Near-Field Communication (NFC), Mobile Device Printing

nfc touch-to-print feature
Touch-to-print with near-field communication (NFC). Samsung

Near-field communication? NFC? You’ve seen those commercials: Two young people exchange a song by tapping the back of their Samsung smartphones together. Or, perhaps two office workers exchange a spreadsheet the same way. Have you seen the one where a lady pays for her purchases in a department store by waving her phone over a device on or near the register?

All of these are forms of near-field communication (NFC), a protocol found on many of today’s mobile devices that enable wireless two-way communication between two devices within close proximity to one another. The question here is, where does this relatively new technology come in when it comes to printers?

NFC and Your Printer

The primary benefit of NFC is that it allows you to print from your mobile device directly to your printer without either device having to join your network, wireless or otherwise. You don’t even need a wireless network, in most instances. Nowadays, most of the major printer makers—HP, Brother, Canon, Epson, to name a few—have implemented NFC in one way for another on many of their inkjet and laser printers. 

Canon, for example, has even included it in some of its recent digital cameras, allowing you to print directly from the camera to the printer with either a close proximity wave or by holding the camera close to the printer and pressing a virtual button (on the camera) to initiate an NFC session. The procedure works similarly for smartphones and tablets (and perhaps even laptops, but waving a big and bulky notebook near a printer might not be practical). 

Some companies, such as Canon, have really gotten behind NFC, perhaps to the point of intimating that it’s a bigger deal than it really is. (Hype in printer sales, really?) Canon, for instance, has not only added NFC to some of its new higher-end printers, such as the Pixma MG7520 All-in-One, but it has also folded the protocol into its recently new Pixma Printing Solutions, which includes a brand new Pixma Touch & Print feature.

Here’s What Canon Has to Say About Pixma Touch & Print

“With PIXMA Touch & Print from Canon, you can quickly and easily print photos and documents from your NFC compatible Android device by opening the PPS app, choosing what you want to print and simply touching your device to the printer. The NFC technology creates an instant connection between your device and the printer, and transfers the data for you, no drivers needed. Now you can unlock those images, concert tickets, presentation files and more by bringing them into the real world with just a touch.”

That “touch” is, of course, you touching your mobile device to your printer, much like the folks on TV tapping two phones together. What actually happens is that the initiating NFC device sends out a request for or a “tag.” In turn, the receiving printer sends out its own NFC tag. After the two devices authenticate in this way, they can then exchange data, which usually entails the initiating device sending data to the printer for printing..

Canon is not the only printer maker to incorporate NFC. Epson, for instance, has deployed the protocol in several of its business-ready AIOs, such as the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 All-in-One, as well as several other WorkForce models. Brother, too, has included the protocol in some of its higher-end models, such as the recently released MFC-J5620DW wide-format model. Most NFC-ready machines have an “NFC" mark on them for touch-to-print operations, and you can actually scan, too, via Brother’s iPrint&Scan App.

The day hasn’t come when we can print telepathically yet, but NFC allows us to walk by the printer, touch something on your phone or your printer, or simply touching the printer with your phone, to print. Isn’t technology awesome?