Samsung TecTiles let users automate their lives with NFC

TecTiles allow you to automate daily or repetitive smartphone operations with just one tap.

Forget about mobile payments, Samsung wants you to use your smartphone's Near Field Communication (NFC) chip to complete tasks at home, the office and in your car. Samsung announced that it will sell programmable stickers, called TecTiles, that you can use to automate daily or repetitive smartphone operations with just one tap.

You can stick Samsung's TecTiles in your car to toggle your Bluetooth radio on or off, or place a TecTile at home to automatically set your phone to silent. Samsung also envisions restaurants placing TecTiles on their menus to enable one-tap Foursquare check-ins or to connect to a public Wi-Fi network.

Each TecTile sticker is about the size of a postage stamp and comes with an embedded NFC chip. You can buy a pack of five TecTiles for $15 through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon stores, or online directly from Samsung. Samsung says TecTiles will work with almost any NFC-enabled phone, but users will need Samsung's TecTile application from Google Play to program the stickers.

You will also need the app to perform certain functions such as changing your phone's settings or launching a specific app. The TecTile app requires an NFC-enabled phone and Android 2.3.3 or higher. NFC is a technology that allows you to share small bits of data between devices using special chips that can connect to each other when in close proximity.

NFC has yet to take off in any significant way in the United States. Early uses of the technology have centered around mobile payment services such as Google Wallet, which launched in September. There are other applications as well such as Research in Motion's recently launched BlackBerry Music Gateway. This small $50 gadget lets you stream music wirelessly from you phone to a home or car stereo using NFC and Bluetooth. Some PCs such as the Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook have NFC reading capabilities to share data such as Web addresses between NFC-enabled devices.

NFC may not be a popular feature yet, but that may soon change as the number of devices equipped with NFC chips is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years. The marketing firm ABI Research predicts that the number of NFC-enabled smartphones will grow dramatically from 80 million devices in 2012 to more than 550 million by 2016, according to IDG News.

But even if NFC becomes a popular feature, you have to wonder how long TecTiles will last. Who wants a bunch of stickers hanging off their dashboard, office desk, and night table? A better option than stickers might be to have programmable NFC tags embedded where you can't see them (like inside your car's dashboard).

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter andGoogle+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

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