Imagine a normal business card; paper-thin, with a logo and a name, perhaps. Now imagine that business card is tagged with near field communication (NFC) and radio-frequency identification (RFID), that would allow someone to scan that card and tap into an even bigger wealth of information about its holder. Portfolios and resumes, for instance; social media, video, photos, and more.

This is the Entrepreneur’s Club of NDSU project for the Innovation Challenge, through their startup called Leverage: they are using NFC and RFID technology to create paper documents that can be scanned by mobile devices.


RFID tech currently underused

Andrew Moe, the team representative for Leverage, said the light bulb moment hit while he was programming an android app and realized how underutilized RFID technology was.

“I realized that the vast majority of smartphones out in the world today can interact with RFID chips and that there are hardly any products or companies that utilize this fact,” he said. “I thought there must be a way to distribute RFID technology to the masses. Our team decided that paper was the best route.”

And the possibilities expand beyond just business cards, Moe said. One could use this technology to scan name tags at business conventions, sending contact information directly to your address book. Or as a level of security, to check whether a person has confirmed access to certain documents – or used on retail items, as a more efficient way to prevent theft (maybe get rid of those awful clunky gray sensors).

To demonstrate this application, the team designed a whimsical game called FargoBird. Within the game, you can scan your particular bird into the game using a paper bird cut-out tagged with RFID (you pick your color of choice). After scanning, your personal FargoBird appears on the screen and you can then play the game – which involves flying over downtown Fargo – to your heart’s content.


The concept of paper-thin RFID tech, however, is not entirely a new one. A Danish startup called Flextown began offering similar technology – RFID-tagged business cards – in 2013 (although they do not seem to made of paper). Another French startup called Tageos, founded in 2007, focuses specifically on the retail market by making RFID adhesives and hang tags.

NDSU professor’s research focuses on RFID in paper

What gives Leverage a unique advantage, Moe said, is their access to the research of NDSU professor Dr. Val Marinov.

“[Marinov]’s research is almost specifically focused on RFID chips in paper technology,” Moe said. “In fact, Dr. Marinov is the patent holder of this technology.”

Dr. Marinov received the patent for what was called “Smart” Paper (paper-thin RFID chips) and antennaless RFID tags in April 2013. Newswise reported on the event, writing:

“Dr. Val Marinov’s team has developed a method to embed ultra-thin, ultra-small RFID chips on paper or other flexible substrates, which could lead to ways to reduce counterfeiting of a wide variety of items such as pharmaceuticals, currency, legal papers, bearer bonds and other security documents.”

Moe went on to say that Dr. Marinov meets with the team regularly, and is currently working with a German company to build the essential machinery to put RFID chips in paper.

“Our innovation is not the idea of RFID chips in paper,” Moe said. “It’s the customized complete solution of an interactive software, and RFID enabled paper tailored to a specific use.”

To learn more about Leverage, contact Andrew Moe at

Photos courtesy of Marisa Jackels.

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Marisa Jackels