Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eye-Fi's Direct Mode Turns Card into Hotspot for Mobile Transfers

A new mode in Eye-Fi X2 cards let you rely images through a smartphone using a neat trick: I'm a long-time fan of the Eye-Fi digital camera cards that pack a CPU, a Wi-Fi radio, and now up to 8 GB of storage into an SD or SDHC form factor. The Eye-Fi line is regularly updated to add features like transfer of RAW images or video files, or endless storage, in which images already wirelessly transferred to another location can be deleted when storage is needed. (I haven't erased my Eye-Fi camera card since that feature came out. I simply don't need to know what's on the card any more.) Direct Mode is another in that array of improvements, and it requires a little explanation. Eye-Fi may be a bit breezy in describing the feature, which requires you to think a bit differently about how the card works. In regular operation, an Eye-Fi card looks to a camera precisely like any memory card. Whenever the Eye-Fi recognizes a Wi-Fi network it knows about, it connects, and starts to carry out whatever operations were waiting for access, such as uploading files to a computer or sharing service. This works whether the network in question is a home network for which you've stored a password, a public network to which you have access through an Eye-Fi subscription, or a free network tied in via Eye-Fi's relationship with Devicescape's Easy WiFi service. But in Direct Mode, the card will transform from a Wi-Fi client into a Wi-Fi hotspot, but not for just any device to connect. Rather, if you have a smartphone or tablet with the Eye-Fi software running (available for iOS and Android initially), the app connects to the card over Wi-Fi, and images are transferred over. You can use a 3G-equipped device to relay and upload images and movies, or transfer media and then connect via Wi-Fi to a network to upload that data from the app. The mobile app can copy media over the Internet to whatever computer with which you paired the Eye-Fi—the one to which over a local network the card sends files—as well as an online sharing or social-networking site you've picked from Eye-Fi's partners. Direct Mode was announced with more details alongside the release of the Mobile X2 , part of a reshuffling of the Eye-Fi line up, which now comprises Connect X2, Mobile X2, and Pro X2. The Connect has 4 GB and costs $50, while the Mobile has 8 GB and costs $80. That's their only difference. The Pro at $150 and with 8 GB of storage adds RAW file handling, and including a geotagging and a 1-year hotspot subscription. While RAW is restricted to the Pro model, you can add geotagging to Connect or Mobile for $30 (one-time fee), and hotspot access for $30/yr. Direct Mode will be a firmware upgrade for all current and past X2 models in a few weeks, according to Eye-Fi.