Print, chip, click

Contactless public transport tickets and contactless credit cards are the standards we quickly become accustomed to. Within a few years, as common as them can be printed magazines with NFC chips hidden in paper covers and advertising pages, as well as books, product packaging, labels, tags, brochures, business cards and invitations made with miniature electronics, blurring the boundary between traditional media and the online world.

Arjowiggins Creative Papers, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the fine paper and luxury packaging is knocking the wall separating print and digital worlds. Its product called PowerCoat Alive developed by Arjowiggins’ operation based in France, is a physical paper sheet made with a flexible printed RFID tag that can interact with a Near Field Communication enabled smartphones and tablets, causing them to reveal information that is pre-programmed on the chip.

Unlike QR codes that only link to external content, mobile NFC-enabled devices trigger data stored in the microchip that is hidden in the paper without the need for third-party reader apps.

PowerCoat Alive is a form of a digital paper combining Arjowiggins’ papers sandwiching a core layer of customizable printed electronic circuits and a microchip. Electronics are pre-applied to the PowerCoat XD paper base using silver ink, and then thin grades of conventional yet quality fine paper are laminated onto both sides. The outer layers may be chosen from the Arjowiggins’ sampler.

PowerCoat Alive papers credits TrendNomad
Outer layers of the “digital paper” may be chosen from the sampler. Photography by

PowerCoat Alive sheets can be printed, finished and handled the same as normal papers (though, antenna or the chip must not be embossed or stamped). The paper is delivered ready for all types of printing, including offset, digital, screen printing and flexography. A pre-test is recommended for thermographic printing. PowerCoat Alive paper can be also used with standard inkjet or laser office printers, as long as they accept the thickness of the paper.

As the circuits are invisible, Arjowiggins company suggests using printed symbols to show that the paper is NFC-enabled and to indicate where the hotspots are placed.

PowerCoat Alive paper can be stapled, sewn or bound into a book or a magazine, as long as the chip and antenna are not placed along an edge. Naturally, the paper can be torn, burned and recycled.

The standard 13.56 MHz NFC chip implemented in the paper can interact with many current Android and Windows mobile phones (though, iPhones still does not support NFC). No battery is needed, as radio energy from a mobile device is enough to power the chip.

The communication distance is less than 2 cm. In order for the communication to work, the paper must not be placed on a metal surface or immersed in a liquid. It is also important to not press the microchip on the surface of the paper with an excess pressure. In good storage conditions, the electronic circuits can last for over five years.



1. Packaging, labels, price tags

”Digital paper” allows a consumer to tap an NFC-enabled phone against a tag to learn more information about the product while shopping, or to ensure that the item and a package are authentic and not a fake, receive a discount on its price or a coupon for the next transaction, register the product or receive instructions of how to assemble or use the product after the purchase.

One of the first brands that use smart packaging is Alba1913. Watch the movie above to learn more about Scan Me packaging from this Polish cosmetics brand.

2. Brand loyalty

PowerCoat Alive champagne

The chip embedded into a packaging may link directly to an online shop, so a client can easily place an order for a new piece or a product (for instance, a small jar of high-end cosmetic or a bottle of premium olive oil) at the moment when he or she realises the need for buying a replacement.

3. Printed magazines

PowerCoat Alive magazine ad

Electronics hidden in a cover or an advertising page may link to the additional digital content about the promoted product or service, as well as a direct link to an online store where an instant purchase with a discount may be finalized.

4. Business cards

PowerCoat Alive business card

Any potential clients that you gave your business card can easily scan the card and have your contact information inputted into their contact list on their phone so they never lose it.

5. Event tickets and paper invitations

PowerCoat Alive festival ticket

Clients and guests can simply trigger the data about the event they are going to attend by placing their smartphones on the paper and all the information embedded in the chip would be added right to their digital calendar.

6. Source of data

PowerCoat Alive invitation credits TrendNomad
Photography by

The interactivity of PowerCoat Alive extends beyond the customer experience. Brand owners can obtain a tremendous amount of data via dedicated analytics platform allowing them not only to measure the impact of their campaign, but to track and even respond to customer behaviour in real-time, resulting in more personalised, engaging, impactful and efficient campaigns.


To learn more about PowerCoat Alive paper watch the video interview recorded at IDTechEx show that was held in late April 2016 in Berlin.

If you want to ask more questions to Mark Heise regarding PowerCoat Alive, please send him an email at Please note that Mark Heise is PowerCoat Applications Engineer working in the United States, but he will be happy to deliver any information you need and find a distributor in your region.

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