For this installment of AFPC interviews, we spoke with Karsten Andreassen, R&D Manager, MPI Tech, to discuss how AFP continues to improve.
Q: What do you see as the single most important value AFP capabilities bring to an organization?
Karsten: It is the one standard format that can be used for all documentation. AFP is a very capable format, because it contains formats for pictures, graphics, and whatever else you’d like in your documents. You can make forms, specify your layout. It can do bills, transcripts, stationery, a large variety of things, and you can do it all in a digital format.
Q: Why do you feel the AFPC is important to the print industry?
Karsten: The AFPC as a consortium ensures that the standard is stable. We can guarantee that across the industry, because we have all the major players in the industry in the AFPC.
Q: Do you see AFP becoming more broadly deployed beyond transactional print? If so, in which types of output.
Karsten: It can be used for any document types, especially public-facing output that includes advertisements. We see a lot of applications using AFP to manage documents’ whitespace in statements and the like, to put in ads. You can do almost anything with it, in fact. We see it not only in transaction print, but also in PR and advertising circulars and direct mail.
Q: What is the most innovative application you’ve heard of that leverages AFP technology?
Karsten: Of course, my sales department is in my ear saying that the answer is Enterprise Print Manager by MPI Tech. [laughs] But I’m guessing you wanted to hear something else? Well, I know of some very good applications that generate AFP, like those from ISIS Papyrus and GMC. A major part of bringing AFP to the people is having good document generators that use that format. These programs bring everything together into an easy format, so it’s right at your fingertips to generate an AFP document.
Q: What is the one thing about AFP that you think we should know that we likely don’t today?
Karsten: What I think a lot of people don’t realize is that maybe 90% of the financial statements people get today are based on AFP. The statements you get from your bank and your insurance company, they almost all go through this very capable format.
Q: In your opinion, what has been the most important evolution of AFP that you’ve seen?
Karsten: To me, this evolution began when IBM opened up the standard and established the first iteration of the consortium, the AFP Color Consortium. The goal of this open consortium was to bring colors and color management standards to the architecture, and we continue to innovate in this regard to this day. Bringing AFP out of being proprietary to IBM and allowing more voices get involved in it has been a great strength for the architecture and the industry.
Q: In what industries do you see AFP being leveraged the most today? Where do you expect its adoption to increase in the next five years?
Karsten: AFP is currently seeing a lot of use on the finance, banking and insurance side of things, but we’re seeing it move more toward retailers and consumers, where your receipts and paperwork are being handled by this format. Factory paperwork makes good use of AFP, because its documents can be connected directly to the databases dealing with what’s going on in the factory.
Q: What, in your mind, sets AFP apart from other presentation architectures?
Karsten: Foremost, its stability. Documents generated in AFP years ago are still functional and still work on all of the newest printers. Whereas other architectures have transformed a lot over the years, and some of your older statements in those architectures can’t be printed on modern machines without first having to be transformed. In AFP, that stability’s there, and due to that, a lot of vendors adhere to this standard. It’s still bringing in new technologies and updates, but it also remains stable and compatible. You can handle all the newest formats, and you can still print your old stuff, no problem.
Q: What would you like to see AFP do that it isn’t doing right now?
Karsten: A lot of AFP today gets transformed into PDF formats that enable users with disabilities – for example, people with vision impairments who want documents read out loud – to access it. User accessibility is a big thing in PDF, and we’d like to bring it into AFP also, so we can bring all content to all users. That’s something we are working on, making it more inclusive by using metadata to make it simpler for programs to read our documents – not just phonetically, but what is a headline, what is in a table, and how that table should be read.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
Karsten: The consortium is a great idea. IBM had it originally, and of course a lot of vendors have pitched in. Sitting around – well, not always the same table, but in the same room – talking about the architecture and coming to agreements about which way to go. That’s a very good thing for the industry.