Are you ready for RFID chips built into your money and documents?

May 7, 2013

(Credit: North Dakota State University)

North Dakota State University. researchers have developed a new way of embedding traceable chips within “smart” paper — raising the possibility of banks and governments guarding against counterfeiting and even tracking the usage of paper money, IEEE Spectrum reports.

The new method of embedding radio frequency identification chips (RFID) in paper uses a patent-pending technology called Laser Enabled Advanced Packaging (LEAP) to transfer and assemble the traceable RFID chips on paper. Such “smart” paper could lead to new types of banknotes, legal documents, tickets and smart labels.

The European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan to launch separate projects based on that possibility,a and Saudi Arabian researchers have begun their own efforts to embed RFID chips in Saudi Arabian currency.

LEAP can quickly and precisely place ultra-thin semiconductor chips at specific locations and orientations on both rigid and flexible materials — an approach that could enable other chip-embedded devices such as smart clothing.That could enable the spread of RFID chips in applications as diverse as public transit smart cards and product labels and help make RFID chips cheaper overall.

Such cheap, widely-deployed RFID technology could transform everything about doing business — all the way down to the cash changing hands. Law enforcement agencies could also track smart money as part of its efforts to fight drug trafficking or other organized crime schemes.

But the applied RFID technology could also herald a future world where trackable banknotes further diminish the privacy of how people use money. For instance, the government might track the flow of money in the so-called “gray economy” that relies on mostly untraceable cash exchanges.