How can RFID Prevent Counterfeited Goods?
Two days ago, an online shopping page had posted a photo of a breathtaking Givenchy black leather bag that costs $50. Truth be told, I wanted to so see if I can get a better price. So I hit the road, in search for this bag with this thought in mind “Let the hunting begin!” After, getting in and out of every single store in the town, (almost giving up but I’m no quitter when it comes to fashion and books) I entered this store where I saw this magnificent black leathered beauty hanging right before my eyes. I asked the owner for the price and before I could actually realize my dreams and fantasies by having this beautiful baby in between my thirsty hands, he hit me with: “$100.” Well, I didn’t buy the bag, for two reasons. 1. I can’t afford it, (insinuating how poor I am, 2. It’s a counterfeited bag. Not even original. Although the original one is waaaay beyond my league as it costs about $3000. But still, I won’t pay a hundred bucks for a fake one. So, how can RFID stop good’s counterfeiting?
Here’s the thing. In a world of extremely high demands, and sorts of low incomes, people take advantage of such “opportunities” to counterfeit products and still get the most out of it. Counterfeiting is generally considered one of the greatest threats to the world economy. It is estimated that counterfeit goods cost the global economy up to $250 billion a year. Even though it’s quite illegal to do so, still this isn’t prompting any kind of hindrance for such acts. However, technology has summoned upon its forces to put an end for this illegitimate masquerade once and for all.
RFID technology has been quite prominent for its wide use in inventory, warehouse and fixed assets’ automated control, but remained in the shadows for its anti-counterfeiting capabilities in all sorts of industries from apparel to pharmaceutical products to electronics.
So let’s tackle this issue in a more detailed manner. To begin with, counterfeiting is the process of emulating products under someone else’s name (without their permission of course) for much lower prices given the fact that the production of these products doesn’t cost much. “Easy Money” is the trigger for manufacturers (or criminals in that matter), where they disregard the concerns of quality, image, intellectual property etc. This of course has a huge load of negative impacts on the original manufacturing companies some of which are: loss of market share, brand deterioration, weakening intellectual property etc.
Indeed, companies have taken countless approaches to overcome this dilemma. Some of these solutions were a special labeling printed on the product itself or what so called tamper evident packages. However, these traditional solutions failed to resolve the persistent issue. But with the help of RFID technology, companies can rest assured and forget about the concerns related to counterfeiting for good!
Unlike the barcode system, RFID tags (they come in all sizes and shapes for ultimate convenience) can actually store information about a certain product and doesn’t require a direct line of sight to be processed. This RFID tag is embedded within the product itself enabling tracking. Quite recently, chip-less RFID tags emerged to the surface. Due to broader RFID adoption, new technologies are trying to make RFID more reliable and cost-effective for a larger number of applications. With new electronic printing and conductive ink technologies, companies could print their own chip-less RFID tags on items. This solution serves two purposes at once: 1. Authentication of products, 2. Tracking the good’s movement throughout the entire supply chain.
RFID passive tags are attached onto the products, where each tag has its own unique code. This unique code is encrypted & stored on the software’s database as a reference code of the product. The RFID reader, upon reading the tags, processes the tag’s code where in turn the database decrypts the data gathered. If the database confirms a match, this implies that the product is authentic & not counterfeited; if it doesn’t confirm a match then the product is otherwise counterfeited.
RFID enables the identification of the product, detect its exact location, detect whether or not it’s been transferred or sold as well as monitor the product’s status. Unlike the barcode, the RFID reader can process and read hundreds of tagged items (even if they’re concealed) simultaneously and in a matter of seconds. It also enables companies to check quality standards in terms of the storage process for example. Acquiring such crucial data allows for a well managed supply chain and detection of counterfeits, in which case serves as evidences in cases of litigation.
Although criminals or pirates have already figured out a way to clone authentication codes (like barcodes for example), it was not quite the case with RFID tags. It’s impossible to copy authentication codes as they are immune with the ability to store data and their unique code serves as the DNA of each product or item granting them their propensity to accurately verify authenticity. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, RFID tags enable a precise and accurate tracking of the product’s trajectory starting from the manufacturing company in the supply chain and ending with the end-user granting an ultimate form of transparency that has never existed with the barcode system.
Besides these advantages (verifying authenticity and tracking product’s movements), RFID grants companies the ability to directly connect with their customer emphasizing their importance. Due to the widespread use of NFC-enabled smart phones, it became much easier for everyone to connect with RFID technology, where NFC smart phones are also able to detect fraud and to verify authenticity of products thus increasing trust between customers and the producing company.
In essence, RFID is a cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution that enables any company to protect themselves from counterfeiting which often compromises the company’s will and brand image as well as cost it huge amounts of losses. Counterfeiting can cost much more than money, it costs reputation. Unless you want otherwise, you might want to consider protecting your brand as well as your customers.