Digital Technologies, a silver bullet for beating counterfeited cigarettes?

British custom officers are testing counterfeited products with digital technologies

RFID* technology: go with the flow
In November 2012, the 140 parties involved in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) adopted a protocol to fight counterfeited cigarettes, among other measures, establishing a global tracking and tracing system.
Concretely, the RFID chip inside the packet of cigarettes allows monitoring of its route all along the supply chain. This technology is based on encrypted information (such as the producer’s identity, product serial number, the production date…) transferred via radio frequencies to a smartphone or a scanner. It allows counterfeited cigarettes or ‘cheap whites’ to be easily identified, no matter if you are a customs agent, a retailer or a customer.
Alibaba bets on Big Data
Data is the blood of the new economy“, declared Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang. But he didn’t mention that it can also be a key instrument to fight illicit trade.
The giant Chinese e-commerce developed new scanning and detection models based on Big Data. It analyses transactions, customer reviews, or even IP addresses to be able to detect unusual flows on the stores of the platform.
They are aware that traffickers generally use an alias to remain unidentified. That’s why Alibaba exploits data to recognise related accounts under the same internet environment – the same Wi-Fi or computer – to reveal their real identity and address.
This tool has proven to be efficient: in July 2016, Chinese authorities seized RMB 30 million (€3.78 million) of counterfeited cigarettes in the city of Pinghu, with the help of Alibaba’s tool.
Atomic ID: the nano solution with big effects
The promise of the Atomic-Scale IDs, developed by Lancaster University scientists, is even bigger. It aims to create a technology that will make counterfeiting impossible.
The Atomic-scale ID remembers the “fingerprint” of each object: its precise dimensions and properties, details that are one-atom thick, totally invisible to the human eye. When the customer takes a picture of the products and an irregularity occurs, even as small as 1/1000th of a human hair, the imperfection creates light and the app tells you that the product is a fake. This tool will be used for packets of cigarettes, cars, as well as for medicine.

*  Radio Frequency Identification

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