Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Authentic opportunity? Enabling the audience to avoid counterfeit products could mean real big business.


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: NFC, counterfeiting, RFID, internet of things, logistics, big data.

Currency, clothes, Converse, cosmetics, and car parts. Airplane brakes, batteries, baby formula, and watches. DVDs, pocketbooks, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, and toys. If it gets bought, it gets faked, and even some of the world's most reputable retailers have found counterfeit goods in their inventory, and are often victims of fake returns and low-life distributors.

So, could all this fakery be a genuine opportunity for smartphone vendors, components makers, security firms, and developers? Yes.

According to some stats, the counterfeit economy is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Add in the monetary value of reputation-killing headlines like exploding phone batteries and electrocuting chargers and it's clear that brands around the world have every incentive to fight the fakes. But perhaps now it's time to enable the consumer to protect themselves.

In the wireless world, we've been talking about the real opportunities in checking authenticity for years. But now the technology enablers are really falling into place: well-connected devices, NFC, RFID, low-cost components. And the incentives are huge.

Here's one interesting use case for the implementation of connected anti-counterfeiting technologies: fine wines. Expensive wines, as well as other high-end spirits, are sometimes consumed years after purchase, and far removed from the original point-of-sale. Selinko, a firm specializing in end-to-end authentication solutions, is working with distillers to digitally certify bottles using RFID tags which allow retailers and consumers to authenticate the items via NFC-enabled smartphones (apparently only Android-based devices at the moment). As the secure RFID tags provide a unique identity to each bottle, this goes beyond barcode scanning.

Systems such as this also provide consumers, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers with more detailed information about the products and their flow via the logistics chain. Educating the audience about the wide problems of counterfeits could drive the creation of a new service industry and a smartphone upgrade cycle or two.

So, for smartphone vendors looking for opportunities to complement shrinking margins, this could be the real thing.

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