Don’t You Have to Be in the Room to Take My Pulse?

I had thought about getting a digital photo frame, but had been kind of on the fence because I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of plugging it into the computer or sticking a flash drive into it to upload photos to it.

So when Kodak recently released the Pulse digital frame with WiFi I thought that was pretty cool. It’s about the same price as other good quality frames and I picked one up. The image quality and feature set are good. The software is intuitive. It looks nice and I had visions of putting it in the living room while sending photos to it from the office/studio a couple of walls away.


Kodak Pulse Digital Frame


The WiFi works, and it works well, just like everything else on the frame, so thumbs up to Kodak for making a nice product.

My complaint comes with how the WiFi works. With some WiFi devices you figure out the addresses and maybe use an application provided by the manufacturer to link to it. My Brother printer works that way. If you’re like me using password security and MAC address control to allow only your devices and data, your network is reasonably protected.

For reasons that elude me, Kodak has decided that the frame must remain tethered to their servers through the kodakpulse.com website. You must first activate the frame by linking to the Kodak server.

Your next step is to set up a kodakpulse.com account, and then you have two ways to upload photos to your frame. The first is to upload your photos to your account and then they’re transferred within 15 minutes to your frame. The other way is to set up your complimentary @kodakpulse.com email address and you can email photos from your desktop, mobile device, Facebook or Kodak gallery.

As I was playing around with the frame the first night I got it, I started thinking about the WiFi process. The illustration at the top of the page, uh, illustrates what’s happening.

Why should we have to ‘authorise’ a photo frame? Why should we have to create an online account? Why can’t we use our own email? Why do we have to go through Kodak’s servers? It raises a lot of privacy concerns. Not that most people are going to put much more on the Pulse than their latest snapshots, but still, what business is it of Kodak’s to make themselves a middleman?

It’s like needing to have a brother.com account just to send a document to my printer.

It’s true, for the extended functionality like having friends email photos to the frame, or proud parents sending junior’s latest achievement to Grandma and Grandpa in the rest home, Kodak made the choice to set up their servers. Perhaps it was the simplest solution. I’m not the expert there.

I had a short email exchange with Kodak support, asking if they’re going to develop a standalone app. These are their unedited responses :

“You don’t have to worry about your private pictures that you uploaded on your pulse account, as Kodak does not have the tools to view what pictures you upload on your pulse account for customer’s security purposes.”

And :

“The only up loader that Kodak has for the Pulse frame is the pulse website, so whenever you want to send email to your frame, you must use @kodakpulse.com email address, and the pulse website is the only up loader for you pictures that you want to add on your pulse frame from your computer unless, you transfer pictures from an external memory directly to the frame.”

And that kind of defeats having the WiFi. Without it, it’s just like every other frame out there. Perhaps Kodak is on the up and up, but when someone says ‘Kodak does not have the tools’ and it’s on their own equipment I don’t have access to, that raises a flag. If they’ve contracted a third-party host, well, then someone else has access to our data. Someone one more step removed from being accountable to us, the owners of the images.

Is Kodak dedicated to keeping kodakpulse.com live indefinitely? Because the WiFi in the Pulse will be useless without it, leading us to discard it unless they unlock it and give us the software to access it. Kodak has touted the Pulse’s low energy usage and Energy Star compliance. By comparison, how environmentally sustainable is it if we toss a still-functional-but-crippled device?

Now, here’s the kicker. Say there is someone dumb enough out there to upload photos via WiFi showing illegal activities. Is Kodak now a distributor of illegal imagery because they’re in the middle of the upload? Or are they ‘mere conduits’?