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Photo Safe

To protect your irreplaceable holiday snaps
  [vote for,

*Update - idea edited to remove the anti-theft measures.*

I discussed in my other idea, Travel Safe, my penchant for touring the seedy underbelly of mainland Europe a few times a year - bumming around hostels, drinking in dive bars and generally finding myself in unusual situations.

On the most recent of these trips I toured 12 countries in 3 weeks, always with my camera to hand, and by the end of the trip the memory card was filled with hundreds of irreplaceable snap shots. Not simply shots of tourist attractions (which you can find on postcards for a few pennies), but shots of the experiences: drunken nights in bars, sitting on the roof of my car in the Dolomites by night, a cordial chat with a policeman in Liechtenstein regarding my velocity relative to the posted speed limit. In short, things that only happen once and can't be found gracing the front of a postcard. Losing these irreplaceable pictures can come as a crushing loss.

The problem

At present, most backpackers/long term holiday makers I know have to lug around a laptop in their bags, pausing whenever they can get wifi access to upload their holiday pictures - first onto their laptop via a memory card reader, and then to their preferred secure location (Flickr or Facebook, usually). I host about 15 backpackers each month at my place (through CouchSurfing), and as soon as they get here the first thing they do is jump on my wireless network, unpack a mass of wires, connectors and daft, complicated gadgets and upload their pictures of the trip so far to the folks back home. Not ideal.

The solution

A digital camera fitted with an internal 3G modem - such as those found within smart phones - to allow instant uploading of photos from any country covered by the 3G network. Based on the size of smart phones I expect incorporating a 3G modem couldn't add more than 100g of weight and a few millimeters of bulk to a camera.

Access to the network would be on either a subscription or pay as you go basis, depending on the duration of the trip. At present, the 3 mobile network [link] in the UK offers pay as you go and subscription mobile broadband from £10 per month, using a USB dongle that plugs into your laptop. All that is needed to make this idea work is to incorporate the same technology into the body of your camera (or even simply modify the dongle so that it can connect up to the camera, saving weight).

The main benefit of this type of camera would be that holiday makers could regularly upload their treasured holiday snaps to their computers/Facebook/Flickr/whatever, protecting them against theft or damage to their cameras.

Perhaps more importantly, it would allow long term backpackers the option of leaving the laptop at home - judging by the size of the packs most of my guests drag to my house, I'm guessing every ounce saved would be extremely welcome.

sambwiches, Sep 30 2008

Travel Safe Travel_20Safe
To protect irreplaceable keepsakes [sambwiches, Sep 30 2008]

Wi-Fi cameras http://www.photogra...elesscameracrx.aspx
existing technology [sambwiches, Sep 30 2008]

Nikon Wireless Transmitter http://www.europe-n...d/783/overview.html
Top of the line [sambwiches, Oct 01 2008]

USB 3G Modem http://www.microdir...329&source=googleps
Plug and play 3G modem for laptops [sambwiches, Oct 01 2008]

3 mobile broadband http://www.three.co...broadband_/payg.omp
Pay as you go mobile Internet [sambwiches, Oct 01 2008]

Cellular Camera Cellular_20Camera
"Digital photos are sent over cellular network, downloadable online" [phoenix, Oct 01 2008]


       I was told by apotographer a couple of weeks ago that news reporters take photo's that are immediately sent to the edotirs desk monitor or laptop or cellphone.   

       No risk of loosing the pictures in case of theft or death of reporter.   

       Latest news at the fingertips a second from live.
zeno, Sep 30 2008

       //news reporters take photos that are immediately sent to the editor's desk monitor or laptop or cellphone.//   

       Did your friend explain any of the technology involved in the process? The closest thing I've been able to find in the way of wireless transfer accessories for professional cameras is the Nikon wireless transmitter WT-3 (for use with the Nikon D200) [link], which enables instant transfer over a wireless network - but that doesn't address the issue fully.   

       In order for pro photographers to transmit their work to their editor's desk from the road they still need access to a wireless network, which I assume may not be easy to find in the kind of places photojournalists tend to find work.   

