Email and social networking sites have led to a sharp decline in the amount of paper used to communicate and store information. But that doesn’t mean paper is completely obsolete in the digital world. A company called intelliPaper has found a way to transform tiny scraps of paper into fully functional USB drives and programmable documents that could revolutionize the printed materials industry and cut down on the ocean of e-waste currently headed for the landfill.
To create these smart-paper product, the company embeds a silicon chip between layers of paper, laminates those layers, and then prints conductive USB traces onto the paper which connect to the chip. The finished paper USB drive can be embedded into just about any type of paper product, including business cards, promotional mailers, and greeting cards. Although they work just like bulky plastic drives they can be mailed just like any other paper mailer.
Think about sending grandma a birthday card with pictures of the kids loaded directly into the paper, or attaching a digital sales presentation to every business card you hand out. These mini USB drives can be written on, decorated, and stapled to other documents. Better yet, when these USB devices have reached the end of their useful life, all you’ve got to do is pull out the electronic guts, and the remaining paper can be tossed into the recycling bin.
IntelliPaper recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but they’re still a long way from the goal. If you’re interested in scoring one of the very first paper USB devices to ever be printed, check out their page.