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Linux-based tablet aims at document management market

Jun 2, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Ricoh announced a new Ricoh eWriter Solutions (EWS) business unit, with a tablet-based document management platform for enterprises that want to move paper processes online. The “eWriter Solutions” platform combines back-end eWriter Workflow Services for forms management with a Linux-based, 9.7-inch Ricoh eQuill tablet — featuring an E Ink Pearl screen and a five-megapixel camera, says the company.

The goal of the new Ricoh EWS-Global unit and its eWriter Solution is to help businesses transition from paper to digital processes more efficiently, says Ricoh.

One can be forgiven for thinking this sounds like a "paperless office" pitch from 20 years ago, but the truth is that many large organizations ranging from hospitals to insurance companies still depend on predominantly paper-based, form-driven workflows. And the digital tools available now for making the transition from paper are far more effective than the original paperless solutions.

Ricoh Equill

eWriter digitizes and integrates traditionally paper-borne processes such as forms setup, photocopying, scanning, and archiving, says Ricoh. Applications are said to include healthcare, document management, credit and insurance claim processing, home and business audits and inspections, plus civil and police reporting.

Forms-based tasks made available with the Ricoh eQuill electronic "clipboard" include the ability to enter data via handwriting of a software keyboard, as well as to sign documents with a supplied stylus. Photos can be appended to the forms using the tablet's five-megapixel camera.

On the back-end, eWriter authenticates signatures by date, time, and biometric stroke recognition. It also stores and encrypts documents using Ricoh's AuthentiDoc services, which include rights management controls, says the company.

Ricoh did not list processor or memory details for the eQuill, but says the 9.6 x 7.4 x 0.38-inch, one-pound device can store up to 25,000 pages locally. Presumably the tablet incorporates a memory card reader or solid state drive (SSD).

The eQuill features a 9.7-inch monochrome E Ink Pearl display, a technology used on the latest Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble's monochrome All-New Nook e-readers. The 16 grayscale level display is said to render 1200 x 825 pixel resolution at 150 ppi, with 10:1 contrast ratio.  A secondary 0.95-inch, 96 x 64-pixel OLED display is offered for viewing camera images, shown in the upper right of the image at right.

The eQuill connects to the eWriter Workflow Services via 802.11b/g Wi-Fi or 3G. The tablet offers a battery life of 20 hours in continuous use, says the company. The device is said to charge via a 100V-240V U.S. power adapter or micro-USB cable, says Ricioh.

Additional features include a speaker and a microphone, with support for voice recording. Various buttons include a "submit" button for submitting forms. The tablet also offers a temperature range of 32 to 122 degrees, three-foot impact resistance, and IP54 water and dust resistance, says Ricoh.

The Linux-based eWriter Solution software imports and exports standard PDF files. The eWriter Workflow Services, meanwhile, provide users with downloadable, pre-populated forms, complete with auto-fill features provided on the server side and on the tablet, says Ricoh.

eWriter features include auto-verify fields that prevent progression/submission without a signature, as well as drop-down menus, text fields, check boxes, radio buttons, and signature boxes, says the company. Additional features include central management for forms and documents, users and groups, applications, tablets, location services, auto-wipe, 3G, and storage.

The eWriter software is designed to integrate with leading data capture, document/content management, electronic healthcare record (EHR), and other business automation systems using PHP and C# APIs, says the company. A development platform is available to create custom forms-capture applications, enabling policy-based, server-managed operations with periodic syncs and mirrored backups. A scripting language allows developers to write customized forms applications in Python, with browser-based viewing capabilities, says the company.

Stated Paul Ahrens, general manager, Ricoh EWS-US, "By blending all the affordances of paper with the advantages of the digital world, we give businesses a paperless forms-capture solution that extends the reach of centralized IT to the edges of their organizations."


The Ricoh eWriter and the Ricoh eQuill tablet will be available this summer via "value-adding channel partners," says Ricoh. Pricing is quoted on per-configuration basis, with entry-level pricing starting at under $500.

Value-added options will include custom forms applications developed with the eWriter Development Kit, available later this month. Ricoh's eWriter Workflow Services will be sold directly to enterprise customers, says the company.

More information on eWriter Solutions may be found at Ricoh's eWriter site, and more on the eQuill tablet may be found on this eQuill page, as well as in this eWriter/eQuill PDF datasheet.

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