       What they *can* do is connect a 3G modem [link] to their laptop, transfer their photos to the laptop using the wireless transmitter and then forward them on to their editors over the 3G network. Cumbersome and power-hungry but effective for a photographer on the go.   

       Of course, the idea for my deluxe model would incorporate a 3G modem directly into the camera itself (along with the software for the emergency transmit mode). As I mentioned earlier the iPhone is equipped with a modem that can access 3G networks, and since the entire phone weighs in at a paltry 133g I'm sure it would be simple enough to realistically incorporate a 3G modem into pretty much any camera with only a little extra bulk.
sambwiches, Oct 01 2008

       Bluetooth it to something of virtually no value, and of different location (eg belt buckle, live strong bracelet). Like a flash disk. Mmmm, bluetooth flashdisk. Keep it with your socks. Then periodically upload to your flickr.
4whom, Oct 01 2008

       + for the concept - when I'm travelling I'm most worried about my memory card/camera too. I agree with Jutta though, this may not be the best way to achieve it. Though perhaps if the feature could be widely publicised as NOT /calling police, recording IP address etc, then honest(?) theives might upload your photos anyway, before deleting them.
MadnessInMyMethod, Oct 01 2008

       //I don't think the whole modal thing works, although it's perfectly fine as something to just always do. (Upload the pictures wirelessly, I mean.)//   

       Agreed, jutta, the security aspect of the idea sucks. I've modified the idea to focus more on convenience rather than safety. Worth a bun? ;)
sambwiches, Oct 01 2008

       Maybe I am speaking to softly, or maybe you were not watching my lips.   

       3g requires a connectivity that you pay for, and is sometimes not available ( if you are a keen traveller). Have a flash in the camera, but duplicate that with a flash in something of low value. Bluetooth it across, no charge per bit, or for connectivity. Given power it will always be on. Keep it with your socks...
4whom, Oct 01 2008

       //Have a flash in the camera, but duplicate that with a flash in something of low value. Bluetooth it across, no charge per bit, or for connectivity. Given power it will always be on. Keep it with your socks..//   

       Sure, as a way to back up your photos that method would work just fine, but it doesn't address the main problem - uploading your photos to a *real* secure location like your home PC, Facebook or Flickr account. You'll still need to find a wi-fi hotspot to upload your pictures, and you'll still need to lug around a laptop unless you can find an Internet cafe where you can plug in a card reader. Besides, no matter how cleverly you conceal your back-up flash memory you can still lose it - I've lost count of the number of times I've woken up 10 minutes after check out time in a hostel and ended up leaving behind a belt or whatever. If I've concealed my back-up memory in a belt buckle I'm screwed.
sambwiches, Oct 01 2008

       Qik.com has baked a solution, for video clips (rather than photos) shot from mobile phones. The clip is uploaded directly from the mobile to qik.com - no laptop required - as you are recording, and can be viewed right away by you or your friends.
doanviettrung, Oct 02 2008

       //A 32GB flash drive on a necklace should be all you need.//   

       Sure, [UB], but we're still ultimately coming up against the transfer problem. Most of my guests are people in their early- to mid-twenties, on the road for a gap year or freshly graduated from college, and the majority are away from home for 6 months to a year - during which time they like to keep their friends updated on their progress (or brag about how great a tan they have. I can never tell).   

       Flash memory is so cheap these days that even travellers on the stringiest of shoestring budgets can afford a few back-up memory cards as insurance for their photos, but they still have to lug around a laptop so they can upload them to their photo-sharing whatever of choice. Even the tiny little Eee netbooks currently favoured by the more affluent backpackers add a kilo in weight (doesn't sound like much until you've had to carry it on your back for a year along with 20 additional kilos). Additionally, they're also too fragile for the rough and tumble life of a backpack, and worst of all they keep the traveller tethered to wi-fi networks to upload their photos.   

