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Eye-Fi: Wireless Wow-Factor
The Eye-Fi is one of those technologies that actually made me go “Wow, I WANT that.” It’s that cool. Sometimes you see something new and think, “Meh, it’s interesting,” or, “It’s cool, but I don’t have to have one.” That’s not this. This is something that truly made an impression on me when I first heard about it a few years back. That’s why I was excited to interview Ziv Gillat, one of Eye-Fi’s Co-Founders. Here’s how the Eye-Fi came about in his own words:
Between Yuval Koren (Co-Founder) and I, there are two versions of how we created Eye-Fi. Yuval remembers struggling to share photos of friends and family after attending a wedding. In a time before Facebook and mobile sharing was hot, this frustration led us come up with Eye-Fi as a solution. In a slightly different version, I remember my busy life as a new parent providing the spark for Eye-Fi. After having our first child my wife and I didn’t have time to take photos, download and manage them on a computer. Aiming to simplify the process, we wanted to find a way to make taking and sharing photos- leading us to think up Eye-Fi.
At first, we didn’t believe Eugene Feinberg (another co-founder) — when he told us that he could fit everything into the SD card, but Eugene and Berend Ozceri (co-founder) were able to design the card and write the firmware for the controller. Meanwhile, Yuval and I focused on the business side.
We initially thought we would use a USB stick to store and share photos. Users would simply drop the stick off at their nearest retailer and pick up the CD or prints of their images. However, we didn’t like the idea of either creating several sticks for each camera model or creating adapter cables to fit all cameras. The idea that stuck, though, was the card approach. In order to improve the read and write speeds, we designed our own X2 chip. This way, we could use any radio, and any flash on all varieties of cameras.
When we started developing the idea, none of us fully believed that the top ten camera OEMs would support Eye-Fi across 85% of their models. When we won this agreement, we knew we were going places.
No innovation comes without setbacks along the way and Eye-Fi was no exception. In out beta testing, we quickly realized that while our hardware was great, our software was lacking. To improve the performance we hired internal engineers and revamped our server resulting in a much better product.
Currently, our new hires traditionally provide the best entertainment. We “force” our latest employee to perform a solo rendition of Happy Birthday for any office celebrations. He or she is only off the hook until the next employee is hired- and sometimes this takes a while!
Eye-Fi’s legacy will be to make cameras more friendly. We want the user to focus solely on taking the pictures instead of worrying about downloading and managing photos. So, Eye-Fi improved the photo industry by simplifying sharing with Eye-Fi Direct. With this technology, users could take a photo anywhere in the world, upload it to their phone for tweeting or posting on Facebook. While other companies have introduced similar cards, they have not been able to duplicate Eye-Fi’s fully automatic sharing experience.