Kodak Debuts USB Picture Upload TechnologyBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
Review Date: November 2007
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sometimes it pays to pay attention. Our Macworld Expo report earlier this year (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWSF07/mw-tale.htm) referred to an interesting project at Kodak called Goldeneye.
"With Golden Eye," we wrote, "a computer outfitted with a Bluetooth dongle watches for a Bluetooth device coming within range. When one does, they automatically pair. As you use your camphone or digicam in range of the computer, images are automatically sent to your Gallery account when you snap the shutter. You almost don't need to store them in the camera any more. And, theoretically anyway, they are also tagged so they're easier to manage later."
This month, Belkin is offering Goldeneye for sale in a $50 USB adapter that taps into the technology on Windows computers (http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Product_Id=390437). It's real. Last month, during our visit to Kodak in Rochester, we previewed the technology with Kodak's John Bednarczyk, one of only a few members on the Goldeneye team.
The first thing we learned was that Goldeneye had changed its name to Kodak Picture Upload Technology. KPUT has an unfortunate resemblance to "kaput," but otherwise it's an accurate indication of what we find intriguing about the technology. It's a compelling model for how images might be transferred from a capture device to a sharing/storage system.
The way it is now, you shoot pictures with a digital camera and then manually upload them to a computer. You either cable the camera to a computer (or dock it on a dock connected to the computer) to make that transfer or you remove the storage card from the camera and pop it into a reader or adapter that is attached to your computer. Either way, the images appear to your computer as if loaded on an external removable device. You or a program designed to look for them copy those images to your hard disk for further processing.
In our case, we have a couple of PCMCIA adapter for various card formats, a USB cable that plugs into most cameras and a USB extension cable that can connect to SanDisk SD cards that convert into USB plugs. But it's never fun. We have to file our nails and sandpaper our fingertips to get everything to work just right.
And then we haven't really accomplished anything. If we want to share our images, that's another step. So is backing them up to another device.
With KPUT, we can return to our clueless lifestyle. The machines, befitting their nature, do all the work.
There are two parts to this technology, John pointed out. There's the Belkin USB dongle that takes up permanent residence attached to one of your computer's USB ports. And there's Kodak's software, which runs on XP or Vista only.
The Belkin USB adapter is Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, the fast version of Bluetooth which can transfer a 624K, six megapixel image in about 14 seconds rather than the 42 seconds of Bluetooth 1.x. Popping this Belkin adapter on your PC makes it Bluetooth enabled. Not a bad deal right there, since most Bluetooth adapters cost as much as $40 anyway.
The software component, however, is worth a good deal more than $10. It enables completely automated image transfers from Bluetooth-enabled devices that use FTP to transfer images. Sadly, Kodak's own Bluetooth-enable camera, the V610, does not. So we're really talking only about camphones right now.
Features of the package include:
- Automatically transfer photos at full resolution from your camera phone to your computer
- Easily share pictures on Kodak EasyShare Gallery, MySpace.com and Facebook
- Uses Bluetooth standard v2.0 +EDR and USB 2.0 for faster transfers
- For use with cell phones enabled with Bluetooth technology
- The USB Bluetooth Adapter also works with other Bluetooth enabled devices like PDAs, headsets and printers
- Included is $5 off prints or a mini photo book at Kodak EasyShare Gallery for new members
- Lifetime warranty
A partial list of compatible cell phones is available at http://www.belkin.com/F8T012-1-KDK/F8T012-1-KDK_phones.html. Testing of other models is still ongoing, according to Belkin.
When you install the software, you're asked a couple of important questions.
- Do you want to be able to access the Kodak Gallery? You can not only copy your images to Kodak EasyShare on your computer, but you can -- as soon as they're transferred -- transmit them to Kodak Gallery.
- Do you want to pair a phone now? You can immediately tell your computer to look for your phone and even do the first transfer to EasyShare.
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After that, every 100 seconds the dongle will look around the room to see if the paired phone is around and if it has any new images on it.
In this scheme, the computer pulls the images from the phone. So you don't have to do anything on the phone (after agreeing to let the computer link to it) for this to happen. Except leave it on.
You don't have to do anything on the computer either, though. We watched John take our picture and saw the computer initiate the transfer and upload the image to John's EasyShare Gallery. During the whole process, John didn't touch a single key on the computer. This is a system that works for you.
You can, of course, pair more than one phone, but pairing always takes a confirmation, as with any Bluetooth device. Nothing happens unless you approve.
It took about 20 seconds for the computer to find the phone and initiate the transfer.
This matters to Kodak, of course, because it integrates into the EasyShare Gallery (and will prompt users to sign up for the premium service). But why should it matter to digital camera users?
Despite the seeming decline in interest by manufacturers in providing Bluetooth and WiFi enabled cameras, consumers remain intrigued with wireless functionality. A recent IDC white paper on The Evolution of Wireless Photography reported that most people (60 percent) would pay a little more (up to $86) for wireless capability in their cameras.
Nikon has remained committed to providing WiFi-enabled cameras, outlasting both Kodak and Canon, who have also shipped WiFi cameras. Kodak has also shipped a Bluetooth camera, the only one of its kind.
While Nikon is still delivering WiFi cameras, they are now tying them exclusively to their own service. With the S51c Coolpix, you can't even wirelessly transfer images from the camera to your computer. Instead, you send them through the network to Nikon's Picturetown service, a cooperative venture with Fotonation.
That's why this matters.
Kodak's vision of an unattended, automatic, wireless transfer of images from a cellphone to your computer first and then optionally to a server in the sky for immediate sharing (or publication, as we like to think of it) is a vision of the way things could be not just for cellphones but for cameras.
Judging from our demo with John, the implementation appears well conceived, robust and compelling. We just need some real cameras (or a WiFi version) to put it to work.