s code. This functionality can be extended to Bluetooth printers by using the WebPRNT Browser with no changes to the Web code. In addition to Web-based applications, Star’s WebPRNT also supports HTTP(s) requests from native applications.

One advantage of integrating WebPRNT is that the application the engineer or developer creates can give a retailer more complete control of printing, such as the ability to adjust the formatting, operate the cash drawer, or check the status of the printer. It also enables additional, innovative features to be added to the print application including digital receipts and other cloud services.

WebPRNT technology is available with several of Star Micronics’ printers including the TSP650II WebPRNT, SP700 WebPRNT, TSP700II WebPRNT, TSP800II WebPRNT, as well as any of Star’s Bluetooth printers using WebPRNT Browser.

Why Choose WebPRNT:

  • Easy to use. WebPRNT eliminates time spent downloading software and installing drivers. The app enables printing from any local device hosting a Web-based application (e.g., Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) to a Star WebPRNT-enabled receipt printer.
  • Affordable. WebPRNT enables printing from any application or operating platform without the need for expensive, multi-platform development costs.
  • Compatible. WebPRNT allows users to print from their application to a WebPRNT-enabled receipt printer from any device, regardless of its operating platform.

To learn more about WebPRNT and find out if your Star Micronics receipt printer supports WebPRNT, please visit http://starmicronics.com/pages/WebPRNT.

Download our eBook: Solutions for Printing from Web Browser-Based Applications on iOS, Android, and Windows

4 Solutions to Overcome Mobile Printing Challenges

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Point of sale (POS) is no longer limited to the traditional, fixed model. Merchants have tried and proven the benefits of mobility. They can complete payment transactions in-aisle of tableside, and set up additional checkouts for line busting.

Here are four common challenges merchants face with mobile printing and the solutions that will help you overcome them.

Challenge 1: Printing from an iOS, Android, or Windows Native App

With most legacy applications, many POS printers and printer brands could be used by just installing the right Windows driver. Since iOS and Android operating systems do not have a print engine to support drivers, the printer functions need to be integrated inside the POS software, thus limiting the choice. Fortunately, these companies have usually integrated the best of breed printers which make for an easy choice.

Solution: SDK Integration

A software development kit (SDK) helps software engineers or developers to speed up the process to support special features (like printing) in software applications. The printing SDKs needed to create applications are usually available for developers to download from the printer hardware manufacturer. For example, iOS applications traditionally use Objective-C or Swift programming language, while Android uses Java.

An advantage to SDK integration is that the application your software engineer or developer creates can give you more complete control of printing, such as adjusting print formatting, controlling the cash drawer, or checking the status of the printer. It also enables additional, innovative features to be added to the print application such as digital receipts and other cloud services.

Challenge 2: Printing from a Web Browser Application

Advanced Web standards, such as HTML5, give developers the ability to build Web-based applications with nearly the same level of features as native (local) applications. Web applications have the added advantage of allowing live, automatic updating so that customers always have the most up-to-date version of the software since the application lives in the cloud.

If the POS software is Web-based, the issue isn’t which mobile device the application is running on. Most Web-based solutions are device agnostic: if the device can connect to the Internet, it can usually use the application. In this case, it’s necessary for the printer to receive data directly from the Web-based application.

Solution: WebPRNT

Star’s JavaScript-based WebPRNT technology allows complete control of any Star WebPRNT Ethernet interface printer. Developers can use Star’s JavaScript library and Builder API to integrate a Web-based application with a WebPRNT printer. In addition, this functionality can be extended to Bluetooth printers by using the WebPRNT Browser with little to no changes.

Challenge 3: Printing from a FileMaker™ Project

FileMaker Go is a free app that runs FileMaker applications, such as those for POS and retail management solutions on iPad®, iPhone®, and iPod Touch®. Traditionally, it has not been possible to print from applications such as FileMaker Go to point of sale and mobile printers.

Solution: PassPRNT

Star’s PassPRNT application solves the problem of printing from FileMaker applications. Any FileMaker Go project, native iOS or Androud application, or Web application can send the receipt in an HTML format to the PassPRNT application using a URL Scheme. The PassPRNT native application then formats the receipt for the printer and sends it to any Star Bluetooth printer paired with the iOS device. The operating system can automatically switch from the FileMaker application to the PassPRNT application and back, making seamless, “one-tap” printing possible.

Challenge 4: Continuing to use a Legacy Windows Application with Newer Mobile Hardware

In some instances, a merchant may want to update its hardware to be more mPOS compatible, but also wants to continue to use their legacy system running an OS such as Windows or Linux. Examples may include a PC upgraded to a Microsoft Surface, or a desktop serial or parallel printer upgraded to a network or Bluetooth POS printer.

Solutions: Update Hardware and Drivers

Most legacy applications can be used on the latest Windows 8.1 or 10 tablets. But like any new installation, the new hardware needs to be set up, meaning new drivers, and new configuration. Network printers (either LAN or WLAN) are usually recommended for mPOS system, however new Bluetooth printers are often as powerful and easier to set up. In this configuration, the old cash drawer can be connected to the new printer. However, if the decision is made to use a mobile printer, more modifications are needed. Since 90% of all cash drawers are usually driven by a POS printer, if a portable printer is now used, you will need to update your cash drawer to a wireless one, or integrate DK-AirCash to bring the old drawer to an Ethernet or wireless configuration.

To learn more, download out eBook: How Printer Software Technology is Evolving to Accommodate mPOS