While waiting for a colleague to finish printing a PowerPoint presentation that was taking forever to print, I came up with the following ideas. If you're able to use them, feel free to do so!
Smart Printer Routing
In a networked printer environment, it'd be great if, when printing, the network gauged whether a printer was in use, how long its queue was, how complex the documents being printed are -- and routed a printout accordingly. If I'd known that the printer I normally use was already in use -- and would take a long time to become available -- I'd have selected another printer and walked a little farther. The network could make that decision for me and then tell me where to go to pick up my pages.
In-Stream Paper Reloading
When a printer runs out of paper, you need to refill it. That's obvious. What's not obvious is why this need to interrupt the printing process. What if printers told you when they reached a certain threshold of available paper, maintained a reservoir of 25 pages or so, and let you refill the paper while the printer was still printing? That way, you could reload the printer without interrupting your print job. Similarly, when you go to print a document, the network could tell you whether the printer was out of paper -- or needing to be refilled. Too often have I printed something, gone to the printer, and had to refill the paper.
My coworker and I had to laugh. You know you're a geek when ideas like this come to you while waiting for the printer. And it'd kind of sad that this even matters to me. But these ideas would make printers better, no?