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Technology Tip - make your digital camera wireless with Eye-Fi

Eyefi That's it. I will never be surprised by technology again. When I hear about some new gadget or technology idea - I will no longer think, "yah right, maybe in the future." The future is here.

LIke most genealogists, I like taking pictures - pictures of the family, trees, and cemeteries. When I read about Eye-Fi last night, not only did I realize that the future was here, but I also knew that taking pictures would never be the same.

Eye-Fi makes your digital camera go wireless. As soon as you snap your picture, it will be wirelessly uploaded to your computer or favorite online photo sharing site such as Facebook, Flickr, Snapfish, Costco.com and more.

Imagine the possibilities - you're away on a business trip. Your family back home takes pictures of the day at the park. Without any effort on their part, the pictures are automatically uploaded to a private website that you can view. I live in Arizona. My extended family is all over the country. We don't see each other very often. Next Christmas, while I'm snapping pictures of my kids opening presents, my parents and siblings can watch it all happen - as it happens - as my pictures are wirelessly posted to our family's photo sharing site.

Eye-Fi will even geo-tag your pictures. It adds the latitude-longitude information to the picture's metadata so I can view all of my digital pictures by location. Have you ever snapped a picture on a vacation of a famous building? Later, at home, you had no idea where the picture was taken and why the building was so important that you took its picture? Because the pictures are geo-tagged, you can later view it on a map.

An Eye-Fi card is similar to your digital camera's memory card. It looks, stores media, and fits into cameras just like a regular SD/SDHC card. On top of that, the Eye-fi card has built-in Wi-Fi that uses your wireless network to effortlessly transfer photos and videos. The Eye-fi website explains that upon setup, you specify which networks the Eye-Fi card uses to transfer your media. Add up to 32 networks for your card to use. The next time your camera is on within range of a specified network, your photos and videos will fly to your computer and to your favorite sharing site. Their site also explains that it can use other available wireless networks and hotspots to upload your media.

I certainly don't know everything about this new technology that I want to know, but it's worth checking out. Visit www.eye.fi or watch these videos below for more information.


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Let's say a person doesn't have a wireless connection at home. (I don't.) But that person is out at their favorite cemetery in the woods taking photos from morning til night. They would like to upload their pictures to a photo-sharing site such as Picasa so they have more room for the next thousand or so. What wireless connection would make that possible? Are we to assume that wireless connections exist everywhere and these are separate from one's home network? Or is it a matter of turning over logins to the company who sells the cards so they can access the various sharing sites? Something's missing in my imagining of how this would work but then I'm only a country-hick in Canada.

JL - I imagine this possibility will exist in the future. Their site explains that when you are within range of a public hotspot (Wayport, McDonalds, airports, etc.) it will work. Or you can activate up to 25 different wireless networks when traveling.

I just got a eyefi card at Christmas. So far I have it set to upload to my home computer, my Smugmug account and from Hotspots. The first time I tried from a hotspot it didn't work. Second time it started but I didn't leave my camera on long enough. Your camera has to be powered on. I have it set to get a notification to my cell phone. So it's probably not going to work from a cemetery. But take a break, go to a local McDonald's (Haven't tried elsewhere) turn the camera on and upload to your photo sharing sight. Mine is working great with Smugmug! If I had an Iphone or some phone like that with data plan I suppose I could check immediately to see if it uploaded. Like I said just got it, but I am really impressed!

I haven't looked into this at all, but it will only be a matter of time until someone figures out a way to exploit this with a virus or other malware. Those who are going to use this technology need to stay up on the security aspects of it.

Great post and great comments.

A few answers:

* It's true that cemeteries would probably not have Wi-Fi. As Geoff wrote, you would need to get back into Wi-Fi range, either at home, or at an open hotspot, turn the camera on, and then your photos and videos will upload.

* There are devices such as the Verizon MiFi or the Sprint MiFi, or any Windows Mobile phone, that act as 3G routers + Wi-Fi hotspots. So for those that DO want to be online, everywhere, all the time, that already exists, today, and isn't just the way of the future. I use the MiFi and whenever I shoot events, or if I want my photos and videos to go up immediately, I just have the MiFi in my pocket, and I'm a walking hotspot. The Eye-Fi Card sees the MiFi, connects to it, and uploads, as I'm shooting, in real-time.

* But like I said, that's not necessary -- you can also just wait until you get back home, which you do, almost everyday.

* When you're on vacation, you can have the photos go straight to your laptop, via an ad-hoc connection, if you have our Pro or Pro X2 card. You don't even need open Wi-Fi.

* Lastly -- we DO NOT hold your personal information, in MANY cases, for all of those sharing sites. For example, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr and others, have a way for partners like Eye-Fi to authenticate a user WITHOUT holding their credentials, by depositing a token on our servers. This way, you enter your credentials with Facebook, for example, and they have a way of telling us, from their servers to our servers, that you've approved us to upload your photos, and they don't need to give us your username and password. Other services that are not that advanced do require Eye-Fi to store usernames and passwords, and we have a way of encrypting that data and even Eye-Fi employees don't have a way to get to that data. It's safely stored, encrypted and no one can get to it, other than our servers.

Thanks --


WiFi is a compromise solution here. The real "ewerywhere" option would be a mobile telecom enabled card (GPRS/UMTS/3G - we have it in Europe, I am not sure about Americas). The coverage is decent, probably covers most of the cemeteries as well.

If you have a GPRS/UMTS/3G card in your laptop - indeed it is easy to connect the WiFi card with it and the network. But it all sounds more like a gadget for reporters - what would be the problem to pull the card from the camera and stick it into a laptop?

I see a problem, especially if you are paying for air time in that most cameras take photos in the 2-3 Mb range. That's why if you turn off your camera too soon, it will not finish uploading. Fortunately, most people use an SD card or such for taking the pictures and the SD card will not become corrupted. Can you imagine going into a cemetery and taking 100 pics and then having problems uploading pic#1 which corrupots the entire card. Wow!!

So far, I don't see the advantage of trading in my USB cable for an expensive card. If I was in a big city with the big gadgets and requisite connections that tie everything together I guess that's a different thing.

Panasonic has had this capability in one of their cameras for well over a year. The downside is that you were tied to a single web based location for uploads.

One of the solid state card makers (perhaps Eye-fi)also produced a wi-fi device that offered the same capabilities that Eye-fi offers, but when I looked at it back then, it was more than I wanted to spend.

Now if you want to really make this palatable, add GPS location data to the pictures so that when you wi-fi your pictures to sites like Google's Web Albums, they could automatically "map" your picture's location. Yes, I know some of the high end professional camera bodies offer that built in.

To the security concious, or paranoid, that would betray your wearabouts at very precise times.

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