Toshiba first introduced its FlashAir SDHC card back in January at CES 2012. The card was based on the SD Association's Wireless LAN standard and dished out its own 802.11 b/g/n hotspot. It also came with a built-in web server, meaning that users merely needed a web browser to access its contents (http://flashair/) from any additional device nearby.
As an example, the card could be inserted into a professional camera. In turn, the SD card would transform the host device into a network hotspot. Thus, someone with a smartphone could go into their Wi-Fi settings, choose the Flashair hotspot broadcast, connect, and then view and download the camera's Flashair contents with the phone's web browser -- no additional app is needed.
At the time, Toshiba said it would start shipping FlashAir in February for around $70 for the 8 GB version, but so far we haven't seen anything here in the States. Now the company reports that FlashAir will actually invade our shores within the next few months. Hiroto Nakai, a senior manager in Toshiba’s flash strategy division, said the cards will likely head our way in May or June, though the final date has yet to be set.
FlashAir actually went on sale in Japan earlier this month. Toshiba is still offering only the 8 GB version which costs about ¥>6000 (US$72) at Japanese retailers. Nakai also added that an API (application programming interface) was made available to device manufacturers to make sure the new SD card works on their devices.
The FlashAir product page reports that the card, Speed Class 6, has a wireless data transfer function as previously described (download only), but also a peer-to-peer function that requires a second FlashAir device. This indicates that two devices with FlashAir cards can upload and download from each other. A single card is also capable of transferring data to SNS services like Twitter or Facebook, and online storage services like Picasa, and blogs (although technically users can do that anyway with normal SD cards).
For more information on its three transfer modes, Toshiba provides examples of all three transfers here.
The market for a Wi-Fi enabled SD card may not be quite so limited. Installed in a tablet or smartphone, users with additional Wi-Fi capable devices -- whether it's a smartphone, tablet, notebook or desktop) may be able to simply connect directly to the card and retrieve its contents without an installed app like AirDroid or WiFi File Explorer Pro. The same holds true with digital cameras although manufacturers are increasingly building Wi-Fi features directly into their hardware.
We expect to hear an official announcement about FlashAir's release here in the States soon, so stay tuned.