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Video: Quick Look at Samsung’s TecTiles in Action

Last night, Samsung introduced their latest product to the market called TecTiles which are NFC stickers that can be programmed to help you accomplish tasks. Since we saw some confusion in the comments about how they are programmed, what kinds of things can you ask them to do, and if they are reprogrammable, we thought a video to help explain them was needed. Here you go! 

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Links:  Play Store (app) | TecTile Site

*Note – As one of our readers has pointed out, you are essentially programming the app to know what to do when pressed to a specific NFC sticker. When you tell the app what you want the NFC chip to do, you are actually programming the app to recognize this particular NFC sticker and then perform actions. This would be the reason you need this specific app installed on every device in order for that NFC sticker to do the correct action. It’s like the app is recognizing an NFC code that is specific to that sticker and then telling your phone what it should be doing.

Update:  Samsung reached out to help clarify this situation even more. Basically, it depends on what you programmed the NFC tag to do. Some require the app to perform, some do not. Here is a list that do not require you to have the TecTiles app installed:

  • Show a message
  • Open a web page
  • Location/map/address
  • Make phone call
  • Send text message
  • Share a contact

For other things like toggling WiFi, checking in somewhere on Foursquare, and launching an app, all require the TecTiles app to be installed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Stanchfield/100000864087680 Scott Stanchfield

    Sounds like there’s lots of confusion on how these work…

    NFC tags have a chip inside them that stores a certain amount of data. As some folks have mentioned, that data is very similar to what’s stored in a QR code. Tags can be written by an NFC device multiple times and locked (useful if you post it in a public place…) The tag doesn’t “run” anything; it just supplies data. The way an Android phone uses the data is very simple. The NFC service detects and reads the tag data (only when the phone is unlocked) and creates an Intent object with that data. Android looks for installed application that have stated they can handle certain types of intent data.

    For example, if the tag had an http url on it, this would trigger any application installed to handle http urls, like a browser. Application Intent filters may be much more specific. For example, I could create an application that registers a filter for http urls for my website and when a tag with a url starting with my server name is read, my application starts.

    As an example for a class I’m teaching, I programmed a tag with a url that included a server address and a grid location. The data from the tag was handled by a game application that starts up (via normal Android Intent processing), connects to the specified server, and sends the grid location. Using a bunch of NFC-enabled Android phones, we created a little game where you can move “game pieces” around a game board that communicated with each other via that server. All you needed to do was move the phone, no other configuration was needed. NFC really enables many new kinds of simpler interaction…

  • thatnigbamboo

    I would like to know if it works in a off state like if I set it to start my car dock do i have to turn on and unlock my G-nex or can I put this on my after market car dock as the phone locked and the car dock starts up the app with out turning on the phone and unlocking it

  • Tyler

    Just bought five from tagstand.com for $8 with shipping. Besides from this Samsung app is there any other applications that stock galaxy nexus could use with more functionality than samsungs one shown above?

  • http://www.facebook.com/antfreq Anthony Cathey

    So could one post a NFC conspicuously – when scanned, cause the phone to dial or SMS a message. Make a phone call? Navigate to a webpage? I could see malicious intent with a publicly posted NFC tag. Cause your phone to navigate to a webpage, download app, send SMS resulting in SPAM etc etc

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Stanchfield/100000864087680 Scott Stanchfield

      The phone needs to be unlocked, and in _very_ close proximity to the tag. Android phones will also make a sound when the tag is detected (though that won’t help if the volume is turned off).

      Note that the applications installed on the phone drive what actually happens (and when installing the application you grant it permission). Usually this means that a contact might be added to an address book, or a web page is displayed on your browser.

      To do what you suggest would require installation of a malicious app that cooperates with a malicious tag…

  • http://twitter.com/TyGamer125 Tyler Stout

    Do they work with the screen off? I might get some.

  • JBranscomb

    This seems like a good idea for businesses to adopt… they could have them at the door for easier foursquare checkins

  • http://twitter.com/trophynuts Jeremy

    so …you’re not programming the tag you’re programming an app around each tag. I’ll pass
    there are other options out there that allow you to actually program the tag. ….tagstand

  • eddieonofre

    The question is, does the tag works with different phones
    e.x I configure it to turn on wifi (using a SII) and then pon my SIII on it and it turns of the wifi

    • http://twitter.com/TyGamer125 Tyler Stout

      It sounds to me like the app puts a code on the nfc chip and when a phone is touched, the app sees the code and does what the code is meant to do, but without the app it can’t understand the code. Therefore any phone with nfc and the app would be able to read it.

