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February 05, 2009

Eye-Fi : Another Solution with its own Problems

There's a problem with digital cameras (for people who don't own Apple's): how do you get the pictures out of the camera and make use of them? You could connect the camera to your computer with the mini-USB cable (where is that?) and then connect to Shutterfly (Flickr, etc.) and upload the images to the (slow) internet. You could take the memory stick out, stick it in your printer, and work it that way. You could take the memory stick to Walmart and get prints.

These options are all good for Geeks Like Me, but they're not good options for your Aunt Mary, who likes the internet but isn't technically adept.

Enter the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. You're on vaction and take some photos, it stores them. You go to a coffee shop and turn your camera on, your Eye-Fi card senses the cafe's WiFi hotspot and automatically uploads your photos to Shutterfly. By the time you get home, Aunt Mary has already seen the photos of your vacation and ordered her prints of Little Betsy at Six Flags.

Not only that, but the Eye-Fi attempts to put "geo-tags" on your photos. A geo-tab is embedded location information, tucked into the format of your image file. The problem is, true geo-tagging requires a GPS connection, and there isn't any GPS on the Eye-Fi - instead, it attempts to triangulate a position based on received and identified WiFi hotspots. No wifi hotspots, no ersatz geotagging - which is too bad, because that would have been very cool.

So I said to my SOi, who dreads the tedious connect-the-camera-to-the-laptop-and-upload-pics-to-Shutterfly shuffle, Hey this is great, it'll automatically upload your photos via Wifi, wherever we go. And my SO said, What? And have strangers with Wifi sniffers seeing and copying our photos of Little Betsy at Six Flags?

And so, another almost elegant implementation of a new technology was relegated to the dustbin of early non-adoption, along with the Roomba 1.0 and the Betamax.

4 comments:

Ziv said...

Thanks for the good article. But, a few corrections:

* The odds of someone sniffing your photos on a totally open wi-fi connection are slim to none. They can also sniff your email or any site that you're surfing. I don't think that people really care to see Little Betsy on the Ferris Wheel. But if you really care, just turn off open-hotspots on the card, if you have it enabled. Then, photos will only upload on secured networks that you've set-up.

* Geo works well in metro-areas. GPS does not work indoor, which is where 80% of photos are taken today.

Thx.

Vannevar said...

Hi Ziv,
Thanks! I agree completely about the actual privacy risk, it is a perception thing. Sometimes the perception of security is important, too (I think that's what TSA is trying to teach us at airports, but I may be wrong :) But I think it's a bit over-generous of them to describe wifi triangulation as geotagging. Cheers, Ed

Ziv said...

OK guys, I've been corrected by one of my co-founders. Sorry for giving you guys misinformation initially:

* If you are roaming on an open hotspot or a Wayport hotspot (McDonalds, hotels, airports), we WILL encrypt the connection with an SSL cipher, so your photos will be uploaded to your sharing destination securely.

Thanks --

Ziv.

Ziv said...

Ed, on the topic of geolocation -- what we're doing IS indeed geolocation. Even though we're not using GPS, the fact that we're embedding the lon/lat as well as the location information into the EXIF header -- means that we're geocoding the images. You can question the accuracy of the information, and sometimes it will be perfectly accurate to the street address, and other times it may be less accurate -- but it works pretty well most of the time, and it's the most effortless way to geocode your images.

Thanks --

Ziv.

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