From drugs to gadgets, the share of counterfeits in global trade, according to an OECD estimate, stands at 7-10%. The implications worsen with currency counterfeiting. However, fighting fakes has never been easy; the technology behind the spurious has often caught up with, and sometimes even outpaced, that of the authentic. But with non-cloneable identification (nCID), the trend may yet reverse. A Pune-based company, Bilcare, has developed nano-microparticles-enabled authentication that could nail even the best fakes—minuscule amounts of such particles of metal are embedded on an nCID chip on the packaging of a product. Under a magneto-optic sensor, the nCID chip generates a non-reproducible, digitised image unique to the packed unit—‘non-reproducible’ meaning that even the manufacturer of the chip can’t make a copy. The image can then be transmitted through mobile or internet gateways, and the manufacturing site, date and other particulars of the packed unit can be verified. Thus, even the closest lookalike would fail the magneto-optic test. The only weak link is database security—while the unique ID might not itself fail, an nCID chip on a fake, whose information is smuggled into the originals’ data repository, could undermine the process. However, that’s a long-shot.
Telecommunications Consultants India, a public sector enterprise to which Bilcare has licensed the technology, is in talks with the health ministry to make nCID labelling of medicines mandatory. But the possibilities of countering fakes with nano-particles goes beyond just products—imagine nCID-labelled currency notes, passports, high school diplomas, etc.