Copper Tags As Converter of Normal Objects Into Smart Devices


A copper tag that act as a mirror to reflect the radio signals from a Wifi source / Photo by


A team of engineers wanted to expand the Internet of Things through the use of tags. The tags can be planted on normal objects and turn them into smart connected devices.

The engineers called their technology LiveTags. The tags are printable metal materials made from patterns of copper foil. The copper foils are printed onto thin, flexible, paper-like components, and tweaked to reflect WiFi signals. As a result, the tags act like mirrors to reflect the radio signals from a WiFi source, such as a router.

“Our vision is to expand the Internet of Things to go beyond just connecting smartphones, smartwatches, and other high-end devices,” said Xinyu Zhang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California San Diego.

To test the proof-of-concept, the engineers created a paper-thin music player controller smart tag. The music player has dedicated buttons for play, pause, next track, and a sliding bar to control the volume level. Each of the button and the sliding bar has at least one copper component to send signals to a WiFi device. When they tested it, it was able to remotely control a WiFi receiver.

In another experiment, they used the technology to develop a hydration monitor. They attached a tag to a plastic water bottle and let it monitor the water level inside the bottle. The basic monitoring capacity of the tags can be applied to monitor the water intake of an individual.

According to the team, the smart tags do not have silicon chips or any other separate electronic components, which translates to low maintenance requirements. Moreover, the tags do not batteries to run and reflect the radio signals.

The engineers envision the tags as a cost-effective solution to monitor human interaction on common objects. The devices can also be used to track down the activity of patients who are staying at home.