  • Mark Lewis

    If you’re programming the app and not the sticker, doesn’t that mean that all those business uses (Like, Check-in, etc.) would only work for the person who set it up? Or is the association between the action and the sticker registered to some kind of global web service so it’s available to anyone with the TecTile app installed?

  • mgamerz

    It needs to be able to make Shazam start tagging a song. This would be the best invention ever for my car so I don’t have to do anything to tag an app while driving from the radio. I hate trying to shazam a song at a stoplight, i hate using my phone at all while driving. A widget doesn’t cut it, if I don’t have to look at my phone, I’m happy.

  • http://twitter.com/nguyende De Nguyen

    This and Tasker will make for some awesome automation.
    Alarm systems, car door locks…
    If you stick this on the seat and your phone in your pocket, you can probably start the car by just sitting down on the seat….Cool! depend on the range of this thing though too.

    Note: The car obviously has to have all the wireless stuffs like the Chevy Cruze or the after market Viper Smartstart system.

  • http://twitter.com/ant_fallin Anthony Fallin

    I can confirm the app does right to regular NFC tags that you might have purchased from another vendor…..

  • nessthiss

    Do you need to have the app installed on your phone for the tags to complete the action?

  • http://twitter.com/mikedotdunham mike dunham

    I had some tagstand NFC tags on me and tried it with the Samsung App and they worked just fine. They are only $1.00 a pop too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Emaw-Kennedy/504157652 Michael Emaw Kennedy

      tagsfordroids.com work with the app too?

    • BigLa

      Thanks for the heads up.

  • JordanMcRae

    Programmable NFC tags and their corresponding apps have been out for a while now, but glad to see Samsung taking it mainstream.

  • lilkerv90210

    im definitely interested in these

  • Liderc

    This actually looks pretty interesting. The possibilities seem pretty endless.

  • http://ian.cazabat.com IanCaz

    Two questions:
    1. So in order to keep someone else from reprogramming my NFC stickers, I have to “lock” them?
    2. What does putting a Nexus that doesn’t have Samsung’s software installed do?

    • IS350

      I’m guessing you aren’t really programming the sticker, but registering it’s unique ID to perform the action.

      • Doug

        Nope, actions are recorded to the sticker. Just checked it :)

        • Lee

          Nope you are wrong…if you turn off your data, the NFC does absolutely nothing…

    • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

      The phones don’t need Samsung’s software. See my replies to @slinky317:disqus below.

  • NorCalGuy

    Still seems a little too basic… if I lock my tactile to prevent others from changing it it can never be reprogramed again? Is there really only one thing each tactile can do? Y not multiple actions for different phones? To be honest anycut is way faster and as for sharing with other people ya if they have the tactile app too and an nfc chip and if they even know what they do…needs a little bit more help maybe the dev community can make nfc some thing that us desirable and not just a novelty

  • teejaycard

    I just bought 3 nfc tag stickers from tagstand.com for a buck a piece. They do the same thing and sooooo much cheaper ha. Can’t wait to get them!

    • JDHokie

      I didn’t major in math, but I think 5 tags for $15 is the same as 3 bucks a piece.

      • teejaycard

        lol sorry. yes i meant 1 dollar a piece. so 3 bucks all together plus shipping. my bad i changed it.

        • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

          Thanks for the tip. Just grabbed a handful myself! :)

      • TaylorTaylorTaylor

        I ordered the samsung tags. Shipping + some random “convenience fee” brought it to $23. Super lame. I knew they were overpriced before I ordered, so I’m not upset, but I am stoked to know cheaper tags will work too!

    • http://twitter.com/mikedotdunham mike dunham

      I buy from tagstand as well so I think he meant $1.00 a piece

  • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

    The app has no Google+ functionality, huh?

    • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

      There’s no G+ API.

  • Tom

    Can someone explain how it actually programs the sticker? Does the sticker have a small ship in it or something? I like the location check-in that businesses could use.

    • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

      It doesn’t have a ship in it, but does indeed have a chip (circuitry, I should say). =P

      • CopierITGuy

        I know, right? I was just thinking, “I wish I hadn’t eaten that burger for lunch. I could really go for some ships & salsa right now!” :)

    • Amenemhat1

      This is very simple. The chip has some sort of unique identifier (say a bar code). The phone does all the work. Every time I (the phone) see this barcode/unique-identifier do this…e.g. toggle WiFi, etc.

      • http://www.twitter.com/slinky317 slinky317

        But does it work across multiple phones? For example, Kellex brought up the idea that a business could have a tag that automatically checks you in via Foursquare when you tap it. Does each phone have to be configured before hand? If not, how does the chip “know” what it’s supposed to do?

        • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

          No, every phone doesn’t have to be configured before hand. Think of it as being like a QR code. Any phone that has a QR scanner can scan a QR barcode and the phone will decode it and perform the function that the QR was created for.

          • http://www.twitter.com/slinky317 slinky317

            The difference is that QR codes are printed with a certain reason in mind. If these NFC tags can be reprogrammed, how does the NFC tag know what’s supposed to do? Or do the tags require the TecTile app to be on any phone that tries to use it?

          • CopierITGuy

            Reprogramming an NFC tag is like printing a completely different QR code. It just uses the same chip (sticker). No need for an app since you have the NFC reader physically on your phone. It acts just like your QR scanner app.

          • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

            I’m pretty sure that individual phones just have to have the app that the tag was programmed to use installed (or account/app with the service that the tag was made to interact with). For example, Foursquare supports automatic check-in… An NFC tag can be created with the Foursquare URL, that includes the venue ID, for their check-in page, and then locked so that nobody can change it. The tag will work for anybody who has a Foursquare account and the app installed.
            Stuff like wifi on/off are universal with Android, so that would work for any phone.
            So no, the tec tile app isn’t needed on the phone that scans the NFC tag, just whatever app/service/function/whatever that the tag is programmed to interact with needs to be there.

          • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

            NFC tags can be programmed with a certain reason in mind as well. Maybe I’m not following you correctly here?
            QR codes are created to be universally read by any app that can read QR, producing the same result on all said devices. NFC tags are programmed to be universally read by any device that is running the app (or has the same toggle-able setting, or whatever) that the tag is programmed to interact with, producing the same result on all said devices.

        • Amenemhat1

          That’s a good point. Chuckers suggests that these NFC chips can also store data. This data can possibly instruct the phone what to do next. Definitely requires closer inspection. If you find out, please let me know. I am a nerd for this kind of stuff ;)

      • Chuckers

        it could have a barcode in it but saying that it is just a barcode/unique identifier and the phone does all of the work is kind of wrong.

        You can think of an programmable NFC tag as a very small form of digital storage like a writable CD, flash thumb drive, or hard drive. You can store bits on an NFC tag, not very many, but bits none the less. The phone can write the bits to the tag as well as read them back and determine what to do with the bits.

        • Amenemhat1

          Point taken. thumb drives do not require any power, but they are initiated with a powered device of some sort, so how would the read/write process work on this kind of device?

    • Tom Gervasio

      If i’m not mistaken, I believe “NFC” was an old, old, wooden ship used in the Civil War era.

      • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

        No no, the “NFC” is a division in the NFL.

  • Flat_Stanley

    Does the phone have to be awake and unlocked for this to work? Can you just tap the phone on the tag while in standby? or do you have to turn it on and exit the lock screen first?

    • http://www.gizmoninja.com/ Tabe

      Edit: Adam is correct, phone has to be unlocked.

    • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

      I’m pretty sure the phone has to be on and unlocked. At least that’s true with other tags and the NFC task launcher app.

    • http://twitter.com/mikedotdunham mike dunham

      Phone needs to be unlocked

    • ChuckDz3

      Yep they are right, you must be unlocked for them to be read. That is one reason I don’t like them but I completely understand why. For example when I had an old dock I placed a tag inside and when I put my phone in to execute to toggle a few commands but if your phone falls asleep once you wake it back up it re-reads that tag and toggles the command back off, not a big deal but something to get used to.