Trade Resources Economy Every Growing Problem Grows Solutions

Every Growing Problem Grows Solutions

About 7%-8% of the world trade is fake, and the financial value of global counterfeit markets is US$700 billion, Geert de Vries, senior manager of KPMG in The Netherlands reported during the AIPIA i2live webinar, "Active and Intelligent Packaging Solutions for Brand Protection,", citing data from Interpol and the FBI.

Every growing problem grows solutions. So a group of researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), a public research university in Daedeok Innopolis, Daejeon, South Korea, has developed an authentication tool that uses nano-technology to combat product counterfeiting.

It creates unique patterns from tiny, randomly scattered silver nanowires. The nanoscale fingerprints are made by randomly dumping 20 to 30 individual nanowires, each with an average length of 10 to 50 µm, onto a thin plastic film. These have the potential to tag a variety of products such as electronics and drugs or credit cards and bank notes.

The fingerprints are almost impossible to replicate because of the natural randomness of their creation and the difficulty associated with manipulating such small materials, and KAIST researchers estimate that the fingerprints could be produced at a cost of less than US$1 per single pattern.

To analyse the viability of the fingerprints, researchers synthesised a solution containing individual silver nanowires, coated the nanowires with silica, doped them with specific fluorescent dyes and then randomly dropped them on a transferable film made from flexible PET. The fluorescent dyes allowed the patterns, which are invisible to the naked eye, to be visually identified and authenticated under an optical microscope. If a number of different coloured dyes are used, another layer of complexity could be added to the information they provide. The researchers believe the fingerprints could also be tagged with a unique ID, or barcode, which could facilitate a quick search in a database and ease the process of authentication or counterfeit identification.

How much do know about combating counterfeiting? The Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA) recently held an i2live webinar, "Active and Intelligent Packaging Solutions for Brand Protection," for every business vulnerable to the problem.

The industries of pharmaceuticals, health and body care, food and beverage, clothing, luxury goods and automotive are especially vulnerable when it comes to counterfeit products, said Eef de Ferrante, director of the AIPIA. But with the help of mobile devices, brand owners can use emerging advances in technology to combat counterfeit goods.

Brand protection experts are already incorporating consumers' increasing use of smartphones into their solutions. One of the methods is to print QR codes on packages, which consumers can scan on their smartphones to determine the products' authenticity along with a host of other information about the product, said Keith Cutri, director of business development, brand protection solutions, for Eastman Kodak Co.

Once the product is scanned, information that is sent to brand protection managers could help them decide which incidents warrant further investigation. The information can also help marketers with their own efforts.

"If a code is scanned multiple times around the world or in a particular geography, this could be an indication of a counterfeiting problem," Cutri said. He added that codes scanned in areas far from where the product is supposed to be sold could indicate a grey market, where goods are sold in unauthorised areas.

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