A 2011 report by BASCAP (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy) estimated that the global losses due to counterfeiting and piracy will amount between USD 1.22 Trillion to USD 1.77 Trillion in the year 2015. Of this range, only USD 80-240 Billion can be attributed to digital piracy. The remaining losses are due to:
- Internationally traded counterfeit and pirated products
- Domestically produced and consumed counterfeit and pirated products
There have been a slew of government initiatives and anti-counterfeiting measures to tackle this growing menace but few have been successful.
Having said that, there is an emerging anti-counterfeiting measure that is showing good promise – adding QR Codes on products to verify its authenticity. This new system is being used to reduce counterfeiting in a range of products such as groceries, drugs, electronic spare parts, and documents.
How does it work?
Let’s take an example.
ABC University has received reports that many job seekers are producing fake degrees of the University and duping job providers. This is a big concern as it is diluting the brand of the University. To address this issue, the University decides to adopt the QR Code-based anti-counterfeiting system.
- The University adds a unique QR Code to each degree of graduating students and builds a digital database of the information of each student with information such as Name, Photo, Batch, University Program, and Grades
- The administration also develops a mobile app that has secure access to this database
- If any stakeholder (parent, job provider, Higher University, etc.) wishes to verify the genuineness of the certificate, they can simply pull out their smartphones, download the University app, and scan the QR Code
- Once the code is scanned, all the student’s information will be displayed on the app
- The stakeholder can then verify this with the information on the certificate
Mike Ross from Suits would have had a hard time faking his Harvard degree if Harvard University had used such a system.
Currently, the most common (and only) way of verifying a degree at the moment is to submit an application with the administration of the concerned University, which can be a serious time-consuming exercise.
Jadavpur University in West Bengal, India is one of the few early adopters of this anti-counterfeiting measure.
This system is not only applicable to college degree certificates but also to other important documents such as employee ID/access cards and tickets.
In fact, not just documents, this anti-counterfeiting measure using QR Codes can be applied to FMCG products as well.
A Singapore-based company has developed an app that allows consumers to scan QR Codes on products of participating companies to verify if the product that they have purchased is genuine or not. The app uses the consumer’s location and flags the product if it has been scanned at multiple locations.
In 2013, French beverage company Pernod Ricard started using QR Codes on all its products to fight fake goods in the Chinese market and engage customers.
The major advantage of this system is that anyone with your app (including your customer) can conduct the verification for authenticity.
How do you set it up?
Unlike other security measures, a QR Code-based anti-counterfeiting method is easy to integrate and highly cost-effective. You only require the following:
1. QR Code Generation in Product Packaging
Each unit of your product will have a unique QR Code, encoded with a unique identifier (alphanumeric code). Each identifier will be tied to information of the product in your database.
To place a unique QR Code on each product, you will need a static QR Code API integrated with your inventory database and printing process. The API will convert each identifier into a QR Code, which will be printed on each unit of the product.
2. Mobile or Desktop App Integrated with Inventory Database
You will need either a mobile application scanner or handheld optical scanner to scan the QR Code, retrieve the unique identifier from the QR Code, and use the identifier to retrieve and display the product information to the verifier. The verifier can compare the data on the product (such as batch number, expiry date, etc.) with the data shown by the app.
Depending upon your system, the verifier could be a retailer, distributor, or even the customer. For example, in the case taken above the University can allow companies to download its app and they can verify the authenticity of the certificate without having to submit an application.