(Before continuing, I should state that I am indebted to a reader, “James”, who provided the Sony SmartTag URIs in a comment to my previous post.)
My explorations into the world of NFC on my Android mobile phone continue. After initial disappointment at the pre-installed Sony Xperia SmartTags application (which is apparently unusable without Sony Xperia-branded SmartTags, which aren’t currently available in the UK), I then had moderate success with two alternative applications from the Google Play shop: NFC Task Launcher and NFC Quick Actions Free, which can both be programmed to perform a range of actions on your phone in response to scanning a custom NFC tag. Neither application was perfect for my purposes, but perhaps the most impressive feature about them was that, within a day of writing about them, I had direct communication with the developers of both applications. What’s more, both applications are clearly under active development and show lots of potential for the future, and I wish them both luck.
However, then came an interesting twist in the story, as “James” provided a key bit of information – the URL that is encoded on each of Sony’s Xperia SmartTags. With this knowledge, you can create your own SmartTags using any regular, generic NFC tag, saving yourself the ridiculously overinflated £15 price asked by Sony, and make use of the built-in SmartTags application in the process. Here’s how:
1.) Get some NFC tags
Head over to somewhere like http://rapidnfc.com/ and pick up four generic NFC tags. You can get wristbands/key fobs/stickers – whatever you want really. I’ve tried “ultralight”, “NTAG203”, and “1k” tags and they all seem to work fine with my Xperia S. Note that the SmartTags application only recognises four different tags, so there’s no point getting more than that (not for this exercise, anyway).
2.) Program the Tags
To simulate the different-coloured SmartTags, you need to write the appropriate corresponding URI to an NFC tag. The only slight problem is that, instead of a website like http://www.example.com, the SmartTag URIs use a custom URI prefix of semc://.
Not all NFC writers are capable of writing URIs using custom prefixes. Unfortunately, neither NXP TagWriter nor NFC Quick Actions – the two applications I already had installed on my handset are currently capable of doing so:
NXP TagWriter forces you to create a URL that begins with the http://www. prefix
NFC Quick Actions will generate an error if you try to write a URL that does not begin with http.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of other alternatives, and the free NFC Tag Writer & Reader from Connecthings allows to specify any custom URL you want. So, install and launch the application, and write the following URLs to each of your four NFC tags:
- Blue (Car) tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/1/smarttags1
- Red (Home) tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/2/smarttags1
- Black (Bedroom): semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/3/smarttags1
- White (Office): semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/4/smarttags1
3.) Assign actions to your new “SmartTags”
Now, return to the home screen and try scanning one of your newly-programmed “Smart” tags. The Xperia SmartTags application should recognise it and launch accordingly. You can then assign a set of actions that should be carried out every time each tag is scanned.
The range of actions that can be assigned using Sony’s SmartTags application seems pretty similar to those available in other NFC applications. The advantages of the SmartTags application is that it is free (unlike NFC Task Launcher) and supports multiple actions assigned to the same tag (unlike NFC Quick Actions). The biggest disadvantage, however, is that it only seems to recognise four unique tags. I did try programming the hypothetical next URI in the series: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/4/smarttags1, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t recognised.
As I said previously, both NFC Task Launcher and NFC Quick Actions seem to be under active development, and the discovery of how to make the SmartTags app work with generic NFC tags certainly doesn’t negate the possible use of other NFC applications on the Xperia S – it just opens up another possible avenue of NFC. Hopefully this post will help let you explore that avenue while saving you 15 quid or waiting 2 months for the official Sony SmartTags to come out