Ericsson's Connected Paper tech streams info through your body

This intriguing technology lets you call up information on your smartphone by touching an object with your finger, turning your body into a kind of capacitive power line network.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
2 min read

It's possible that in the future, information could be called up by simply touching an object. Aloysius Low/CNET

Imagine simply touching a piece of paper, whether it be a business card or a label on an object, and relevant information almost instantly being displayed on your smartphone. That's Ericsson's Connected Paper tech, a working prototype of which I saw.

And what's really cool about it? The information is literally flowing through your body.

Connected Paper uses "capacitive coupling" technology, which transfers electrical signals through the human body, using the same principle as your phone's touchscreen responding to your finger's proximity rather than the physical pressure you exert.

You don't feel a thing, and it means there's no need to tap an object with your phone, which is how it's done today via near-field communication (NFC). It's kind of like your body has become a power line network between the paper and your phone.

Sample objects that make use of the tech. Touch the soup carton and you'd see its ingredients on your phone. Aloysius Low/CNET

Ericsson, which first showed off Connected Paper at CES 2014, says it is capable of data transfers of up to 10Mbps. The simple data transfers I saw, such as touching a paper for a link to the product information, would be a few bytes at most.

Instead of transferring all the information through to the body to the smartphone, Ericsson is betting that the tech will take advantage of future 5G networks, in which the company has made significant investment. 5G will have sufficient bandwidth to handle the thousands of simultaneous download requests of information without a significant loss in latency.

There's still plenty of time before this technology goes mainstream. For one, the receiver is still pretty bulky (see picture below), so work still needs to be done to shrink it down and fit it into a smartphone. Commercial deployment of 5G networks will likely not happen till 2020, too.

The receiver is still a tad bulky, so work needs to be done to shrink it down to fit on a smartphone. Aloysius Low/CNET