For better detection of counterfeit goods, Xerox has developed an innovative packaging label technology that can store information regarding the authenticity and tracking conditions of the products. These printable electronic labels, called “printed memory”, can collect and save over 36 bits of re-writable memory, which can in turn be used to check if a particular product is genuine or to monitor how it’s been distributed. The stored data can be easily retrieved using a wireless reader connected to a smartphone, without the need for an internet connection.
The printed memory technology was originally developed in 2014 by a Norwegian company, named Thin Film Electronics ASA. Xerox has licensed the invention, with the aim of helping businesses and government agencies combat counterfeiting. The labels are programmed to store over 68 billion points of data, as combinations of the binary digits (0 and 1). Speaking about the technology, Steve Simpson, the vice-president of Xerox, said:
This makes it possible to ensure the integrity of a product from the time it leaves the factory to the time it gets into the hands of a customer. Our printed memory products provide a cost efficient, highly secure method of authenticating and verifying information about a product as it moves through various distribution channels or as it is used.
For products that are slightly more sensitive, such as government shipments, Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (PARC), a subsidiary company of Xerox, has come up with a special type of memory label with cryptographic security. Containing additional encrypted code, like a QR bar code, it is designed such that it can be read by authorized personnel only. Unlike currently-available anti-counterfeit technologies, including holographic stickers, invisible ink and even RFID tags, the printed memory label provides an inexpensive and efficient way of confirming the authenticity of products. Bill Cummings, of Thin Film Electronics ASA, said:
In practical terms, it means that a relatively small number of bits can be used to digitally record important information about a labeled product as it moves through the supply chain and distribution network. In addition to a core yes/no verification of product authenticity, the memory bits can verify the intended distribution channel and other item-specific information, such as region code, warrant info, service history, etc., to assist brands and their partners.
Apart from tracking a product and validating its authenticity, the electronic labels can be used to see if a prescription is genuine or to check if shipping tax has been paid for a specific item. The “printed memory” technology will be showcased at the upcoming Pharma Expo conference in Las Vegas, from September 28 to September 30.