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Runner’s Tech: Sony Xperia SmartTags – Part 1

Posted Oct 24 2012 10:59am
Sony Xperia SmartTags NFC

Sony Xperia SmartTags and Xperia ion

The advent of technology in consumer electronics has led us into an uncharted territory that we could only dream of just a decade ago. Today, gadgets and devices seem to be taking a firm, multifaceted grip on our lives. From acceptance to complete dependence, we’ve learned to integrate these small computers into our daily activities – including running. Many runners habitually carry a smartphone to run because it does everything and makes other gadgets obsolete. Combined with a large selection of apps available today, GPS-capable phones can track your running routes and mileage, calculate your current and average pace, help you navigate, take photos of scenic spots, and play music. But most importantly, it is a phone that does exactly what phones used to do since, well, forever – running with a smartphone enables you to call in case of emergency. While you might know about all these benefits for runners to use a smartphone, I’d like to you show something that could drastically change how you use smartphone – the Sony Xperia SmartTags .

To tell you what SmartTags are, I must first introduce you to Near Field Communication – or NFC. In short, NFC enables your phone to perform quick, simple, and trivial tasks without much of your involvement. NFC utilizes radio frequency that lets you exchange or share data in a similar yet different way that Bluetooth and WiFi work. The most distinguishing charateristic of NFC is that it’s relatively secure, because the activation range is short. As soon as a NFC device touches or enters close proximity of another NFC device…voila, donzo, bada bing bada boom! Suddenly we have new possibilities to do a lot more with our smartphone. For example, we can check in and out of places, share photos, files, and data, or make in-store payments  - all with a simple wave or tap.

NFC can be a foreign concept if you’re an iPhone user like myself. However, NFC technology has been readily available on many Android-based smartphones. But in addition to phones, Sony has also developed NFC chips called Xperia SmartTags that work alongside your Android devices. Recently I borrowed from Sony a Xperia ion and a set of 4 Xperia SmartTags to see how NFC may augment my running experience.

Sony Xperia SmartTags 4 colors

Each pack of Sony Xperia SmartTags contain 4 chips of different colors


The SmartTags are little unpowered, battery-less chips about the size of a US quarter (approx. 28mm diameter, 3.25mm thick). At $19.99 for a pack of 4 different colors(black, white, blue, and red), these small disks are cheap, convenient add-ons to your Android phone. Based on Sony’s phone compatibility list , the SmartTags work with most of Sony’s Xperia phones with NFC baked-in – such as the Xperia S, Xperia P, and Xperia sola. However, I’ve found out that the SmartTags in fact work with ANY NFC-enabled Android phone like the popular Samsung Galaxy S III – although this is not officially supported by either Sony or other phone makers. Below is an introductory video from Sony demonstrating how one can use these chips and incorporate them into day-to-day activities.

The approximate weight of each SmartTag is 2.2 g (0.07 oz); and in my eyes it looks slightly more appealing than a good o’ quarter. You can leave these tags in places you frequently find yourself turning on or off certain functions on your phone. One such location is your car, where you would normally turn on and set up navigation as soon as you enter the car – or disable text messaging (please don’t text while driving, I beg you). Each SmartTag can be set up to do a different task, or a combination of several tasks at the same time – like turning on music and launching browser to view my awesome website (shameless plug). If you want more than 4 chips, you can certainly buy more – or better yet share with your family, friends, or coworkers.

Now that you’re interested in these curious-looking buttons, you may be wondering how they work in practice. In my next post, I will dig further into how I used SmartTags to supplement my training. So be sure to stay tuned and check back soon.

Would you incorporate something like this into your running? What pieces of technology do you use to help maximize your running? Do you feel technology helps runners or provides too much information? Do you use it or leave it?

- Kevin

(Kevin Lu is an engineer, currently working in the field of orthopedic devices. He received his B.S. and M.S. in biomedical engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Science, technology, and running are Kevin’s passions. In his spare time, Kevin trains for and participates in races of various distances. His recent personal records include 20:58/5K and 5:48:22/50K. Follow him on Twitter (@ SweatEngine ) and check out his blog  Beyond Distance .)


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