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  Top » Catalog » Industry News » Eye-Fi uses Secure Digital (SD) card slot for Wi-Fi in cameras
Eye-Fi uses Secure Digital (SD) card slot for Wi-Fi in cameras   by Patrick

 In a recent product teardown, Portelligent analyzed Eye-Fi's "Share," a Wi-Fi-enabled SD card that makes it easy and affordable to add Wi-Fi connectivity to any digital camera with an SD card slot.

In a recent product teardown, Portelligent analyzed Eye-Fi's Share, a Wi-Fi-enabled Secure Digital (SD) card that makes it easy and affordable to add Wi-Fi connectivity to any digital camera with an SD card slot. Eye-Fi's product line-up includes five Wi-Fi SD card/service combinations between $50 and $150.

The only marketed hardware difference is the inclusion of either 2-GB storage in the Home and Share versions or a 4-GB storage in the Share Video, Explore Video, and Pro versions. Photo sharing website uploads, Wi-Fi triangulated geotagging service, free Wi-Fi hotspot uploads, and the ability to upload RAW files provide the remainder of the differentiation between the five solutions. For this teardown, we paid $60 for the 2-GB Share version, which includes the ability to upload pictures to photo sharing websites.



Combining Wi-Fi and a digital camera dates back to 2003 when Nikon introduced the WT-1 wireless transmitter, which attached to the bottom of a Nikon D2H DSLR. With the transmitter at a cost above $700 combined with the $3,500 Pro D2H, the benefits of bringing the two technologies together were well out of reach of the average consumer. The 2006 availability of the $350 Nikon point-and-shoot 5-MP P2 featuring integrated Wi-Fi enabled consumers to finally afford and realize the benefits of a wireless camera. Other camera manufacturers including Kodak, Canon, and Sony soon released their own point-and-shoot digital cameras with integrated Wi-Fi.


Spotting an opportunity to provide wireless connectivity while letting the consumer choose the camera, Eye-Fi was founded in 2005, the same year that the affordable Nikon P2 made its debut. Any camera, including high-end DSLRs, can benefit from Eye-Fi's solution as long as it has an SD card slot. Immediate Wi-Fi connectivity is not required since the embedded 2 GB or 4 GB on the card can store the images until the camera comes within range of a wireless access point.


After unwrapping the 2-GB Share version, the SD card was inserted into the included USB card reader and connected to a laptop PC. The Eye-Fi software comes pre-loaded on the card and self-installs on the PC. After registering on the Eye-Fi website and setting up Picasa as the on-line destination for photos, the card was placed in the SD slot of an old, 4-MP Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z2 camera. In no time, I was taking pictures in my office and watching the images get uploaded to the Eye-Fi website and into the selected Picasa album. I was thoroughly impressed with Eye-Fi's technology and implementation.


The honeymoon phase faded a bit once the flashing red low-battery indicator appeared on the camera's LCD. My primary concern going into this experiment with the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi card was the impact it would have on my camera's battery life and the red flashing light was confirming my fear. Since I didn't place a fresh set of AA batteries into the camera prior to the test, it wasn't fair to place all of the blame on the newly inserted Wi-Fi card. The only way to truly understand the impact of transmitting each photo via Wi-Fi was to bypass the power supplied by the four AA batteries and connect the power and ground leads of the Wi-Fi card to the Portelligent source measure unit while inserted in my camera.


The power consumed by the Eye-Fi Share card could then be compared, using the same methodology, against the power consumed when storing the picture on a standard SD memory card.


With the camera in standby or turned off, the Eye-Fi card consumed an average of 72 mW while keeping the onboard Wi-Fi in a low-power mode pinging for a Wi-Fi host. Brief power spikes of 585 mW every 60 seconds indicated the Eye-Fi was attempting to keep an active connection with an access point. The standby power consumed by a standard SD memory card was less than 1 mW with a brief spike to 30mW at camera startup.


After taking a picture with the Eye-Fi installed in the DiMAGE Z2, the camera LED, indicating the image was being stored to the 2 GB of NAND memory provided by a Samsung K9LAG08U1M, blinked for approximately 15 seconds while saving the 1.7-MB picture. Data flow from the camera to memory and memory to Wi-Fi is managed by a Hyperstone S4-LDK01 flash memory controller. The average power consumed during the save to non-volatile memory was 170 mW on the Eye-Fi card. The same resolution image stored on a standard SD memory card took approximately 2.5 seconds with an average power consumption of 44 mW--a far lower total integrated power for the simple act of storing an image.


Once the picture was captured and stored in the non-volatile memory, the Eye-Fi manager located in the Windows system tray began blinking indicating communication between the Eye-Fi card in my camera and my laptop. Nineteen seconds later, the image I captured with my camera appeared in a small window on my laptop with a percent bar. According to the status bar, the 1.7-MB image required approximately 39 seconds to transfer from the camera to the laptop at a rate of 45 KB/sec.


Examining the power consumption results from the source measure unit reveals the Wi-Fi chipset, an Atheros AR6001G-BC1E ROCm (Radio-on-a-Chip) mobile WLAN solution combined with an Epic FM2422 2.4-GHz front end module, consumes an average of 160 mW over a 75-second time period (19 seconds setup, 39 seconds WiFi transfer, 17 seconds closing operations) during an image transfer. All ICs, including the memory components, are single-side mounted on a Wintec PCB with a 2007 date stamp. Again this total power consumed for wireless transfer is an additional burden on the camera battery over traditional card-based download.

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This article was published on Thursday 22 October, 2009.
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