Eye-Fi has a new generation of wireless SD cards

CES 2010 802.11n and lots of features

Eye-Fi logoYOU MAY KNOW about Eye-Fi, the company that makes SD cards with an 802.11 radio in them. It has a new generation of parts called the X2 line about to ship.

The idea is simple. The first generation Eye-Fi used off the shelf parts used in very clever ways to add WiFi to an SD card. The success of those products allowed Eye-Fi to design its own ASIC, leading to a bunch of new features in the X2. From the outside it looks much the same, just like an SD card, but now the parts go up to 8GB and support SDHC formatting.

802.11n is the first big feature on the list, offering over 100Mbps in theory, but given the antenna on the Eye-Fi, shielding on the camera, and power constraints, don’t look to be breaking into the triple digits, much less MIMO channel bonding. That said, it will offer a real boost over 802.11g, longer ranges and more fault tolerance. Also overlooked are the power saving features of 802.11n. In the Eye-Fi and small cameras, this can add up to a big battery life win.

Software is where the real difference becomes apparent. The first generation cards used a browser based software stack, while the newer ones use Adobe Air, something that is not only cross-platform but also allows desktop interaction. Lets hear it for intelligent design choices.

The new ASIC lets the Eye-Fi FTP pictures off the camera automatically, upload to Facebook, and use Facebook notifications to alert friends, family, and potentially lucrative blackmail targets that there are pictures uploaded to other sites as well. It sounds kind of handy, but we will have to see how it works out in practice, since the devil is in the details. A camera that automatically FTPs to your server wirelessly sounds pretty intriguing.

Probably the most interesting feature is called endless memory. You can set the X2 Eye-Fis to never allow the card to go past a minimum of free space. If you set it at 50 percent free space, it will automatically delete any pictures on the cards that have previously been sent to a repository every time you go over that amount. If you leave pics on the cards, the X2 can manage your free space for you to avoid the embarrassing problem of managing pictures on the camera in public.

X2s go up to 8GB now with Class 6 speed. The top card costs $150, the same as the older 4GB version. More features, twice the capacity, twice the speed, and less power use for the same money. Toss in that it is actually useful, and it looks like Eye-Fi has a winner on it’s hands.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate