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issue: April 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
Flash Memory Cards with Wi-Fi Connectivity

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SanDisk Corporation (Sunnyvale, CA, U.S.) has introduced a line of wireless Wi-Fi (802.11b) cards that are said to be the world's first to include both memory and wireless communications technology.

SanDisk's new Connect cards allow users to download files to their mobile computers while connected to e-mail or the Internet. The cards are also said to solve a common memory problem. In situations when the main memory of a computer is already full, users can download their files to a Connect card as an alternative, the company says.

The Connect(TM) product line includes four products - dual-function 128-megabyte (MB) CompactFlash (CF); 256-MB SD cards that combine Wi-Fi and flash memory; and single-function CF and SD cards with Wi-Fi connectivity.
" The windows/WinCE operating system (OS) recognizes multifunctionality," explains David Smurthwaite, Retail Product Marketing, I/O Products for SanDisk. "The card is seen by the host device as both a memory card and a Wi-Fi card. It's simply two controllers talking to the OS as if they were in two separate slots."

According to Mr. Smurthwaite, historically, there have been some design obstacles in trying to develop cards with both capabilities, specifically achieving the required space in the format and coordinated transfer of data between controllers.

The new cards mark the supplier's entry into the wireless communications market, which, according to SanDisk, comes at a time when Wi-Fi, a type of WLAN for wireless local area networks, is emerging as the main worldwide wireless standard.

The new Connect combination cards can be used in several consumer device applications and have been designed with low power consumption to minimize battery drain, a key consideration for PDA and notebook users. Mr. Smurthwaite says several proprietary methods were used to keep power consumption low, but that the company also used common techniques such as enabling a low-power sleep mode and adjusting for power requirement based on the range of access points.

The Wi-Fi cards are said to enable end devices to transmit and receive data at speeds up to 11 Mbps (megabits per second) at a range of up to 300 ft from the nearest access point. Security encryption keys are included with the products.

According to SanDisk, because the cards support both WinCE PDAs and Windows laptops and notebooks, the CF Connect line can reportedly be used in multiple devices. The SD Wi-Fi cards will support devices with Palm's OS 4x and higher operating systems. In addition, the company says several camera manufacturers are exploring the development of new digital cameras (with single-card slots) that would enable photographers to use a Connect dual-function card to take pictures and then use wireless connectivity to send the images to friends or business associates.


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