01.Connecting paper to the internet
Researchers in Sweden and the UK have created a printed diode capable of operating above one gigahertz, marking a breakthrough in printed e-label technology and adding to current means of interconnecting objects in an internet-like environment.
Heralded as the starting point of having paper connected to the internet, the authors explain that printed electronic labels and stickers are expected to define future outposts of the communication web, as remote sensors, detectors and as surveillance technology, within the "Internet of Things" concept.
Also known as “ubiquitous computing”, the Internet of Things describes an environment where objects – household appliances, clothing, cars, books, furniture and buildings, just about anything really – process information and network with each other and humans. So your bathroom scales can communicate your health risks to your life insurance company, your car can search for a vacant parking spot, and yoghurt on the brink of expiry will tell your fridge, which in turn will tell you to eat it pronto. That sort of thing.
While large or rigid objects, such as fridges or credit cards, can readily incorporate electronic chips, and flexible diodes on foil or plastic are being developed for applications such as clothing and other wearables, there are some applications, such as money, where printed electronics are more appropriate. Indeed, one of the project partners was British company De La Rue, the world’s largest manufacturer of passports and banknotes.
By utilising frequencies of more than 1GHz, these printed e-labels are potentially able to communicate with readily available technology, such as a smartphone, harvesting its power and transmitting data. So, in the case of banknotes, a phone held near the diode could verify the origin of the note and would be difficult to counterfeit.
The next steps are to decrease the cost, making it economically viable for many applications, and to increase the operating frequency to 2.4GHz, in line with standard Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices.