If you’ve been following Android at all, you may have heard
some rumours about the awesomeness of NFC, also known as Near Field
Communication. But to a good many people, these rumours are the closest
they’ve gotten to NFC.
The concept of NFC is pretty simple: you have a sensor built
into your Android device, and when you hold your phone or tablet against
another NFC-equipped device (or an unpowered NFC tag), you can transmit
information to the device, or cause the device to take some sort of an action.
Tap two NFC-equipped devices together, for example, and you could exchange
contact information. Or, tap your phone against an NFC-ready pad at a retail
shop, and you can instantly pay for your purchase.
It’s a great idea, but one that hasn’t really taken off in much
of the real world just yet. Why not? Well, to put it mildly, there hasn’t been
a lot of NFC out there in much of the real world, with exceptions being use in
China and India.
There are a handful of phones and tablets with NFC onboard,
but they haven’t exactly been prevalent. Remember when Microsoft launched the
Zune media players which had the ability to “squirt” songs to another Zune
player? But it was pretty hard to find someone else who actually had another
player? Yeah, kinda like that.
While we wait for NFC to really take off in real world
applications (such as at retail establishments), Sony has introduced an
accessory that will allow those of us with NFC-equipped devices to actually do something with them. Purchase the
Xperia SmartTags pack for about $30, and you’ll get four colour-coded NFC tags
that you can place around your house, office, car, etc.
It’s worth noting that even though the Xperia SmartTags were
launched at the same time as the NFC-equipped Xperia Ion smartphone (more on
that later), you can actually use them with any NFC-equipped Android device
running Android 2.3.3 or better. You’ll need to download LiveWare Manager and
the SmartTags app from Google Play, and you’ll be ready to go.
Each of the tags has a different ID onboard, and you can
program each of them to do something different when you tap your phone against
them. With each tap, you can program up to five different actions.
So, you can set up the black tag in your bedroom, and
program it to turn the phone to silent, turn off the Bluetooth and WiFi, set an
alarm and start the clock application. Set up the blue tag in your car, and
allow it to turn Bluetooth on, and automatically start the navigation app. Set
up the red tag beside your door, and you can set it to turn on Bluetooth to
connect to your exercise accessories, and automatically start your exercise
One note: because the tags themselves are passive, you can
actually do different things with the same tags, if you have more than one
NFC-equipped device in the house. So for example, even if you’ve used one of
the tags to set up your exercise regimen, your spouse can use that same tag for
something else entirely on a different device.
Right now there are just four different tag IDs in the
Xperia SmartTags universe, which means you’re limited to four different tasks
for the time being. That’s still four
more things to do with NFC than you likely had before…and it sure beats waiting
around with a forlorn look on your face, waiting for someone else with an
NFC-equipped device to show up.