Toshiba is looking to bring its FlashAir – wireless SD card technology to the U.S. later this spring. The entry of the memory giant into the wireless card business is just another sign of a wireless revolution that is about to take place this year in the photo industry.
The major memory card manufacturers where never really enthusiastic about wireless memory cards. Some attempts have been made in the past but they were quickly abandoned. The only company which showed a persistent interest in wireless memory cards is the one which developed the original technology – the California based startup Eye-Fi. -
Founded in 2005, Eye-Fi was created after its current CEO Yuval Koren took part in a wedding where many of the guests were taking pictures and promised to share them, but a year later, he still hadn’t seen the photos. He then decided that there should be a simpler way and that cameras should be able to send images wirelessly and so he founded Eye-Fi which has been selling wireless SD cards since around 2007. However something in the market seems to be changing in recent months. Early this year the SD Association (the standardization body responsible for approving SD card specifications) announced plans for a new Wireless LAN SD standard, formally named the iSDIO. Toshiba – one of the largest manufacturers of SD cards in the world declared simultaneously that its 2011 “FlashAir” wireless memory card will be the first to support the new Wireless LAN SD standard. -
Eye-Fi immediately released a statement claiming that the SD Association violated its intellectual property with the Wireless LAN SD standard and that it currently looking into the possibility of a legal response.
Toshiba’s FlashAir which was already demonstrated last year, works in a somewhat different way than Eye-Fi. While Eye-Fil SD cards require a special software that needs to be installed on the user’s computer (or as a free application on an iPhone/iPad), FlashAir is much simpler and allows any user to access the images in the card wirelessly from almost any device using a simple web interface. -
SanDisk, another major player in the memory card business announced that it currently has no intention of releasing its own WIFI SD cards and instead joined forces with Eye-Fi to release a SanDisk branded Eye-Fi card in Europe. Interestingly Toshiba, who as mentioned went the other way and developed its own technology, is SanDisk’s ally and the two companies worked together in recent years to build joined fabs for manufacturing flash memory components. -
Another sign that the wireless camera business is gaining momentum comes from the camera manufacturers themselves with companies such as Canon and Samsung releasing WIFI capable compact cameras in recent months and information that Compact System Cameras (also known as mirrorless cameras) and even more advanced DSLRs will come with WIFI built in later this year (some analysts are saying that Sony, Samsung, Canon and maybe even Panasonic are headed in this direction). -
One way or another the camera market is heading towards a wireless revolution in 2012. -
More on Toshiba’s FlashAir technology can be found on the company’s website.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.