With counterfeiting making its footprints deeper and marking its presence everywhere, the solutions to combat it have not only become necessary but mandatory. This is where the role of authentication technologies comes in.

Product authentication’s role is to ensure that a given product is genuine or counterfeit. The product authentication process during the entire supply chain should be exemplary as manually it is very difficult to identify a counterfeit. The initial point of automated non-destructive product authentication is to insert a special security feature into products like barcode, QR code, serial numbers etc.

Product authentication can take place at single piece or at pallet formation or at higher aggregated levels also. As every product has different security requirements, therefore different solutions are needed to secure different products.

All the authentication technologies can be categorized into Overt, Covert, Forensic or Digital.

Overt Technologies

These technologies do not require any additional tools; they are visible and apparent with naked eyes. This is the best way for on the spot visual authentication. They can be used in labels, documents and packaging.

Covert Technologies

These technologies are not instantly recognisable. They require special tools or equipment to identify authenticity; not visible through naked eyes e.g. ultraviolet and infrared inks, micro text, unique synthetic tagging etc.

Forensic Technologies

These technologies being covert require detection by specialised technologies and are usually taken to laboratories for validation.

Digital Technologies

These technologies may be either covert or overt and require electronic means of authentication. These are mostly used in RFID tags or in reading a serialized number and comparing to a database.

All these technologies are applied in the three main areas of:

Anti-tampering technologies

These technologies are majorly used in the food and pharmaceutical industry where the product needs to be protected

from adulteration or replacement. Anti-tampering feature gives assurance to the customers that the contents are genuine and not tampered or adulterated.

Anti-counterfeiting technologies

The common feature of anti-counterfeiting technologies is that they are extremely difficult to be counterfeited.

These technologies help in differentiating a counterfeit product from an original product. Based on the authentication requirements, such technologies may consist of overt, covert and forensic features, or a mix thereof.

Track and Trace technologies

These technologies make use of mass serialisation and unique codes to provide unique identity to each item/product.

IT technology enables the manufacturer to keep track of the movement of the product through the entire supply chain. Besides, the location and other relevant information of people in the chain can also be traced.

Product wise description:

These are used to minimise/curb counterfeiting. These inks are cost-effective, relatively easy to apply, and provide an excellent base for some of the most advanced covert applications such as DNA markers and taggant integration. They are extensively used on labels and containers for primary, secondary and tertiary packaging and they are formulated for almost all substrates. The images/text created by security inks are not visible by naked eyes and they can be viewed only with the help of hand-held gadgets like talking pen, taggant reader, UV torch etc.

Following are the different types of security inks used by Holostik.

  1. UV or invisible ink – These inks also known as security inks and are used due to their property that when applied they are invisible either on application or soon thereafter, and can later be made visible by UV light.
  2. Fluorescent ink – This ink is colourless, transparent, or white and can be easily detected under UV light.
  3. Thermochromic ink – This ink is visible only when given heat.
  4. Photochromic ink – This ink is visible under sunlight only.

These can be differentiated into:-

A barcode is a unique number or pattern by which items are uniquely coded, either through an alpha/numeric code and those unique codes are stored in a database and scanned at various points throughout the supply chain. When the product travels through the entire chain and scanned at various check points, it results in providing valuable information about the authenticity of the product.

QR Barcode – QR codes are two dimensional, machine readable bar codes that can contain a significant amount of information intended for a specific user in black and white squares. These squares are used for storing URL’s and other information. We utilise this capability to securely share secret information between the web site and the user.  On scanning the QR code, the user is able to know if the product he has purchased is genuine or not.

These are unique numbers provided to each item which contains confidential information. These numbers are shared between the manufacturer and the user and can only be visible through special sources or medium.

  1. Laser Numbering – This can be done on both sheets and spools. This is transparent,
  2. Inkjet Numbering – This can only be done on spools and is black in colour.
  3. Thermal Numbering – This can only be done on sheets, black in colour. This is the most expensive numbering.
  4. V.Numbering – This can only be done on spools and is invisible. It is only visible under U.V. lamp or blue light.
  5. Chemical Etching – This is a less expensive numbering method as the numbers are assigned during the production of SHIM (Single Hologram Image Master). The only drawback of this is that it gives constant numbering.

The secured text is visible only under a special film, Raster film. The hidden text appears to be in motion when seen under a Raster film.

The unique hidden security code or text is provided as covert readable feature. It is visible only through laser light.

These images cannot be seen with a naked eye. The image can be visualised by the use of a diode laser or a specially designed compact reader. The feature requires very high accuracy of micro-relief fabrication and reproduction, the asymmetrical multi-level shape of the micro-relief is recorded at extremely small resolution in depth, so the feature forms different covert images at diffraction orders which can be verified by the compact reader.

