Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WiFi in a SD memory card: Eye-Fi

The guest speaker at tonight's meeting of the IEEE Santa Clara Valley Consumer Electronics Society meeting was Ziv Gillat, Vice President of Business Development and Founder of Eye-Fi.

If you (like me) are a serious amateur photographer who gets frustrated with USB-2 transfer speed after shooting a bunch of pics, you should definitely check out the Eye-Fi product. I had heard of DSLR cameras adding WIFi connectivity, but it turns out that Eye-Fi has a solution that you can add to almost any digital camera. They have figured out a way to add an Atheros WiFi chip to a standard format 2GB SD card.

Ziv passed around a sample of the Eye-Fi card, showing the Samsung flash memory, Atheros WiFi, and Hyperstone memory controller, along with a few other support chips. If you want more of the parts breakdown, there is even a Wikipedia page with the details.

The cool things about the Eye-Fi are not just the technology, but also the infrastructure, service and business model that make it a complete solution. Ziv has setup relationships with online photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Kodak, Facebook, etc. so that you can essentially stream your pictures live directly to the internet - as long as you are within reach of a WiFi hotspot. During the meeting, Ziv shot some pics and they automatically uploaded to Flickr and Facebook while he was talking. He also has arranged a relationship with Skyhook Wireless, which enables automatic geo-tagging of your pictures based on the location of the nearest WiFi MAC address. That part's kinda scary, since Skyhook apparently drives around (like Google street view) and sniffs out locations of wireless routers to build their location reference database.

The demo worked surprisingly well, given that the camera used for the demo was a high-end Nikon which has a metal case, and the SD card was inserted in a compact flash (CF) card adapter. The Eye-Fi business model offers tiered pricing, starting at $49.95 for the Eye-Fi Home edition, which only works with your home computer. That's still cheaper than the 1st 2GB CF card I bought for my Canon EOS just a couple years ago. The 2GB Eye-Fi Share adds the direct online upload capability for $59.95. A 4GB Eye-Fi Explore card adds Wayport hot spot access and geo-tagging for $99.95.

So... I want one! But first, I have to get my CF card connector fixed. Yep... I was in too much of a hurry shooting my son's High School Hockey Championship game on Sunday, when I blindly attempted to switch cards at half-time. Ugh.. bent the pins. The bad news is that I couldn't shoot at all in the 2nd half. But the good news is that Scotts Valley won.. 12-1!


1 comment:

Ziv said...

Great write-up. Re: CF -- just a small correction -- I mentioned that you guys should "stay tuned" by signing up to our email updates list...

Thx :-)