Samsung TecTiles - NFC Stickers to Program Your Phone
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Thursday, 14 June 2012

Near Field Communication has been available on phones for a while, but it still hasn't really been exploited by clever apps. Now Samsung thinks that with TecTiles you can program your phone to do what you want, simply by touching.

The problem of making your phone do what you want it do easily and quickly is a tough nut to crack. A few days ago we had news of on{X} which was Microsoft's way of making Android phones more useful. Essentially you created a mini-app that did a set of predefined tasks when an event happened.

Now Samsung has come up with a very similar idea, but programming the phone using a RFID tag.



The idea is very simple. You buy some TecTiles, which are just RFID tags with unique codes. Each tag has a memory estimated to be1Kbyte. Next you download an app that recognizes tags. You use the app to set up what you want your phone to do when it encounters the tag.
To program the tag you just touch it to the phone; and to read the tag you just touch it to the phone - easy.



It is another event-response programming system like on{X} but now the only event that you can respond to is encountering a particular TechTile.

TecTiles can be set to:

  • Change Phone Settings
  • Launch an App
  • Join a WiFi Network
  • Show a Message
  • Make a Call
  • Send a Text Message
  • Share a Contact
  • Start a Google Talk Conversation
  • Show an Address or Location
  • Foursquare Check In
  • Facebook Places Check In
  • Open a Web Page
  • Update Facebook Status
  • Facebook Like
  • Tweet a Status
  • Follow a Twitter User
  • Connect on LinkedIn

The range of actions is clearly enough for users to find some useful tasks for the tiles and Samsung goes out of its way to explain them. One idea is to have a tag at home and one at work to set your phone up accordingly. 

For a tag to be a useful way of transferring data, the free Samsung app has to be installed in the receiving phone - and this is the usual disadvantage of all such systems, from QR codes to TecTiles.

The problem is that Samsung hasn't released an API, or any sort of utility that can be used to program new actions.  Also, while the app is free, the TechTiles cost $14.99 for five, which isn't cheap.  The system also has some competitors - NFC Task Launcher, for example, costs $1.99 but the tags you use with it are cheaper and more flexible. As the name of the latter app suggests, you can use it to launch any other app, but there appears to be no API to expand what you can do. Even so if you are happy to buy your own tags from say TagStand and pay for the app, then Samsung doesn't have much to offer other than consumer packaging.

As time goes on we expect to use phones and other devices to interact with the real world more and more, but at the moment methods to interact with it all suffer from being non-standard and hence non-universal. Whatever method is eventually adopted, we need something that is universally supported.



More Information


NFC Task Launcher


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 June 2012 )