/ Article INfusing Innovation into Network Scanning

By Ralph Gammon, Editor, Document Imaging Report

The new Alaris INfuse Smart Connected Scanning Solution leverages S2000 network scanners and INfuse Management Software to scan-enable third-party applications in an efficient and secure manner.

There is always a lot of talk in the market about being able to package solutions for end users. On the software side, this typically means configuring an ECM or capture application to manage specific document types or workflows. Hardware vendors often talk about solutions, but the plugand-play nature of their devices has typically meant that scanners are largely decoupled.

For the past decade, the customizable architecture of touchscreens incorporated in network scanning devices has offered a way to more tightly incorporate hardware as a piece of a solution. But due to factors like the high cost of the devices and the complexity and limited nature of the integration, traction in the market has been limited. Alaris, the information management division of Kodak Alaris, is hoping to change that with the release of its INfuse Smart Connected Scanning Solution.

Designed with input from its partner channel, INfuse incorporates Alaris’ S2000 networkable scanners, a new cloud-based INfuse Management Software application, and third-party software from partners to create a highly responsive, dedicated scanning environment. “We have a variety of different kinds of partners, but a big group of them are solutions providers that either are integrators or have their own software that needs to incorporate capture,” said Sue Rodeman, director of worldwide marketing for Alaris. “We interact with them on a regular basis, and over time when discussing their needs, four major themes emerged:

  • onboarding content is too complex: “They need a more efficient way to get content into their systems. It has been taking too many steps.”
  • remote management was lacking: “In a lot of cases, these partners are working with end customers that have multiple sites in dispersed areas. Managing scanners in these environments can be costly—it gets expensive to send staff out to do installations, updates, and troubleshooting. Our partners wanted a way to manage all this remotely.”
  • end-user notification capabilities needed: “Our partners found that many times their customers were onboarding content with errors into their business processes. These might be bad invoice numbers, a missing signature or some meta data that couldn’t be read. It can be inefficient to go back and try to correct these errors after they’ve been passed downstream. Our partners saw an opportunity to introduce some sort of immediate notification capabilities to help improve their customers’ experience and reduce costs.”
  • partner protection needed: “Our partners were putting together end-to-end solutions that included Alaris devices on the front end but when it came time to implement them, their customer’s purchasing department would go and find a scanner through a more commoditized channel, which was affecting our partners’ revenue streams. They were looking for a way to insure against this.”

According to Jim Forger, worldwide product manager, Alaris recognized a lack of tools in the market that could meet these requirements. “Most partners have been attempting to utilize simple push scanning tools to move files into some type of intermediate destination, like a network folder, and then using a scheduler to pick them up,” he said. “This means there’s no linkage between their business processes and onboarding of content. So, in the case of a loan application, if you had something like a missing signature on one page of a 30-page document, the applicant would have to be brought back in, which can be both expensive to manage and problematic from an experience standpoint.

“Our partners were looking for an integrated scanning solution that could be directly controlled by their software. They were looking for something that could be tightly coupled and deployed throughout their customer bases, as well as used to differentiate their applications. A lot of times their applications are aimed at specific vertical markets, so they know the type of acceptance rules and data governance they have to incorporate.”

“Between INfuse and the Scan Station, we can enable users to send just about any kind of file from anywhere to anywhere with varying degrees of opportunity for our partners to connect and integrate their software. We now have a very strong story to tell around network scanning.” Kara Rayburn Global Manager of Portfolio Marketing, Alaris

Anatomy of a Solution

Forger explained why the Alaris S2060w and S2080w scanners, which are networkable through either wireless or Ethernet connections, are such a good fit for INfuse. “The S2000s have a ‘system on a chip’ architecture, which enables them to be modified to include additional functionality and connectivity,” he said.

When the scanners were introduced a couple years ago [see DIR 10/13/17], Alaris included a Web API that could be used to connect the devices directly to thirdparty applications. “That API enables ISVs to pull images into their applications,” said Forger. “The downside is that this architecture puts the burden of managing individual scanners on the partners, which they have to do on a device-by-device basis.”

The INfuse Management Software addresses this. “It essentially provides a single point of access for fleet management across an enterprise,” said Forger. “INfuse can be used to manage thousands of devices. It is connected to the third-party application through an API and has the ability to do device configurations, set up workflows, and even manage the software licensing system.”

