Increasingly, an important aspect for consumer protection is securing the supply chain by implementing traceability and counterfeit protection.

Anti-counterfeit measures play an essential role in ensuring that products are genuine. For the consumer, knowing they are getting a genuine product is extremely important, allowing them to safely use the product without risk of being injured, poisoned or even worse. The counterfeiting of products is particularly prevalent in the pharmaceutical industry yet effects other industries also, such as the automotive wheels industry. In any industry counterfeiting puts consumer health at risk. Examples of risks induced by fake products could be the following:

  • A fake medicine could kill the patient consuming it.
  • A counterfeit wheel may break while the driver is driving on the motorway causing grave danger, not only to the passenger, but other road users.
  • A fake circuit breaker may start a fire within a building, again putting its occupants in danger.

Traceability, on the other hand, will not only help the brand to manage the supply chain but can also provide very useful information about the product origin for the consumer. For instance, knowing that the gold you buy is coming from a responsible mine which does not exploit child labor can be valuable information.

QR codes are becoming extremely popular among brand owners in order to provide this kind of information to consumers. The brand owner provides a dedicated application to read the QR code which in turn provides the consumer with further information about the product. It can even be used as a marketing tool, for instance to inform consumers about promotions or discounts. QR code technology is widely used on many different products and consumers have grown used to taking their smartphones and scanning them.

However, a standard QR code is not a security feature. Very often consumers mistake it as an extra security feature. QR codes, when used as traceability tools, can easily be copied and therefore cannot be seen as tangible line of defense against counterfeiting. Imagine if you will, a bank note only containing a QR code as a method of protection, it would be simply bypassed by criminal gangs and fraudulent notes would flood the cash market.

Brand owners are quickly becoming conscious of this fact and we are now seeing many different combinations of authentication technologies being used. Traceability is no longer revered as the future of product security. However, we have to be careful not to give consumers a false sense of security. For example, combining a hologram with a QR code can be problematic and, in some instances, dangerous. Consumers are accustomed to scanning QR codes but are in general not able to check the authenticity of a hologram.

For consumers holograms are an easy to find and visible security feature. However, here too we find issues. Holograms can appear identical and the sophisticated color and image changes are known only to company officials. A consumer may see a copy of a hologram, fail to inspect it and assume the product is genuine. It may even be the case that consumers ignore the presence of the hologram and therefore completely skip checking it before scanning the QR code.

It is generally known that consumers will generally run a one-step process. This means, a consumer may scan the QR code and consider the product genuine when receiving the traceability information. The hologram, although equally necessary to authenticate the product, may be ignored. The same is of course true for any other authentication technology combined with a QR code.

It is true that the QR code is a very convenient technology for consumers. Yet, it must be stated that the best way to protect your product is by reinforcing the QR code with the ability to act as an anti-counterfeiting feature. These give the ability for a product to be authenticated in one single step without the consumer even knowing or seeing it. It could be done by either creating a Secured QR Code or by adding a specific covert security feature next to the QR code; such as a Cryptoglyph.

To conclude, when it comes to protecting your product and your customers, there are many great methods out there. Yet as counterfeiting becomes increasingly complex, it is no longer possible to rely on one overt anti-counterfeiting technology. At AlpVision, we are dedicated to creating technologies that are easy to use but make products impossible to counterfeit. To find out more about how we can protect your product, contact us.

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