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I must say I was excited when I first heard smart NFC (near-field communication) tags can be purchased for the low price of $14.99—and even more eager to try out the stickers first hand.
In this case, I am referring to Samsung TecTiles, which are programmable NFC tags. Let me preface this discussion by mentioning Samsung isn’t the only tech company offering up sticker-sized NFC; Sony and LG, among others, also have a hand in the action. But here’s the skinny on Samsung’s stickers: Using a free app, TecTiles can be programmed to launch applications, make phone calls, send texts automatically, switch phone profiles, open a Webpage, and so much more.
Embarking on my own journey to create a custom TecTile, I pulled out the Samsung Galaxy S III, as these tags only work with Samsung devices. Let me walk you through the process of programming one. After downloading the TecTile app on the device, I tapped the phone to the tile, which launched the app. With the phone in hand, I now had the exciting decision of what I wanted to configure the tag to do!
My options were settings & apps, location & Web, phone & text, and social—each of which includes a number of specific actions such as making a call or launching an app (for a complete list of actions at time of product review see sidebar). I figured I would start off simple, asking the smart sticker to make a quick phone call for me.
Before I am able to make a phone call, I first need to configure the NFC tag. After choosing the “make a call” option and entering the phone number, I have a few additional choices in the configuration process. I had the opportunity to lock the TecTile (meaning no one can ever change the tag’s function) and make the TecTile private to my smartphone. Finally, the configuration of the smart sticker is almost complete!
I can now choose to program the TecTile or add another action. For the sake of simplicity on the first go-around, I select “program the TecTile.” One last command: I can check a box and choose to program multiple TecTiles at the same time if I would like. Once decided, I hold the smartphone over the TecTile to program, and the tiny sticker will now make phone calls for me. Pretty straightforward, right?
Now, here comes the real assessment: testing the tag to see if it works. I stick the TecTile to my wall in my kitchen. When walking by, I swipe the Galaxy S III and a call is made to my husband immediately. After configuring a few other TecTiles to do multiple tasks such as open a Web page and change phone settings, I come to the conclusion these NFC-enabled tiles are pretty easy to program. My only complaint is you have to touch the smartphone just right. Sometimes it wouldn’t recognize the TecTile on the first tap. Otherwise I thought it was fun to configure these NFC tags and place them around my home. And five stickers for the price of $14.99, what a bargain!
Some pundits question if these NFC tags are practical for everyday use. I say you are only limited by your imagination. It does require a bit of creativity on the part of the user. Here is an example I came up with: You create a TecTile to call home. You place the tag near your desk at work. As you are leaving the office for the day, you tap your smartphone to the tag and the phone call is made automatically.
Businesses are also getting creative with the TecTiles. For example, Caesars Entertainment installed more than 4,500 of these smart tiles throughout its eight hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. On the casino floor, you can simply swipe a tag for game tutorials, guidelines, and statistics. Or buy a ticket for a show with one tap of your phone. Want to make a reservation at a restaurant or compare menus and prices? There’s a tag for that. With one touch, you can also locate store deals or a map of a shopping center.
Samsung is clearly on a mission to make content sharing and data access easier with its mobile devices. The TecTile NFC tags are easy to use in the home, at the office, or on the go. Now you just have to decide what to do with them. —Laura Black
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