Every once in a while, I come across something that makes me think “I’m looking at the future of mobile interaction.” I experienced that the other day with Samsung TecTiles, which are tiny, programmable NFC chips housed in a flexible, plastic sheet. When an NFC-enabled mobile phone is held over the chip, whatever action was programmed onto the TecTile will take place.
Here are some of the things you can program a TecTile to do:
- Automatically have the user’s Twitter account follow you
- Open up a web site
- Add your contact information
- Check into businesses (Foursquare)
- Auto configure a phone (for wireless, for example)
- Send a text
- Place a call
- Display a message
TecTiles can be reprogrammed or “locked” (to avoid other users with the free app from reprogramming your tag). The free app works with the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Blaze 4G, and Nexus S. The basic setup goes like this:
- Purchase TecTiles from Samsung
- Install the TecTile app from the Google Play Store
- Open the TecTile app
- Program your TecTile
- Attach your TecTile to a prominent location
Now, let’s walk through the detailed steps.
Step 1: Purchase TecTiles
This is pretty straightforward. You can get the tiles from a participating store ($14.99 for five tiles). These tiles are stickers that can be peeled off and attached to any flat surface.
Step 2: Install the TecTile app
In order to install the TecTile app, do the following:
- Open up the Google Play Store on your Samsung mobile
- Search for “tectile” (no quotes)
- Tap the entry for Samsung TecTile
- Tap Install
- Tap Accept & download
- Allow the installation to complete
Once the installation is complete, you’ll find the TecTiles app in your device’s app drawer.
Step 3: Open the TecTiles app
When you first open the app, you may be warned that NFC is not enabled on your device (Figure A).
Here you see TecTiles running on the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S III.
Tap the Settings button, and you’ll be taken to the NFC settings window (Figure B).
Make sure NFC has a green check in the box.
Tap NFC to enable that feature, and if you aren’t automatically redirected back to the app, tap the back button on the device.
Step 4: Program your TecTile
From the main TecTile window (Figure C), you’ll see four buttons. Each button will program a tile for a different type of action:
- Settings and Apps: Change phone settings, launch an app, join a Wi-Fi network, or show a message
- Phone & Text: Make a call, send a text, share a contact, or start a Google Talk conversation
- Location & Web: Show an address or location, Foursquare check in, Facebook check in, open a web page
- Social: Update Facebook status, Facebook like, tweet a status, follow a Twitter user, connect on LinkedIn
A clean interface for an easy user experience.
Let’s create a TecTile that will display a message (for example, a discount code). Follow these steps:
- Tap the Settings & Apps button
- Tap Show a Message
- Type the message in the text area (Figure D)
- Tap Next
The Show a Message feature can be used for many purposes.
That’s it. Now, all a user has to do is hold their NFC-enabled Samsung mobile over the TecTile, and they’ll see the message that you set up (Figure E).
A discount code a user can apply to a product is great for marketing.
There are tons of ways TecTiles can be used to help either drive customers your way or make a user experience easier. How would you deploy TecTiles for your business or department? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.