Anti-counterfeiting tech “Most likely to succeed”

Counterfeiting is a threat to brand owners and OEMs in many industries but for consumers, the potential danger is highest in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Work continues on a variety of means to hinder counterfeiting. Recently we covered the release of a new masterbatch designed to help OEMs, brand owners and others track their goods to help resolve security, counterfeiting, liability and other issues, even at the retail store level.

TruTag anti-counterfeiting technology
TruTag is a new anti-counterfeting system that could be incorporated into plastics packaging for medical devices, pharmaceuticals and more.

Now word has arrived of an anti-counterfeiting means developed and marketed by TruTag Technologies. The company claims its technology, called TruTag, is low-cost, heat-resistant, and edible. Made from silica (SiO2, so certainly low cost and heat resistant; not sure if you want to eat it but sure, you can), the TruTags are said to help prevent counterfeiting, improve tracking and authentication, add efficiency to clinical trials administration, provide informatics for product and component tracking through the supply chain, and assure product quality in consumer goods such as medicines, computer chips, aircraft parts and the like.

Each miniscule silica tag contains a custom spectral signature chosen from more than one trillion possibilities. The unique choice of tag signature and product combination is the key to confirming the authenticity of the product. The company says each item costs only fractions of a penny to label.

TruTag Technologies recently got a pat on the back from the financial community. The Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs (SVASE) hosted an event, Launch: Silicon Valley 2011. Out of 300 applicants, Trutag Technologies won the Life Sciences category as the company that is "Most Likely to Succeed", as voted on by a group of Venture Capital panelists and a moderator, a life sciences attorney.  In February 2011 TruTag was the Grand Prize winner at the Hawaii Entrepreneur Pitch Competition for Venture Ready Companies at the Nasdaq OMX:  Road to IPO event in Honolulu.

To make the microtags, high-purity silicon is oxidized by a high-temperature bake to form SiO2. Then, and this is what the company says is its proprietary technology, a "spectral barcode" is etched into the porous silicon wafer to give it a unique optical signature, without the use of additional additives or markers. This allows the tags to be added to coatings and applied to the exterior of edible goods, or added to ingredients such as powders and used as a forensic marker, to be read and verified as part of an investigation or inspection process by authorized security or quality assurance personnel.

The code can be measured via a portable spectrometer-based optical reader, then verified against other cryptographic information printed on the package, so that the item and packaging are authenticated together; tampering with either the package, or the contents, would flag a security violation. Additionally, each tag can reference a label in a secure database, where additional information about the item can be stored as desired, such as a link to a future e-pedigree track and trace system.

Since the microtags are encoded with information throughout their depth, rather than along their surface, they can be broken into pieces, with each piece still containing all of the encoded information.

Even after the use and disposal of a product, typically the silica microtag will survive. The high melting point (above 1600°C) means they can be incorporated into plastics for melt processing too.

We've written on such tracers in the past, specifically ones from Microtrace in the U.S. and Polysecure in Germany.  No doubt multiple types of tags will see commercial success, based on product-specific requirements as well as the associated cost of these anti-counterfeiting tools.


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