This week Eye-Fi launched the Eye-Fi Card combining wifi with a 2GB flash memory card, and we couldn’t be more excited for everyone to get their hands on it. With Eye-Fi, your photos can be automatically sent to any number of popular online photo services (Shutterfly, Flickr, Facebook, SmugMug, etc.) and to your computer all via wifi. No need to dock your camera, sync the photos to your computer and then upload your photos to the various photo services. Just configure the wifi and start taking pictures! It’s that easy!
So what does this have to do with SitePen?
We began working with Eye-Fi in early 2007 to design and develop the Eye-Fi Manager web application. The Eye-Fi Manager blurs the lines between traditional desktop application and web application. The Eye-Fi Manager is used to not only configure your Eye-Fi Card’s wireless settings, it’s also used to configure synchronization with your choice of online photo services and folders on your computer. After initial setup of the Eye-Fi Card the Eye-Fi Manager shows pictures that have been previously uploaded and on top of that you can also watch your photos upload in real time!
Cross platform made easy
Rather than doubling their efforts creating installers and configuration utilities for both Windows and OS X, our companies chose to create a single unified configuration utility that runs in the browser which can be updated transparently without intervention of the user. Behind the scenes, the Eye-fi Manager is launched from the The Eye-Fi Agent, which is a lightweight web server running on the user’s computer. The Agent allows the web browser to talk to the hardware, something that isnâ€™t generally possible with pure web applications. Although the Eye-Fi Manager is running from this Agent, the user interface is actually being loaded from the Eye-Fi Service. When adding photo services or updating account information the Eye-Fi Manager ‘talks’ to the Eye-Fi web server on the internet. When updating wifi networks the Eye-Fi Manager talks to the Agent which syncs the information to the SD card. The power to this approach is that when new features are rolled out they are instantly available to the entire user base. No need to download a new version of the app every time a new photo service is supported.
“SitePen understood our vision right away. They played a critical role in every phase of developing the Eye-Fi Manager web application. Using the Dojo Toolkit as a framework, we were able to work together to quickly develop a solid foundation for our web application that we will be able to build on for quite some time.”
Kim Gustafson – Web Services & Applications Lead at Eye-Fi
Mom friendly, power user approved
The Eye-Fi Manager’s interface was created to be simple enough to get Mom and Dad up and running in a snap and yet remains robust enough to allow power users to modify and configure multiple online photo services for their Eye-Fi card. We took a “less is more” approach and don’t confuse the users with a lot of technical mumbo jumbo. We walk the user through the process step by step and explain not only what to do but why they should do it. Even if the user doesn’t have an online photo service account, they can create one during the setup process and within minutes be automatically uploading photos for everyone to see.
There are also simple privacy controls that allow users to mark all photos sent as public or private or to bypass online upload all together and just upload to the computer.
A glimpse of the future
The power of devices such as the Eye-Fi Card and Eye-fi Manager is that it makes the technology easy to use by getting it out of your way. Users don’t care about the device as much as they care about the results. They have a task they wish to accomplish and the hardware and software are just a means to an end. In the coming years people won’t look at their personal computers as the gatekeeper to the internet. Everything will be a gateway to the internet which will deliver all types of information and communication. People are going to want their data everywhere they are from e-mail to television shows and movies. They will no longer accept their data being tied to a device. Applications that blur the lines to make the technology easier are the future. It’s happening today with Eye-Fi and a handful of other companies, but the market is quickly growing and we’re happy to be a part of it. Our goal is always to push the limits in order to help people do things faster and easier than ever before which is what made working with the Eye-Fi team such a great experience. They are a company that not only sees the future but are actively making it a reality.