       //My smartphone (HTC TyTn II) can send data directly from a storage card but it costs a shitload for any sort of usable bandwidth.//   

       As mobile Internet has developed the charges have come right down. I used to get very basic Internet through my Sony Ericsson s700i and it cost an arm and a leg, but with the iPhone I'm using now I can get bells and whistles unlimited access as part of my £30 a month package. As you can see from the 3 mobile broadband link you can purchase 1GB of bandwidth for £10 (or up to 7GB for £25) on 3G networks - based on the size of my average photo I could upload 500 of them for a tenner, putting it well within the price range of any traveller.
sambwiches, Oct 02 2008

       Try African bandwidth. Anything from $40 dollars upwards for an uncontracted gig. A paucity of 3g coverage. My suggestion was to duplicate the data in your camera, onto a seperate flash (somewhere on your person), via bluetooth. The chance of both missing decreases,and you may upload at any "base station" at any time, probably with the same frequency with which you would normally upload. It was the data that was important, right?
4whom, Oct 02 2008

       $40? Ouch. Still much less than I was paying to connect through my s700i, though. When I saw the bill for 100MB data after a month in Europe I almost cried :)   

       Sure, the data is important, but it isn't the be all and end all. Your solution is ideal if you just want to keep your data *safe* - you'd have to be pretty stupid to lose several back up devices - but most of the travellers I know want to publish their photos for their friends to see. They operate blogs, set up Flickr and Facebook albums and do all sorts of stuff - they're young folk who haven't had a good time until all their friends back home know it, and the biggest challenge they come up against is finding a way to upload their data. "Base stations" for most of these people amount to a bank of clunking five year old PCs in the lobby of their hostels or - if they're lucky - a wireless network when they stay with people like me who open our homes to them.   

       Of course, if you're travelling off the beaten track somewhere like Africa you can't expect 3G coverage so you're best off using your method of backing up your data and patiently waiting for the opportunity to upload, but if you're in the US, Japan or mainland Europe you should have little trouble uploading from wherever you are.
sambwiches, Oct 02 2008

       Yes, I do like this better. But is this now turning into a variation of "Cellular Camera" (see phoenix's link)?
jutta, Oct 02 2008

       Ah yes, I hadn't noticed Phoenix's link. I suppose it is extremely similar, just updated for current technology.   

       It's interesting to see how technology has moved on since 2003 - imagine the limitations of rgovostes' camera given the cellular data transfer speeds of the time. You'd have to convert each photo down into grainy nothingness before the package was small enough to practically shoot through the ether. These days I have an app on my phone that allows me to send high-res images directly to a folder on my Facebook profile at the touch of a button - and zero cost.
sambwiches, Oct 02 2008

       Yeah, zero cost as in part of the £30 uncapped data package rather than genuinely gratis. The point I mean to make is that until recently we paid through the nose for data per MB (I'm sure I remember seeing a truly ridiculous £1.53/MB on my phone bill last year) whereas now we can browse 24/7 for a flat fee, making all sorts of mobile Internet applications possible that would have proved cost-prohibitive until very recently.   

       //and the last time I topped it up was February//   

       I'm the same when it comes to using mobile phones for calls. Can't stand the things, and I don't even know my home phone number. Still, mobiles come in very handy for getting online on the road.
sambwiches, Oct 02 2008

       you know, my solution to this problem was to send the rolls of film i was shooting home to my dad. all i needed to find was a post office and send it insured. my dad being a generous guy would process all the film to see what i was up to. i had a nice surprise of all my memories when i got home. i think it kept me fresh and not overly concerned with photographing every fake moment.
williamsmatt, Oct 02 2008

       //my dad being a generous guy would process all the film to see what i was up to.//   

       Considering the kind of holidays I take, the last thing I'd want if for my dad to know what I was up to. He wouldn't sleep for weeks if he saw my photos :)
sambwiches, Oct 05 2008

       So basically this is a mobile phone camera, with some scripting. Baked.   

       I'd like one that passively sniffs for free WiFI and then automagically uploads my shots to Flickr when it finds some.
BunsenHoneydew, Oct 05 2008

       //So basically this is a mobile phone camera, with some scripting. Baked.//   

       Hmmm, not really. A mobile phone camera is fine for the occasional quick snap, but I can't imagine that anyone interested in photography would be satisfied with the performance of even the best phone camera for their holiday pictures. There's a gulf between phone cameras and modem-equipped *genuine* cameras wide enough to qualify as an original idea (though not, alas, as original as I'd hoped after seeing phoenix's link :( ).
sambwiches, Oct 05 2008


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