By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wireless memory card maker Eye-Fi announced an expansion of its product line last week, adding location tagging and the ability to upload images through public hot spots.
All the new cards will be offered in the SD form factor and contain 2GB of storage.
Using Skyhook's global Wi-Fi positioning system, the new Eye-Fi Explore card can determine where a photo has been captured and add a "location tag" to the image. The tag is saved and uploaded with the photo and can be used on Web sites that support geo-tagging, such as Flickr and Picasa Web Albums. It can also be used in desktop applications that support geo-tags, said Jef Holove, CEO.
For geo-tagging to work, the Explore card must be within Skyhook's coverage area. The current coverage area comprises "70 percent of the U.S., Canadian and Australian populations;" the top 50 metropolitan areas of Europe; and "70 percent of the population in Germany, France and the U.K.," according to Skyhook.
"It will work in most of the places where most of the people are," Holove said.
Eye-Fi decided on harnessing Wi-Fi for a location-based service because unlike GPS, Wi-Fi works indoors, Holove said, adding that it was also less expensive and consumed less power than a GPS device.
The Explore card can also upload images at any Wayport hot spot in the United States. Once a camera is on and in range of a Wayport hot spot, images will automatically be uploaded to one of 25 online destinations and also to a user's PC or Mac.
Consumers will not need to establish a separate account to access a Wayport hot spot, Holove said, and the Explore card will also support sending images through home networks.
The Explore card will ship in June for $129 and will be sold with one year's worth of free Wayport access. When the year is up, customers will have the option to subscribe for a year's worth of Wayport access at a discounted price of $19.99, Holove said. Wayport offers subscriptions starting at $29.99/month with a one-year contract.
The original Eye-Fi card, which can wirelessly send images through home networks, remains on the market with a new name: the Eye-Fi Share. It will retain its $99 price tag.
Lastly, Eye-Fi will offer a Home card that can wirelessly load images to a PC or Mac but not to Internet sites. It will retail for $79.
The new Eye-Fi cards, like the original, can transmit JPEG images only. "Most people who use d-SLRs take JPEGs. There is a small contingent that use RAW," Holove said, "but we're optimizing the card for a mainstream experience."
Transferring video files is similarly too complicated and bandwidth intensive to make for a compelling consumer experience at this time, Holove said.
In addition to its new products, Eye-Fi is poised to enjoy greater retail expansion thanks to a partnership with Lexar — which will put the firm's wireless technology under both the Lexar and Kodak brands.
Though the partnership with Lexar is not exclusive, Holove said the firm is not aggressively seeking out additional hardware partners.
"What we are trying to brand is the experience of wirelessly getting images out of the camera," Holove said.
"Consumers could start with us or with Lexar. We want to be careful about how far and wide we will spread our partners."
Eye-Fi recently announced that more than 1 million images had been uploaded to the Web through its card. Though Holove declined to say which were the leading online destinations, he characterized the top three locations as mixture of sites where one "would expect very sophisticated photo users would go" alongside a site that attracts "a very mainstream photo sharer."
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