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JetSend Technology Allows Device Connectivity With No Servers, Drivers, Or Code.

Alex Pournelle is a partner at Workman & Associates--a VAR in Southern California; and a consultant for Hewlett-Packard's Information Appliance Operation (Boise, ID).

Current communications architectures for electronic devices are very limiting: only certain types can talk and, then, only with lots of help. Many times, the end user is at the mercy of support staff, who must set up an interface--whether specialized hardware or the correct device drivers--and, otherwise, persuades one piece of equipment to send and another to receive. Quite often, these setups are difficult, single-purpose, and work only when both pieces of equipment are in the same office.

Establishing and maintaining interfaces between electronic devices--which is, after all, what a device driver does--is its own problem set, as any integrator will attest. The problem doesn't end at PC device and driver installation: printers must be added to network print queues; users must be trained on equipment usage; and driver changes must propagate to each PC. And the cycle begins anew when some new combination of devices is necessary. In each case, custom setup is required: the end user can't just plug arbitrary devices together and expect them to work.

Similarly, the success and pervasive nature of fax can, in large part, be blamed on the failure of email to truly become universal. After all, if email could easily send paper documents, was more easily addressed to any recipient (think phone numbers), and still worked on top of the existing IP infrastructure, it might be a universal business tool, instead of adding yet another flow of information, as it does now.

These problems have created a great deal of work for corporate MIS departments and frustration for millions of users. They are also some of the reasons behind JetSend, HP's technology for communications between electronic devices. JetSend is a no-server, no-code, and no-drivers protocol for connecting arbitrary display or hardcopy devices. It's not just meant for connecting scanners to printers (though this is the most popular example); it's an architecture usable by any arbitrary, image-oriented device to communicate with another.

JetSend technology is a HP-developed communications protocol that allows devices to negotiate information exchange intelligently and without user intervention. The JetSend protocol acts like a built-in intelligence module that allows devices to communicate and exchange information directly with one another. Each device is embedded with device firmware or software that contains information about how it works. This firmware includes the JetSend technology and a small amount of device-specific integration code. Because each device knows its own capabilities and can communicate these via JetSend technology, they can interact directly to accomplish a specific communications task. This eliminates the need for external device drivers.

JetSend Examples

JetSend isn't merely a solution to a single problem such as scanner-to-printer connectivity. Instead, it changes the methods for moving data from one device to another and, thus, avoids an entire set of problems: drivers and their updates, establishing communications between devices, choosing a compatible resolution between two peripherals, and burdening servers or host PCs with the information to be transferred.

A JetSend "surface" can be thought of as a container for information and is composed of a header (including a name), a description, and content. For example, the pages captured by a scanner and rendered by a printer are surfaces since they convey information exchanged by these devices. For a page, the header includes a name, which is simply a unique surface identifier such as a page number or page title. The description enumerates attributes and their values that the sender supports and the receiver can select. These attributes might include the size that the captured information will fill on a page and the color space such as monochrome, gray-scale, or color. The content is the binary data representing individual dots that make up the captured, transmitted, and printed page. Because it is such a different way of moving data from current methods, we'll first examine JetSend's most familiar use: fax replacement.

If, for example, you want to send a printed 20-page document to a colleague for review and return, you could simply fax it--subject to all the usual limitations of fax: 200 dpi I maximum, no standard grayscale, no color. Using JetSend, you'd instead put the pages in a scanner, punch in the IP address or name of the JetSend-equipped printer at her office, and push "Send." Advantages: the two devices would probably negotiate a much higher resolution, including shades of gray or full color if available, and they'd do it over a much faster IP connection instead of via a long-distance call.

All of these negotiations would take place automatically and in just a few seconds and the transmission would be completely error-free. What happened under the hood of our scanner-to-printer example? The same interaction, which governs all other JetSend transactions:

1. The user walks up to the sending machine and chooses a destination, either via IP address or by assigned name, and then presses "Send".

2. The sender then queries the receiver's capabilities, including resolution, color capability, and bit depth.

3. The two devices determine the best match between their capabilities--matching resolutions, color/b&w, bit depth, and so on.

4. The sender creates the material to be sent at the requested resolution.

5. The receiver prints or displays that e-material (In JetSend parlance, information to be transmitted, whether it's a page of text, a picture in an electronic camera, or a whole series of scanned pages, is called e-material, short for "electronic material").

