Looking at past 50 years in history – world-of-today has systematically advanced in securing digital transactions but ironically physical transactions are still remaining traditional with no significant improvement. Though new interesting inventions seen, those are applicable in certain niche segment only and World continues to be primitive for mass market use-case despite industry is spending on stop-gaps and combining one stop-gap with another hoping for better.
Market research and forecast reports talk about trends those are based on assumptions in mind of decision-makers and those do not dig further to give insight towards fundamental issues at the core. LINKSMRT has clear interest and stake in this segment and during last 2 years, we decide to explore the core problem behind apparent problem on the ground by doing deep dive sessions with brand-protection leaders across verticals at various platforms and forums globally. It was not just questions and answers but we always confronted their answers either with counter-response OR one more level of WHY. This post is the compilation of hard facts in brand-protection space that seems to set trend how the physical transactions will be secured in future. These brand-protection leaders came from varied background ranging from technology, marketing, packaging, sales and legal. We hope readers will enjoy going through the end realizing that these are not traditionally known facts that one keep finding in the academic/market research reports on the internet. Below section captures important points those were found common across:
Many brand-protection leaders expressed commonly when further drilled – They keep encountering proposal from new vendors about new technologies in anti-counterfeit space but as enterprise apart from product-counterfeit they also needed package-tampering, refill-evidence (spurious content in original packaging) or sometimes warranty-fraud prevention. Very difficult to afford and internalize different technologies and train employees and partners on each one of those. It is just too much of a headache around multiple technologies such that sometimes even slowing down our decision on basic anti-counterfeit requirement as well.
Very much like in digital transaction space, It is just needed one package to counter all malwares including virus, trojan, worms or spywares – Similarly single-point paradigm needed in physical transaction space for counterfeit, tampering, re-fill or warranty-fraud. Simple example – There are known ways to scan counterfeits but nothing to do automated scan & detect tampering.
Whatever is attempted now that shall change in near future as counterfeiters somehow get access to the same – Maybe in connivance with our own employee, vendors or partner. Sometimes even with partial duplication counterfeiting is pretty successful. So, the focus is less on merit and more on pricing-margin and many times it is just about temporary posturing in public space that we are really serious about brand-protection.
Stop-gaps get easy entry due to the above and which is easily manipulated and rather counterfeit increases and that again strengthens the above and which in-turn causes more of stop-gaps and this vicious cycle continues.
Number system is relatively easier to adopt but has different concerns. One just needs to know number and authentication do not need physical access to the product which is the biggest leak. serialized or randomized both have similar issues. With serialized holograms, situations become more complex and as mostly authentication may stop at the visual examination of holograms and rate of digital authentication drop significantly. Scannable holograms being attempted are welcome steps provided other parameters are met as well like fully automated scan with robustness and scan-ability even for reuse of originals indicating tampering. Number system is good for product-diversion but not fit to tackle product-counterfeit.
If one need at-least digital access to passwords, tokens, certificates to execute a digital transaction- similarly one should have at-least physical access to product during authentication and authentication just by knowing unique number without necessitatingphysical access actually promotes counterfeits.
Non-clonable tag seems answer but there is none that can offer instant, automated and precise authentication by consumer device like a standard smartphone. Plus, all these tags depend on prior encoding at time-of-manufacturing so tags can be misused in connivance with insider unless we follow strict SoP which is almost impossible in bulk production.
Very much like cryptography is root of security for digital transactions- Can we have something similar for physical transaction.
Not being Instant, Automated and precise authentication – end-consumer experience becomes eventually boring. End-consumer realizes that this is not something serious and hence it becomes non-engaging directly impacting rate-of-authentication.
Thin film NFC seems better as this one offers instant, automated and precise authentication. Excellent for tracking but for last-mile authentication without a scannable visual feature – Problem remains unsolved. There is hardly any difference between defective (but original) and fake (which is damaged) which will look visually intact as both will not scan, can easily be misused. Non-clonable NFC are costlier too,
There is the rare incidence of counterfeit seizure based on the pure use of technology and most of the times it is because of ground intelligence and/or market investigation. But these are again not a dependable solution as either this becomes too costlier to afford or those providing intelligence plays double game striking a deal with counterfeiters.
Blockchain is being talked but those can secure only digital part of physical transaction and beyond digital space problem remains un-addressed. Artificial intelligence applicability is too limited for this real problem, authentication is too slow and does not even assume counterfeiter also source raw material from same source OR sometimes counterfeiters are authorized contract manufacturer doing un-official production
Fundamentally all the above indicates strongly that this is technology problem at core for which they are continuously exploring the right option. The non-technology way is too problematic and really cannot scale.
While technology void is very clear, LINKSMART has taken cognizance of the trend and proud to share that new paradigm being practiced addresses almost all of the points discovered above. Today LINKSMART is proven to catch counterfeits by pure use of technology and gradually we are extending this benefit to more customers and brand-protection leaders. We shall share more interesting data in phase-2 of this post. Readers may look forward to that and till then stay tuned.