Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Great Customer Experience with Eye-Fi Card

Eye-Fi announced their SD wireless card recently, and I just knew I was going to have to buy one.  My love affair with the iPhone is to some degree related to the easy ability to take a quality photo and directly send it to Flickr.  The Eye-Fi promised even more--used with your regular digital camera, this 2GB SD card will automatically send your photos to the online photo sharing service of your choice through any accessible wi-fi connection.

So, it's actually even better than that.  You know it's a good sign when you open up a package and there is a candy inside.  No kidding.

And the customer experience starts out with some really snazzy packaging that is even hard to describe.  The box work like a pop-up book, and when you pull on the tab to reveal the very nice glossy, folded instruction book, a drawer with the SD card and it's USB adapter pop out the other side.  Not only are the instructions easy and clear, but the whole look and feel is very, very professional.  For some reason, with a new product and a new product concept, I expected a little of the "still in manufacturing stages" feel.  This packaging rivals something Apple would do.

Set up is a piece of cake.  Mac or Windows users just plug the USB adapter with the SD card into your computer, and a small software program is downloaded that takes you through selecting your local wireless connection(s) and selecting the online storage system you want to automatically upload your photos to.  (You pre-determine the privacy and other settings for the online service.)  Since my home wireless network is MAC-address protected, I knew Eye-Fi wouldn't be able to make the connection right off the bat--which it couldn't, but then immediately produced a pop-up message giving me the MAC address for me to enter into my wireless router configuration. 

They've clearly thought a lot about the user interface and interaction, which becomes clear when you turn off the camera before a photo can be fully transfered.  If you got to your history screen at this point, it shows you the percentage of the photo that did make it, and let's you know that the next time your camera is turned on and in range, the upload will finish.  And that small program you load for configuration does some other magic:  you can also define a directory on your computers local drive where the photos will be stored as well as, or in place of, being stored online.  I had to think about this before I could figure out how it was done, since there is not necessarily a wireless connection between the Eye-Fi and the computer you use.  What happens is that the SD card sends the photo to an intermediary server at Eye-Fi, which then transfers it to your online service.  At the same time, the Eye-Fi program on your computer petitions that server for any new photos on some regular basis, and then downloads them to the directory you have established. 

So, in practical terms, here is what happens.  You take a picture with your digital camera, and as soon as you are in range of an identified wi-fi connection, your photo appears in your online service and on the PC of your choice.  Amazing.  Aside from saving all that time manually transferring photos, I can see this being a fantastic way to create a running update for others at a conference or while on vacation.

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