Finally, something to do with NFC!

If you’ve been following Android at all, you may have heardsome rumours about the awesomeness of NFC, also known as Near FieldCommunication. But to a good many people, these rumours are the closestthey’ve gotten to NFC.

The concept of NFC is pretty simple: you have a sensor builtinto your Android device, and when you hold your phone or tablet againstanother NFC-equipped device (or an unpowered NFC tag), you can transmitinformation 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 exchangecontact information. Or, tap your phone against an NFC-ready pad at a retailshop, and you can instantly pay for your purchase.

It’s a great idea, but one that hasn’t really taken off in muchof the real world just yet. Why not? Well, to put it mildly, there hasn’t beena lot of NFC out there in much of the real world, with exceptions being use inChina and India.

There are a handful of phones and tablets with NFC onboard,but they haven’t exactly been prevalent. Remember when Microsoft launched theZune media players which had the ability to “squirt” songs to another Zuneplayer? But it was pretty hard to find someone else who actually had anotherplayer? Yeah, kinda like that.

While we wait for NFC to really take off in real worldapplications (such as at retail establishments), Sony has introduced anaccessory that will allow those of us with NFC-equipped devices to actually do something with them. Purchase theXperia SmartTags pack for about $30, and you’ll get four colour-coded NFC tagsthat you can place around your house, office, car, etc.

It’s worth noting that even though the Xperia SmartTags werelaunched at the same time as the NFC-equipped Xperia Ion smartphone (more onthat later), you can actually use them with any NFC-equipped Android devicerunning Android 2.3.3 or better. You’ll need to download LiveWare Manager andthe SmartTags app from Google Play, and you’ll be ready to go.

Each of the tags has a different ID onboard, and you canprogram each of them to do something different when you tap your phone againstthem. With each tap, you can program up to five different actions.

So, you can set up the black tag in your bedroom, andprogram it to turn the phone to silent, turn off the Bluetooth and WiFi, set analarm and start the clock application. Set up the blue tag in your car, andallow it to turn Bluetooth on, and automatically start the navigation app. Setup the red tag beside your door, and you can set it to turn on Bluetooth toconnect to your exercise accessories, and automatically start your exerciseplaylist.

One note: because the tags themselves are passive, you canactually do different things with the same tags, if you have more than oneNFC-equipped device in the house. So for example, even if you’ve used one ofthe tags to set up your exercise regimen, your spouse can use that same tag forsomething else entirely on a different device.

Right now there are just four different tag IDs in theXperia SmartTags universe, which means you’re limited to four different tasksfor the time being.  That’s still fourmore things to do with NFC than you likely had before…and it sure beats waitingaround with a forlorn look on your face, waiting for someone else with anNFC-equipped device to show up.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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