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 appWhen 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 TecTileFrom 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). 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.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.