Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nano No-No

Joining the YottaMark Hall of Shame this holiday season, is this knock-off of the iconic iPod Nano. For those who still think fakes are a problem for 'other' countries ... this was on sale in a store in Philadelphia Airport.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fake Economy

This week's BusinessWeek included an expose of the ongoing problem of counterfeit drugs entering the US via Internet Pharmacies. As we have noted before, it is practically impossible to distinguish real from fake:

Recently security officials at AstraZeneca put fake and genuine versions of its $4.6 billion-a-year heartburn medicine Nexium on the desk of CEO David Brennan. They looked exactly the same, he says. "This is a very serious problem that is accelerating," Brennan adds.

In addition to contaminated and non-efficacious drugs, the article recounted how fakes can also contain too much active ingredient - with disasterous results. This recent article from provides a great summary of the problems of tackling counterfeit drugs - and some startling new estimates: 200-300,000 Chinese die a year from counterfeit drugs.

Nevertheless, entire local economies in China may rely on counterfeits:
Ohio State law professor Daniel Chow, a counterfeiting specialist, points to the market in Yiwu, a city of 650,000 south of Shanghai. More than 30,000 wholesale distributors sell more than 40,000 different kinds of products in the Yiwu market, 80 to 90 percent of which are counterfeit. Chow estimates there are hundreds of towns like Yiwu and millions, if not tens of millions, of Chinese who depend on counterfeit goods for their economic livelihood.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Mobile Phone as an Authentication Device

Purveyors of brand security technology have often resorted to proprietary scanning devices for checking the authenticity of products. For example: laser pens to make taggants fluoresce or cumbersome scanners with private keys to read barcodes. This is fine for a dedicated security force looking for one type of product - but limits how many people can authenticate products. Some vendors have modified camera phones with lenses or filters - but this doesn't make them any more widely useful than a proprietary scanner. Now, camera phones are emerging as a feasible technique for reading barcodes - and we see some promising trends that should encourage more mobile phone manufacturers and carriers to adopt this technology. This will have a dramatic impact on the ability to use a mobile phone to verify products.

Microsoft recently announced it will support QR codes on its Windows Mobile devices. The beta site is down - but watch this space for updates. QR codes are very widely used in Japan - and look like they will take off in China too.

Nokia also recently announced that the US version of the N93 will be able to read QR codes. This will be the first US cell phone shipped with this capability.

There are multiple startups (incl: Semacode, Kaywa, Shotcode, qode, quickmark) offering downloads for mobile phones to read both open-standard (datamatrix, QR) and proprietary (shotcode) symbologies - and it remains to be seen how the US and European markets will play out. All of these, however, require a Symbian or Java phone - which are seldom found in the US.

YottaMark launched its mobile phone authentication service in the summer of 2006.