European researchers have developed radio frequency identification (RFID) security tags to help stem the flow of counterfeited goods across the continent.
The STOP (Stop Tampering Of Products) project has developed a number of technologies that researchers say will "empower consumers, distributors, governments and vendors to distinguish genuine goods from illegal imitations".
Foremost among these is a Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chip that can be fitted into products and, along with supporting software, can be used to track products and authenticate them.
Counterfeiting in Europe is on the rise, according to figures from the EU. Since 2001, customs have seized increasing numbers of counterfeited goods. In 2008 alone, over 178 million fake goods were seized. With customs agencies struggling to cope with the levels of counterfeited goods, the STOP campaign was launched by the EU to bring together companies severely affected by counterfeiting and work to find new technological solutions.
Manufacturers of high-value goods such as watches, software developers and medicine suppliers were included in the consultations. "The project partners believe that the whole system needs a shift from mere after-the-fact criminal investigations to upstream, system-wide prevention."
RFID Security Tags
The RFID security tags concept was Developed by software company SAP, the idea is to combine the concept of fitting tailor-made smart-tags to products and deploy sophisticated software that will enable a clear picture of a product's movement through the entire supply chain from manufacture, distribution and purchase, so helping weed out the fakes. Dr Harald Vogt from SAP commented: "What we have demonstrated is an effective combination of technology and organisation, an overall system that can be implemented by businesses without extensive training or extra costs."
The RFID chip and software was tested on a high-end designer wristwatch. The chip was built invisibly into the watch, with the RF signals sent through the watch's case to the software. Although Dr Vogt commented that this was a challenge, it was "quite manageable". More importantly, the results were successful and the costs remained low.
STOP researchers believe the technology can help organisations in different areas - from pharmaceuticals to luxury goods to manufacturing - improve their resilience against counterfeiting.