Myron Kassaraba's weblog about digital photography on the web

Monday, June 11, 2007

Eye-Fi Raises $5.5 M for Wi-Fi SD cards

Eye-fi, a Silicon Valley startup announced that they have closed a $5.5 million dollar A round of venture financing. I first read about these guys last year and signed up for their beta in October (though wasn't selected). They are estimating that a 1GB Eye-fi SD card will be $100 - I just saw 1GB SD cards in a Sunday circular for $14.95. The idea of being able to instantly get my pictures from the camera to the web is appealing to me (hence the name of this blog!). I've tried a number of previous attempts including a SONY Clie with a Wi-Fi card, I still own my Nikon P3 (who's Wi-Fi I gave up on trying to get to work). It just seems to me that there is a lot more complexity to this Wi-Fi/SD marriage than meets the eye.

Here are a few of the issues that come to mind:
(1) Though I really like the idea of getting some of my pictures posted quickly to Flickr, it is maybe one in 5 - not all. It is still very important for me to get my original files on my desktop (and then onto my backup drive) so this is really not an obvious substitute for my cable.
(2) What happens if I am on a trip and am shooting more than 1 GB worth of images/video clips using multiple SD cards or I'm somewhere that might not have a Wifi connection that works. Unless I use the Eye-fi card exclusively, how do I manage transmitting my pictures on different cards?
(3) If I do use the Eye-fi card exclusively, how do I get the pictures to my PC? Do I upload and then sync back to my PC?
(4) Do the pictures go directly to Flickr or are they going through some intermediate site controlled by Eye-fi (that I would no doubt need to pay a subscription fee to use) and are then being relayed to the sites that I select.
(5) How does one manage the options for the Eye-fi through the cameras UI? Lets say I want all my pictures to be sent to my personal storage area in the cloud but I want to tag only certain ones to go to Flickr - some I want to be public, others private, etc.

Maybe Eye-fi's strategy is to prove out the software and platform with the SD card but ultimately their business is to license that SW and platform to camera or mobile phone vendors who integrate Wifi into their cameras/camera phones as a native feature or make Wifi available as a dongle (this is actually my preferred option - hope someone from Nikon reads this blog!).

I do question the long-term need for connected cameras that are not integrated with a phone (that may also have Wi-Fi capability). Though my recent experience with the Samsung A990 3.2 Mpixel phone from Verizon was pretty bad, phones from Sony Ericsson and Nokia are starting to deliver all the image quality and performance you need for most snapshots or photoblog posts. Plus they have an integrated keyboard for labeling and tagging, a more open environment for 3rd party applications (Shozu being one such example) and more of them have built-in GPS for automatic geo-tagging.

I wish the Eye-fi guys luck as I'm very pro sharing and getting the pictures off the camera and in some cases published to the web. I'm just not sure this specific product as a Wi-Fi/SD card for $100 is going to be a big winner with more capable camera phones coming on strong and such a cost competitive market for SD memory.



  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger Ben said…

    I think the more likely "default" supported mode on cameras in the future is wireless USB -> cell phone -> upload service. The interface issues you mention are significant for making a "generic SD card solution", i.e without special firmware on the camera. Also, WIFI is still a big battery drain, and would not be ideal in many (non-studio-class) cameras.

    But 3 years from now it's entirely possible everyone will have a wireless-USB enabled cellphone and camera, no reason they can't talk to each other, and have a tiny app on the phone to select which pix to upload, etc.


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