But note also what didn't happen. The sender didn't need drivers for the receiver; it scanned the pages at the receiver's maximum resolution, say, 600 dpi in 24-bit color, and then sent the scanned pages to the recipient's color printer. The person sending the documents didn't have to know anything about that printer, other than its name or IP address. User training takes a few minutes, even for the most technophobic staffer. Send confirmation is immediate, since the devices handshake on the spot, unlike store-and-forward strategies.

The scenario changes only slightly, if the document only exists on your computer. In this case you'd simply "print" from within the application to the JetSend printer driver, just as you would a computer-sent fax; type in the receiving printer's address, and let everything else happen automatically. This avoids the hassle of adding printer drivers, other than the JetSend software itself, yet the document prints at the maximum resolution of the target device.

Digital cameras are another example. Currently, a user must be trained on a host application, such as PhotoShop, to do anything with the captured images in a camera, including printing a single picture. This means training that user on a complex app, and it means giving them a computer even for that single task. Some color printers are now coming with IrDA ports; with JetSend, the digital camera becomes the direct printer control. After shooting the pictures, our user simply points the two JR ports at each other and the camera displays the options for printing (e.g., a single image per page, two up, a contact sheet, and so on).

Alternately, the camera could be controlled directly by the printer, since either end can govern JetSend sessions. (Currently, only the sending device can control, but JetSend is being developed to allow control from either end.) Whatever the control method or device, the user doesn't have to load drivers or update firmware on either the camera or the printer--since JetSend handles the issues of resolution, bit depth, and available printer memory automatically.

Simplifying the use of digital cameras would put them in reach of many users who aren't computer-savvy. A building construction boss could "shoot a roll" of the site daily and send the pictures to the architect; a real estate agent could build a home walkthrough; cops on the heat could shoot pictures of an accident site without waiting for the criminalist. And, once captured, any interested party could browse pictures--directly from the camera, with an Ethernet interface, with no custom programming. Since JetSend will, in the future, allow control from the receiver, the field user could plunk the camera in a cradle and allow the central office to pick and choose which pictures they wanted.

Other JetSend Devices

Business communications are built on devices, not architectures, Most JetSend devices are currently HP products, but companies such as Canon I and Matsushita are licensees (see the "JetSend Licensees" sidebar for a full list). Below are a few of the categories of device which incorporate JetSend:

* Printers. The first JetSend-equipped devices were laser printers, specifically the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 4000 series, but there are also JetSend-enabled color laser printers and the technology is as applicable to inkjet or dye sublimation printers. Canon has announced that future printers will have JetSend capacity and Lexmark has also licensed the technology.

* Network Scanners. HP's Digital Sender 9100C, an offshoot of the Network ScanJet 5, can automatically scan documents and forward them to a particular PC, but it can also send e-material directly to a JetSend enabled printer via the corporate TCP/IP network.

* Handheld appliances. HP's CapShare 910 is a handheld device with 4MB RAM and a LCD panel for previewing the scanned documents. The user simply runs the CapShare over the pages, then hooks it to another JetSend device for printing, clip art, or OCR. Note that, as JetSend progresses, control of the transfer could also be done from the PC side, not just from the capture device.

* Digital still cameras. JetSend-enabled cameras can print automatically on a JetSend-enabled printer via an JR port, or through an Ethernet connection to any printer or PC.

Future products might include:

* PC Software. JetSend can do PC-to-PC transfers of imaged documents without users worrying about data formats (.JPG vs. .GTF, etc.) or concern about email details, such as file encoding (MIME vs. HEX, etc.). The software for this and the following example is being updated, but will be made available on the JetSend site.

* Desktop scanners on Windows PCs. These will be JetSend-enabled for sending and PCs will be enabled for receiving. Future LCD projectors would use JetSend, via an JR or Ethernet connection, instead of a VGA connection between a laptop to a projector. The user's presentation would appear at the maximum resolution of the projector without preparation or setup. The presentation could as easily be displayed on multiple projectors, companywide, at the maximum resolution of each device, all without the headaches of stringing them together, VGA distribution amps, and device drivers.

* Digital Whiteboards. Whiteboards with JetSend have been demonstrated at trade shows. Such devices could send directly to (or be queried by) any available printer or computer.

Other information appliances, from Windows CE and Palm Pilot PDAs to single function types (say, an Infrared-sensitive camera or a wireless portable document scanner) will get JetSend send/receive capacity, either from HP or third-party developers. JetSend could also be a real competitor to TWAIN, the scanner-to-computer protocol used by most PCs. TWAIN is showing its age. It lacks the flexibility to directly support compound documents, such as a page containing both black and white and color pictures, and hierarchical documents, an entire chapter or article. Also, you cannot use TWAIN to directly transmit pages to someone else; you must open a scanning application, scan them, save them in an appropriate format, then hope the resulting scans are not so large that they clog the recipient's email inbox.