One feature incorporated in the S2000s is the ability to change the profile of scanning jobs on the fly by scanning a patch code sheet. “With INfuse, a patch code sheet can be utilized to set up the scanners within a partners’ solution,” said Forger. “The patch code sheet enables users to do a self-install in about 15-20 seconds, with no technical assistance. The first time the user plugs in the scanner, they scan the patch code sheet and the device essentially puts itself on the network. Behind the scenes, the partner software makes sure everything is licensed properly and sends down the configuration, branding information, and jobs to be displayed.”

The first version of the INfuse Management Software is designed to run on a private Azure cloud hosted by Alaris partners. “Each instance is multi-tenanted, so partners can stand up one instance and use it to support multiple customers,” said Forger.

The INfuse Management Software also has the ability to track scanner usage, but any captured images and data go directly from the scanners to the third-party application. “All the security and compliance is between the partners and customers,” said Forger. “We don’t get in the middle of that.”

Defining the Market

The initial target partners for INfuse are ISVs. “This is based the size of the opportunity and the relevance,” Forger said. “ISVs also have the most control over their applications [compared to SIs or VARs].”

In terms of markets, Forger said, “Think invoicing, medical records, onboarding at banks and financial institutions, and even education, where we are currently looking into a huge opportunity related to testing,” he said. “We are looking at applications that are highly distributed in nature and spread across multiple outlets, branches, or retail store fronts.”

Forger offered some detail on how ISVs can communicate with distributed users to manage exceptions. “Depending on how complex a process is, a capture loop should take a few seconds at most,” he said. “Say, in a loan application process, a customer forgets a signature. The partner can set up INfuse so a customized message of up to 130 characters appears on the scanner display, so the person submitting the documents knows right away that there is an issue. It’s all tokenized for security. This feature has been very enthusiastically adopted by our partners, and they are figuring out some unique ways to use it.”

Scanner as a Service

INfuse solutions are being brought to market in a variety of ways, including bundling scanners as part of a SaaS offering. “Partners are not trying to position INfuse as a device sale,” Forger said. “Instead of selling scanners, they are presenting the devices as a way to get content into their medical records or invoice processing systems.”

This approach complements the protected sales model. “INfuse devices can only be configured through the management software,” said Forger. “End users can’t change the configurations. If they want to extend or enhance the scanning capabilities, the users have to work through their partners. This ensures partners are involved every step of the way.”

INfuse also incorporates the ability for a partner to suspend the connection between a scanner and the software if the user is in arrears of their subscription. “We were told that this is important functionality for our partners to ensure they get paid for their services,” said Forger.

INfuse is available now, and Alaris has partners in various stages of deployment. “The integration process typically takes about two to four weeks, depending on how robust and complicated the partner wants to get,” said Forger. “Typically, the partner will go into pilot with one of its customers to make sure everything is working correctly and that the expected ROI is there. We have some partners that have completed all that and have made sales. We have other partners working on integration and others still doing evaluation.”

In conjunction with INfuse, Alaris has expanded its Developer Program and launched a new mobile-responsive partner portal. The portal can be used for deal registration and offers sales and marketing collateral, tools, and support. Alaris has also introduced a new Scanner Management Platform, as part of its Managed Capture Services proposition. This platform enables Alaris partners to monitor their customers’ scanners’ operational data, deliver usage reports, and manage alerts.

Network Scanning Focus

INfuse is part of an increased focus by Alaris on network scanning. On the same day INfuse was announced, Alaris announced a new version of its Kodak Scan Station 730EX. The 730EX Plus features an embedded Windows 10 IOT Enterprise OS and network domain authentication for secure log-in. “Partners can now start to deploy more secure implementations and solutions with the Scan Station,” said Kara Rayburn, global manager of portfolio marketing for Alaris.

“We think we now have a pretty good end-to-end offering for anyone looking for network scanning solutions,” she continued. “Between INfuse and the Scan Station, we can enable users to send just about any kind of file from anywhere to anywhere with varying degrees of opportunity for our partners to connect and integrate their software. We now have a very strong story to tell around network scanning.”

 

Alaris Document Imaging Report

Document Imaging Report (DIR), is the premier management and marketing newsletter on opportunities and trends in converting paper processes to electronic format -a key piece in a digital transformation strategy. Ralph Gammon has served as editor of the DIR since 1998 and took on publishing responsibilities in 2002. In 2017, Ralph joined the international market analysis firm infoSource as Americas Regional Manager. For more information on DIR: https://www.documentimagingreport.com/?page_id=1345

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