Taggants are uniquely encoded materials that are virtually impossible to duplicate. A taggant is like a fingerprint—a unique signature of identity to which customers assign meaning. Taggants can be overt or covert and are used for a wide variety of application. Microscopic or nanoscopic particles of taggant are put into ink, paper, laminates and labels. Some taggants are phosphors that reveal themselves with a light source tuned to the phosphor chemical make-up. DNA is added to ink, paint, polymers, adhesives, etc. Tagged inks require special authentication. An emerging class of covert and forensic level technologies which utilise unique and highly engineered particles to construct specific signatures which can be detected sometimes in the field, but more often in a laboratory.

This is a special device used for checking the genuineness of the products. The Talking pen is scanned over the QR/Linear barcode over the hologram. If the product is original, a voice is heard, ‘This is a genuine product.’ In case the product is fake and not genuine, a voice saying, ‘This product is not genuine’ is heard.

By definition, a hologram is a three-dimensional image, created with photographic projection. Hologram term is derived from Greek words holos (whole) and gramma (message). It is a true three-dimensional and free-standing image that does not simulate spatial depth or require a special viewing device.

The theory of holography was developed by Dennis Gabor in 1947. The development of laser technology made holography possible.

A photographic technique that records the light scattered from an object, and then presents it in a way that appears three-dimensional is known as Holography.

Various types of holograms have been made over the years, including transmission holograms, which allow light to be shined through them and the image to be viewed from the side; and rainbow holograms, which are used for security purposes like credit cards and driver’s licenses and other ID’s etc.

How holography works

In order to create a hologram, an object is needed that needs to be recorded; a laser beam to fall on the object and the recording medium; a recording medium with the proper materials needed to help clarify the image; and a clear environment to enable the light beams to intersect.

A laser beam splits into two identical beams and redirected by the use of mirrors. One of the split beams, the illumination beam or object beam, is directed at the object. Some of the light is reflected off the object onto the recording medium.

he second beam, known as the reference beam, is directed onto the recording medium. This way, it doesn’t conflict with any imagery that comes from the object beam, and coordinates with it to create a more precise image in the hologram location.

The two beams intersect and interfere with each other. The interference pattern is what is imprinted on the recording medium to recreate a virtual image for our eyes to see.

The recording medium, where the lights converge, can be made up of various materials. One of the most common used with hologram creation is photographic film, with an added amount of light-reactive grains. This enables the resolution to be higher for the two beams, making the image look much more realistic than using the silver halide material from the 1960s.

Holographic scratches are broadly used to hide the codes behind a layer of holography. The layer of holography not only protects the code (before scratching) but also demonstrates the genuineness of that particular article.

These scratches are used for hiding important and confidential information (codes or numbers) and can be viewed only by scratching. This ensures the authenticity of the product and is tamper-evident. These scratches are made using sophisticated technology and high-quality materials and offers multiple-security features (security cuts).

Scratches are used in many industries like telecom, lottery, FMCG, hospitality etc.

E-beam technology – Holostik provides wide assortment of E-beam holograms which are created using powerful electron beams. Exactly the e-beam technology of hologram origination is used in products as security applications. This technique is to provide high resolution for nano features and vivid and sharp images.

E-Beam technology makes it possible to create originals of computer-synthesized holograms with high- level of protection. Holograms incorporate security elements that cannot be manufactured using other technologies.

The main features of E-Beam :

  1. Concealed Images
  2. Micro text
  3. High Resolution line patterns
  4. Kinetic Images
  5. Switch effect
  6. Shaped Pixel
  7. 2D/3D images
  8. True color images
  9. Laminated images

Another unique feature of E-Beam recording is that this technology makes it possible to vary the shape of the Pixel. Security ratings for this medium are very high. The hologram produced using electronic beam technology is considered to be the most secured hologram internationally. These holograms are originated using highly sophisticated and very expensive E-Bean Lithography system. This king of technology allows creating of originals of holograms with a resolution of up to several nanometres. The hologram includes elements that cannot be manufactured using other optical or printing technologies. The technique requires development of various algorithms for designing optical elements that shapes scattered radiation patterns. This origination technique offers manifold possibilities for combining various security features.

The hologram produced using Dot Matrix technology is considered to be one of the most secured hologram internationally. These holograms are originated using highly sophisticated and very expensive Dot Matrix System. This technology allows creating or originals of holograms with extremely small resolution. Dot Matrix technology makes it possible to create originals of computer synthesised holograms with high level of protection. The hologram includes elements that cannot be manufactured using other optical or printing technologies. This technique requires development of various algorithms for designing optical elements that shapes scattered radiation patterns. Dot Matrix is considered to be one of the most secured holograms world-over. It easily helps create, edit and expose digital holograms. A broad range of holographic effects such as kinetic and colour animation, 2D/ 3D modulation of the back ground, stereographic background, true colour images, single and animated hidden images, micro text, special texture images etc. can be obtained using this technology. All effects are easily accessible through the software.