Saturday, November 9, 2013

Could the Future of Scanning be a Top Down Approach?

Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600. A new
"top scanning" design. $895
The direction of document scanning in the future may be top down. Literally. Four years ago, a company in San Diego, CA named Pathway Innovations & Technologies, Inc. developed the first "top scanner", a device in which the camera is on a stand and points down at a document, whereas traditional scanners incorporate a camera beneath a glass platen. The traditional flatbed scanner is slow. The "top scanner" is fast, scanning a page in less than one second. And, with top scanning, there are no paper jams and no ripping of paper. As the resolution of "top scanners" made by Pathway, which it calls The HoverCam, have improved, so has the quality of the scans. The company has been awarded both a U.S. design patent and a utility patent for the HoverCam invention. Although annual sales are still relatively small at less than $10 million a year, Pathway is a young, emerging company and is growing. What's interesting is that the top down scanning approach was recently validated by Fujitsu, the 800 lbs. gorilla of the scanning market, which introduced its own top scanner model called the ScanSnap SV600.  The Fujitsu model's main purpose is scanning, and, it's not cheap, with a $895 price tag. By comparison, the HoverCam Solo 5x (and the soon to be released Solo 8) model is more than a scanner; it's also a document camera used to show images during live presentations and training sessions. In addition, the HoverCam Solo 5x document camera is also a HD high-definition web conferencing camera, a video camera that records video and voice with its built-in microphone, and has a flexible camera head so that it can be pointed in any direction and used as a USB camera. And, HoverCam has come to market with portable version of the top down scanner - the HoverCam Mini - so small it weighs less than 6 oz and fits in your pocket or evening purse. (In April, 2014 HoverCam will release the Solo 8, the world's first 8-megapixel, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 document camera with up to 4K resolution and a refresh rate of full motion 30 frames per second video.)
HoverCam Mini 5 document
camera and scanner. It scans, records
video, takes snap shots and is an
HD webcam. $249

The shape of scanning in the future could be top down, with Fujitsu and HoverCam leading the way with the new "top scanner" approach. Office products retailers such as OfficeDepotStaples and OfficeMax have shown interest in the new concept and have picked up the HoverCam products. In Fujitsu's marketing video of the SV600, the scanning giant fired a direct competitive shot at the HoverCam design, validating the top scanning approach. If Pathway Innovations and its HoverCam are able to do to the scanning market what they did to Elmo Manufacturing Corp. in the document camera market for education -- in which HoverCam was disruptive with its patented new approach selling over 100,000 units in less than 3 years to schools-- then be on the lookout for changes in the future of scanning.

(About the author: Craig Justice is VP of Sales for Pathway Innovations, maker of The HoverCam.)

No comments: