Counterfeiting is a massive problem. To help secure valuable items such as banknotes, the most common method today is through optically variable ink (OVI). In a nutshell, OVI ink appears to change colors based on the angle of viewing. How does it work and is it the most secure method of anti-counterfeiting protection?
Optically variable ink – OVI – How It is Used
The way the light reflects off OVI security ink when viewed at an angle makes the ink’s color appear different when compared to looking at it straight on. In many use cases OVI may be transparent when viewed directly but takes on a color when viewed at an angle. Other times, such as on the U.S. $100 bill, the number 100 will change from black to green depending on the viewing angle.
Many banknotes use this technology to indicate a genuine note, as do many official documents and other printed products to prove they are genuine. Is it the best solution, though? In most cases the answer is no, they are not the best solution. Still, let’s look at the advantages that OVI has as well as the disadvantages before we dive into some alternate solutions that may be available.
Advantages of OVI
For the end user, OVI is easy to detect. The change in color when the viewing angle is changed is very noticeable and it would be difficult to miss. In the example above with the U.S. $100 bill, the change in the color of the number 100 on the bottom right of the bill is drastic and easy to notice.
OVI also has the advantage of being unique to its application. For example, the precise shade of green in the $100 bill’s OVI use is not easy to get exactly right for a counterfeiter. The same can be said for other applications; because only one company manufactures the majority of the OVI security ink used worldwide, their process and formula of their ink is proprietary. Nobody will be able to easily replicate the precise coloring.
OVI does have a certain level of trust behind it, as even governments—such as the United States—use it to protect their currency.
Drawbacks of OVI
There are a couple of major disadvantages to OVI. First, for this to be an effective anti-counterfeiting method people need to know what they are looking for when examining the item. In the $100 bill example we have been using, the person examining the bill would need to know that the 100 should change colors at an angle.
While we mentioned the precise colors being difficult to replicate, the effect of OVI ink itself can be replicated by high-level counterfeiters. They may not get the exact shade of the color correct, but it seems unlikely that the person examining will be able to spot this difference unless they have a known genuine to look at along-side the counterfeit to find the difference in color. Identifying genuine OVI compared to a fake is not easy. This makes producing replicas possible.
Protecting with OVI can also come at a high manufacturing cost. The inks are expensive, and special procedures must be used to professionally print them. For a business with limited cashflow who wants to apply anti-counterfeiting protection to their products, OVI may not be cost-prohibitive.
It may not be easy, but counterfeiters today have become highly skilled at what they do. This makes OVI insecure. The cost of implementing an OVI based anti-counterfeiting solution may also be a sticking point for some. So, if OVI is expensive and is not a highly secure method of preventing counterfeits, then what better options are there?
For printed products, Cryptoglyph is a highly secure anti-counterfeiting technology. What is unique about Cryptoglyph is that the security protection cannot be detected with the naked eye. This unique trait is due to the innovative mechanism by which the technology works. Because this protection cannot be seen, it is extremely difficult to copy.
To produce products that are protected by Cryptoglyph, tiny holes are pseudo-randomly printed in the varnish or solid color layer. In some instances, imperceptible micro-dots may be printed as well. None of this can be seen with the naked eye, and the random nature of the surface defects used cannot be easily duplicated.
In order to detect this protection, a dedicated smartphone app is used. This is the only method to read the Cryptoglyph to decide if the sample is genuine or not. Given the visually imperceptible nature, this is a great solution as it hides the protection from potential counterfeiters. They will not even realize that there is protection on the product, and thus will not have reason to even attempt faking it.
For molded and stamped products, AlpVision Fingerprint is the best option on the market. This groundbreaking technology utilizes the surface of the product itself for authentication. For injection molded products in particular, this is by far the most secure and difficult to counterfeit. Much like Cryptoglyph for printed products, counterfeiters won’t even know that your product is protected when you use AlpVision Fingerprint. This means that even if it was possible to replicate the authentication, counterfeit makers won’t even try because they are unaware that the protection exists.
AlpVision Fingerprint needs just a few reference images to authenticate products, which is made possible by analyzing the microscopic surface irregularities that every product has. These 100% unique characteristics are able to be used to authenticate the product. This means that deployment of this anti-counterfeiting solution is simple, as just a few reference images allow the authentication of millions of products.
The other benefit of this solution is that no modification to the product itself is needed. There is no need to print anything on the surface, as the surface itself supplies all of the needed information. Once a brand has setup their products to be authenticated by AlpVision Fingerprint, detection can be easily done using the dedicated smartphone app.
Secured QR Codes
For products that are already using printed QR codes, the easiest to implement solution that is highly secure are Secured QR Codes. This technology creates micro-holes in the black ink part of the standard QR code. This means that standard QR code readers will still read the message behind the QR code, but the dedicated smartphone app can also detect whether the sample is genuine through the Secure QR Code’s micro-dot arrangement.
This is another technology that is invisible to the naked eye, making it extremely difficult to replicate. Security of the code detection is able to be assured through deep learning, so authentication is easily achieved.
Secured QR codes are a beautiful example of using markings that already exist on the product to generate a security feature that protects your product’s authenticity. This means no changes need to be made to the printing hardware and the codes can be printed with simple inkjet printing. The result is a low-cost yet highly-effective solution that will protect both your bottom line and your brand.
Which OVI Alternative is Best for You?
AlpVision supplies several high-quality solutions for product authentication and anti-counterfeiting. Those mentioned in this post are only scratching the surface and there are many important details to understand about each choice. The important thing is figuring out which technology is most appropriate for helping you protect your brand and the products you produce.
If you’re a manufacturer of products that are printed, for example, you will benefit most from a technology that prints added security or utilizes QR or bar codes that are already printed on your products. However, if you are a manufacturer using injection molding or stamping techniques, then an authentication method that utilizes properties of the product itself would be the most beneficial.
Across these different manufacturing processes there may even be a couple of different options to weight the pros and cons of in choosing the best option.
In order to help get a more in-depth understanding of the options and to help you select the best solution, we’ve published a whitepaper to help you.
Download it for free
to begin protecting your brand today. We’re always available for you to contact us after reading through the whitepaper to answer any questions you may have about any of our anti-counterfeit solutions or to help you put a plan in place to protect your products with the best solution.