Soon, Even the Money In Your Wallet Could Have RFID Tags


We’ve written here about how smart organizations are using RFID technology for fixed asset management of all types, from store security to securing police equipment. Engineers have given us ways to embed a radio frequency identification tag in just about everything.

Here’s a new one: A research team at North Dakota State University in Fargo has come up with a way to embed RFID tags in paper, a development that could help battle counterfeiters and keep track of sensitive documents.

‘Smart paper’ Process Likened to Screen-Printing T-shirts

Dr. Val Marinov’s research, presented this week at RFID Journal Live!, has been chronicled in Science Daily and Prairie Business. Marinov calls it “smart paper,” and his team has applied for a patent for a laser process not unlike the screen-printing technique on t-shirts – only instead of an image Mötley Crüe, the process shoots tiny silicon chips onto paper.

Marinov told Prairie Business that the biggest potential benefit of the team’s invention is to prevent counterfeiting money. One of the design challenges was to ensure the circuitry on “smart paper” was flexible and could withstand being crumpled in your pocket.

In exploring market possibilities, Marinov has talked with a Canadian office furniture manufacturer interested in using the design for quality control. Another company is said to be interested in embedding the technology in hospital patient wristbands.

The current goal is driving down the technology’s cost to about a nickel per sheet of paper. One company already sells “smart forms” at 80 cents to $1.50 each, Prairie Business said.

An Epicenter for RFID Research

North Dakota State, it turns out, is an epicenter of RFID research. Another team there has developed “antennaless” tags that would solve the problem of radio interference when traditional RFID tags are affixed to metal objects. Typically, RFID tags are made up of an integrated circuit and an antenna. Previous attempts to design tags that work on metal have resulted in bulky tags that can easily be destroyed in handling.

But a team led by Cherish Bauer-Reich came up with antennaless tags that are less than 3 millimeters thick. They can even be recessed into the surface of a metal container.

So how do they work? Here’s the genius: They use the metal they’re attached to as the antenna. The advance will allow asset management for a wide range of items encased in metal, from coffee cans to barrels of oil.