USB drives have become so prolific in recent years that they've become practically disposable. Now, one company has created a different type of flash drive that can literally be crumpled up and thrown in the garbage. With an embedded silicon chip, intelliPaper seamlessly turns an ordinary strip of paper into a fully functioning USB drive.
We've seen concepts for a USB stick made out of paper before, but the design team at intelliPaper has now patented technology that allows electronic components to be layered into a regular sheet of paper with USB contact points exposed. Once it's ripped from the full sheet and folded in half, the paper can be inserted into any USB port to access the files it holds, just like a typical USB drive. Files can be added and removed like any other storage device, and the drive can be reused for as long as the paper and contacts remain intact.
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The paper used is about as thick as card stock, and the embedded chip can hold 8-32 MB of data – the team has not decided on a fixed capacity yet, but it will be within this range. So far, the developers have implemented their technology in mail-out flyers, promotional brochures, and business cards, among other items. Uploading data to a fresh card does require a special reader and some software to avoid damaging it, which intelliPaper offers to customers. If someone doesn't want to risk damaging the paper drive itself, intelliPaper also communicates wirelessly with any near field-enabled smartphone or tablet.
Since intelliPaper is so inexpensive to produce, it's not hard to think of plenty of uses for such a paper-based USB drive. Tourists could send out postcards with vacation photos uploaded onto them, couples could send wedding invites with a digital version attached, and schools and businesses could hand out multiple pages of documents uploaded to a single sheet of paper.
The company mostly ships intelliPaper to customers in bulk, but it is also preparing to release products aimed at individual consumers (greeting cards, note cards, and so on). The design group recently finished an Indiegogo funding campaign that was intended to speed up this process, but only raised US$6,480 of its $300,000 goal. Nevertheless, the team did manage to find a U.S. distributor and plans to release USB-enabled note cards, called "DataNotes," in mid-2013.
Check out the video below to see intelliPaper president/CEO Andrew DePaula demonstrate some of the many uses for a sheet of paper outfitted with USB capabilities.