Chances are, you've never heard of the Flucard. You may, however, have heard of its Singaporean maker, Trek 2000 International Ltd. This company holds key patents on USB flash drives, and it holds the ThumbDrive trademark. Indeed, Trek released one of the first commercial USB flash drives in the year 2000. So as you might imagine, the Flucard is related to flash storage. It is in fact an SDHC card. But it is no ordinary storage card. The Flucard has WiFi connectivity as well as an accelerometer and a buzzer (a piezo, I assume) stuffed into the tiny 24x32x2.1mm package, for wireless uploading of photos! As an aside, technophiles will immediately want to compare this card to its California-designed competitor, the Eye-Fi. Unfortunately, I've never used one, so I cannot compare the two cards.
The Flucard looks just like a regular SD card. It comes in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB flavors (the support site confusingly says 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB) - I've got the 4GB one here. Inserted into a card reader, it registers and functions like a regular SD card too. The real difference between the Flucard and normal SD cards becomes apparent when it's inserted into a camera or camcorder that accepts SD cards. Immediately, you will notice four images already on the card. Trek calls them "control images", which is an accurate description. The images are "Server Upload", "Receiver", "Sender", and "Setting/Review". They actually have that text in them, as well as a graphic representing each action. In order to execute one of those four actions, you delete the corresponding image. That image reappears the next time you restart the camera. Server Upload uploads images and videos to either the Flucard Portal, or to another server, which can be configured. The Sender and Receiver actions are intended for P2P data transfer - if two people have Flucards, one can send data and another can receive. P2P data transfer also works between a Flucard and a laptop, since it's all standard WiFi.
The fourth action, "Setting/Review" deserves its own section if only for its geek factor. When you delete that image, the card goes into WiFi AP mode. You then connect a laptop or a cellphone to that card and use a browser pointing (by default) to 192.168.1.1 to configure the Flucard settings. Alternatively, Trek has iPhone and Android apps that make it more convenient to change the card's settings. But the Setting/Review mode has lots of other goodies to play with. To begin with, Trek has a Web API of sorts to get and set information on the card, including the ability to instantly retrieve photos being taken on the camera. There are iPhone, Android, Windows, and Mac OS apps to automate this task and even automatically upload to various photo services like Picasa. Oddly enough, the apps are not free, and I have little use for them, so I have not purchased any. The API is free to use, though.
Pushing the geek factor up to 11, Setting/Review mode allows you to connect to the card via standard telnet. Turns out, it runs Linux! This is the /proc/version string in the latest firmware, 3.31_R100 from September 23, 2011:
Linux version 18.104.22.168 (athena@vm) (gcc version 4.5.2 (Sourcery G++ Lite 2011.03-41) ) #1810 PREEMPT Thu Sep 22 10:43:28 CST 2011
I have not tried to do too much with the root Linux access provided by the Flucard, but there are many possibilities, including some that involve serious security considerations. After all, when this card is active, it has the ability to not only view and modify data on the host-visible SD partition, but also to potentially scan and connect to open WiFi hotspots. With the right custom firmware and a sticker on top of the Flucard logo, it could easily be used to secretly upload all files and nearby WiFi hotspots (for geolocation) to some site on the Web without its user ever suspecting anything of the sort.
Back to reality
Despite all of the geeky goodness the Flucard offers, it does have some major downsides. First, the card seems to be somewhat finicky in regards to laptop and PC SD card readers. In fact, out of four or five that I tested, none let it function properly. On some, the card just beeped incessantly while letting me access the SD contents; on others it beeped more or less normally at "startup", but did not respond to me deleting the control images until I took it out and put it back in; and on one reader it simply didn't register at all. On the other hand, it has worked perfectly in every camera I tried, so I suppose in that sense it fulfills its purpose.
Another issue with the card is that its Web configuration interface is not at all intuitive. It definitely feels like it was designed by engineers. In fact, the entire control experience feels unrefined. For example, when initiating Server Upload, the card beeps (rather annoyingly, if you're in a quiet environment) the entire time it's uploading and after it's done. You have to power cycle the camera to get it to shut up. Finally, a rather appalling "feature", after uploading to the Flucard Portal, the card downloads advertisement JPEGs and places them on the SD partition for you to see. I don't know if this happens if you upload to an FTP server instead of their portal, but it is definitely a most unwelcome surprise. However, being firmware-upgradeable, most of this card's flaws could be easily rectified. And Trek does appear to release firmware updates monthly, if not more frequently, which is very encouraging.
The one big problem that Trek faces with the Flucard aside from its awful name (come on, a "flu card" does not sound in any way appealing! *cough*) is finding a target market willing to pay for this device. The vast majority of people have no use for it. The only ones who might want it, in my opinion, are "prosumers" who actually have a good reason to instantly upload the photos they take. I don't know whether this market is big enough for Trek to profit from these cards, especially considering the fact that their Eye-Fi competitors have a pretty large mind share.
The Flucard is technologically amazing. After all, it's a device literally the size of an SD card, and it has WiFi connectivity and even runs Linux. As a tech geek, I'm excited. Technology is progressing at such a fast pace that soon I'm sure we'll be able to have this kind of technology embedded on our skin and being powered by our own electrical impulses. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit Matrix-ish. Regardless, this is a very cool card. Unfortunately, I have serious doubts as to whether it can be a hot seller. I simply don't think there are many people willing to pay a premium for a WiFi-enabled SD card when it's so easy just to pop a regular card out of a camera and into a computer. I hope I am wrong in that assessment, because I do want Trek to succeed and eventually improve on this technology. I guess we'll see how the market responds.