Eye-Fi Plays the Waiting Game With the SD Association

The SD Association has informed CEO Yuval Koren that his company's intellectual-property claims on the iSDIO standard have been reviewed.

Note: This article is a follow-up to our Q&A with Eye-Fi CEO Yuval Koren and our story about Eye-Fi's complaints regarding the SD Association, both of which were published in January 2012.

Back in January, Eye-Fi CEO Yuval Koren caused a bit of a stir with a post criticising the SD Association on his company's blog. According to Koren, the SDA was ignoring its own procedures in announcing a new specification, iSDIO, that would allow storage card manufacturers to sell standardised SD Cards capable of transmitting data to other devices via a wireless connection -- something that Eye-Fi has been doing exclusively for about seven years now.

Koren wasn't too happy with the SDA's announcement of iSDIO as a standard for a number of reasons: The iSDIO specification sounded very similar to Eye-Fi's own proprietary wireless card technology, and the SDA didn't review Eye-Fi's intellectual property claims before announcing iSDIO as a standard. The SDA didn't follow its own rules in ratifying the standard. And other storage-card makers started marketing their products as "iSDIO-compliant" after the SDA skirted the normal approval process.

Since then, all had been quiet on the Eye-Fi-versus-SDA front, until the past couple of weeks. According to Koren, the SDA has notified him that it has completed the review of Eye-Fi's intellectual-property claims regarding iSDIO. Beyond that, however, nothing much has happened, Koren says.

"They've completed [the IP review], and we've asked the SDA's legal counsel for the results in some amount of detail," Koren said in a telephone interview. "In the last week, they haven't complied with our request for those results. I didn't think there would be much of a delay. We're curious to see it when it's available."

Replying to an email request for comment, Kevin Schader, the SD Association's director of communications, said that the SDA is still working through the process for the iSDIO standard and does not have any new information to announce at the moment.

In the meantime, the SDA's official site still hosts pages and press releases that refer to iSDIO as a standard. A page in the site's "SD Standard Overview" section lists iSDIO and describes it as a standard, and the original press release that announced iSDIO as a standard is also available on the SDA's site.

"The SDA made an announcement itself that made it seem like the standard was ratified," Koren says. "There's still a misconception ... people believe the standard exists. That sort of misinformation is still out there."

The confusion over the proposed specification's status may have caused a few companies to bill their own wireless-card products as iSDIO-compliant. When Toshiba's FlashAir wireless card and Trek 2000's wireless Flucard were announced last year, both products' makers described them as conforming to SD Association standards for wireless cards. The official product pages for Toshiba's FlashAir card and Trek 2000's Flucard do not mention the iSDIO spec, although Toshiba's FlashAir page does refer to embedded wireless LAN technology that "meet[s] the SD Memory Card standard."

If it doesn't infringe on Eye-Fi's patents, the proposed iSDIO standard would offer benefits to consumers. Unlike Eye-Fi's technology, Toshiba's FlashAir card supports two-way transfers of files between a camera and another compatible device, and Toshiba says its card may be more versatile in terms of development and device compatibility.

"FlashAir is the first card that addresses the new standard set forth by the SDA," says Brian Kumagai, Toshiba America Electronic Components' senior business development manager for NAND flash memory products. "All SD Card-enabled cameras will work with Toshiba's FlashAir ... in the future, camera [manufacturers] will be able to incorporate additional [wireless] features."

In addition to competing wireless cards, Eye-Fi is seeing other types of products encroaching on its turf. Along with improving smartphone cameras that allow users to share photos from anywhere, more and more cameras have built-in Wi-Fi-sharing capabilities. However, Koren sees the growing wireless-camera market as an opportunity for Eye-Fi to work with manufacturers to enhance their products' built-in Wi-Fi features.

"Virtually all the companies you see with Wi-Fi-embedded models still cooperate with us on the integration of our product," says Koren. "Eye-Fi chooses to participate in CIPA [the Camera and Imaging Products Association], which has a similar but distinct membership compared to the SDA.

"SDA is a storage organization, while CIPA is more of a camera-manufacturer organisation. As we look at more cameras becoming Wi-Fi-connected, it's an important organisation for us to participate in as the landscape shifts over time."

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