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:

  1. Purchase TecTiles from Samsung
  2. Install the TecTile app from the Google Play Store
  3. Open the TecTile app
  4. Program your TecTile
  5. 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:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your Samsung mobile
  2. Search for “tectile” (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for Samsung TecTile
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept & download
  6. 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).
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).
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

Figure C

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:

  1. Tap the Settings & Apps button
  2. Tap Show a Message
  3. Type the message in the text area (Figure D)
  4. Tap Next

Figure D

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).
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.