Limitations Of JetSend

Since JetSend works over existing protocols, companies needn't modify their infrastructure to implement the technology; in fact, anyone with a TCP/IP network can try it today. Still, JetSend is still in development. It is currently usable only for Intranet applications; it lacks any RFCs for access through a firewall; it has no intrinsic encryption or authentication, and, despite its non-system-specific nature, it needs the imprimatur of a major operating system to really gain mindshare. Currently, Microsoft, the obvious first target, doesn't officially support JetSend. JetSend now works over TCP/IP and Infrared only, though serial and USB communications are under development.

JetSend also lacks specific support for explicit colorspace conversion, which could make it a powerful tool for (both local and long-distance) prepress and print proofing. It also lacks store-and-forward capacity, somewhat problematic for a protocol, which determines the transmitted resolution at send time, but important nonetheless. If it were combined with Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) or the like, JetSend would be a powerful tool for moving compound documents of both human- and machine-readable e-material between users.

JetSend's developers are addressing all these limitations and there is nothing on the horizon, which directly competes with it. Sun's Jini, a Java-based approach for arbitrary device control and communication, and Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play (UPP) are currently too embryonic to be adopted; though JetSend is complementary to them.

JetSend also has a future beyond merely moving single pictures from one sender to one receiver. It's designed for network multicast, from a single sender to many receivers, and those receivers could be anything from a LCD projector to a PC to an "information kiosk". It could handle 3D or dynamic visual data, such as the output of a digital video camera. Developers are also discussing how to extend JetSend to support non-visual data, such as audio: for example, voice notes attached to particular digital camera snapshots, which TWAIN won't do.

Thus, as a communications method from the desktop to the enterprise, JetSend is a solution well worth a long look. It simply avoids the annoyance of device drivers, intermediate file formats, specialized interfaces between devices, and the like. It extends the reach of existing equipment types without additional programming, so devices in the field can be used or controlled by people in the home office. JetSend is in trials at various sites, but interested companies can do their own trials, especially for fax replacement, with existing networks.

For more information, visit Main JetSend (www.jetsend.com), Genoa Technology (JetSend test and certification lab--www.gentech.com), California Software Labs (custom programming, including for JetSend-- www.cswl.com/HPJetSend/white.html), Xionics (embedded systems company-- www.xioncs.com/whatsnew/pressreleases/19980616-01.shtml).

JetSend Highlights

* No server intervention-all communications are between the sender and the receiver, currently via TCP/IP or infrared; USB and other transports under development.

* Requires no drivers for one JetSend device to talk to another.

* Print or display resolution is negotiated automatically between the devices, no human intervention necessary.

* Applies to anyone wishing to send pages of pictures or human-readable text from one place to another in color or black and white.

* Currently, JetSend e-material can be standalone (e.g., one picture), compound (an entire page, including mixed color and B & W pictures), or hierarchical (an entire document, consisting of pages, which include text and pictures).

* Can already replace intra-company fax with higher resolution and color than standard fax, especially to communicate to people without email.

* Requires little installation troubleshooting, since it rides on existing IP (or IR) network, thus low incremental TCO.

* Training is low; users merely dial in an IP address or choose from stored receiver names.

* Risk of trials low: No code passed on network, no network infrastructure changes necessary.

JetSend Licensees

Though HP is the inventor and leading developer of JetSend-equipped products, the JetSend architecture isn't closed. There is an impressive host of licensees who are building tools for the development of, evaluating the development of, or developing JetSend products. Licensees are also actively involved in evolving the JetSend standard. At press time, they include:

* Axis Communications. Thin servers, including storage, CD-ROM, print and digital cameras.

* Canon. Copiers, fax machines, printers and digital cameras.

* Lexmark. Laser printers, multifunction peripherals.

* Matsushita/Panasonic. Whiteboards, digital cameras, scanners, video recorders, projectors, and telecommunication equipment.

* Ricoh. Copiers, fax machines, printers, scanners, digital cameras, and tablet PCs.

* Tobit. Fax and network software developers.

* Xerox. Copiers, printers, and imaging systems.

* Xionies. Embedded digital systems for printers, copiers, and multifunction peripherals.
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Title Annotation:Company Business and Marketing
Author:Pournelle, Alex
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:2655
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