There’s no stopping the Internet of Things (IoT) from changing the way we will interface with everyday objects. This includes the ability to determine if a product, part, or asset is genuine. Product counterfeiting and diversion affects every sector of commerce, and exposes people to fraud, injury and even death. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one percent of all medications available in the developed world are counterfeit. In areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, that percentage jumps to nearly 30 percent.

The IoT authentication revolution has begun and is as simple as touching your phone to the object and receiving a “valid” or “non-valid” response linked to a unique identifier. The future use of block chain data bases will assure a complete ordered record of each linked modification that can’t be altered, not only providing verification of authenticity, but a track & trace history.

Track & Trace Technology

Current track & trace technologies include a wide variety of software systems that work independently, linked to other systems, or are part of ERP systems. The programs interface with units in the system through barcodes, RFID, NFC and even human readable codes.

However, today there are still reliability issues due to differences in hardware and software platforms. Although we like to think the internet is always available, basic connectivity can still be an issue, especially for the consumer. Without connectivity, the system breaks down.

IoT shows great promise in the fight to keep counterfeit goods out of the market, but let’s not forget the value of physical anti-counterfeit technologies.

Physical technologies

A successful brand protection program utilizes a multi-level approach combining both software verification and physical anti-counterfeit technologies. Physical technologies in the form of labels, tapes and seals provide authentication tools applied to the container, package, case and/or pallet. While the software provides verification of the unit and information to combat diversion, the physical features protect the code and is an alternate means to check authenticity.

These physical features can include overt, covert and forensic technologies. Overt features are easily authenticated with basic education and without the need of tools or readers.

Authentication can be made by a consumer or investigator without software or internet connectivity. In the case where the verification program is also used, the verification response can include additional authentication instructions and links to other information. Covert and forensic features require special knowledge and/or tools for authentication. They provide additional barriers to counterfeit attempts while supporting investigation
and litigation.

Total reliance on IoT may be in our future, but brand protection of products and assets is most successful utilizing a multi-layered approach that combines software and physical anti-counterfeit technologies.

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