Inspectron sees its MagID technology being used in a range of packaging-related applications, such as marking reusable containers
Since 1976, Inspectron has been involved in the document integrity and verification marketplace. The firm has now entered the packaging space with its MagID technology in order to tackle counterfeiting.
It’s estimated that the cost of the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods is valued at around $2tn a year – and that’s forecasted to grow to about $2.8tn over the next few years.
Speaking at Packaging Innovations’ 2020 Discovery Day, Nathalie Muller, head of innovations at Inspectron, said: “This impacts people, commerce and governments, and it touches many market segments.
“We’re all familiar with counterfeited products of luxury brands, but others are just as dangerous to people’s health and safety. Think of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foodstuffs, baby toys, car parts – you name it, there’s a counterfeit version of it.
“Some of them seem benign, like hairbrushes, sandals or yoga mats – but it costs brands a lot of money and it threatens the trust people have in brands.
“It affects large companies, but it very much also affects small and medium-sized businesses.”
It’s important, then, to put in as many guarantees as possible to make sure that a product is genuine – that’s where Inspectron comes in.
What is Inspectron?
Since 1976, the UK firm has been involved in the document integrity and verification marketplace – traditionally working on e-passports, ID cards and credit cards, as well as personalised and transactional documents.
Its solutions are designed to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver information to support and enhance existing business processes.
Muller added: “We are experts who work with global financial institutions, government departments and brands.”
Its work in security print – which is designed to ensure documents have not been duplicated or damaged – includes manufacturing lottery tickets, tax stamps, brand-protection labels and embossed cards.
Applications feature sequence verifications, as well as database matching and reconciliation.
Inspectron is also involved in currency tracking solutions, transactional mail, and security stitching.
The firm develops track-and-trace technology – conducted through authentication codes and holograms. It has also developed a more advanced track-and-trace system called MagID.
How Inspectron is entering the packaging space through MagID
Combining the firm’s experience in printing with its experience of magnetic-sensor technology, MagID enables high-volume covert markings that can be applied on the inside of packaging or under labels, yet still remain readable.
By scanning an item with one of MagID’s readers, brand owners can gain real-time data on a product’s progress through the supply chain, and it can also be used to authenticate items to help combat the growing problem of counterfeit or “grey-market” products.
Inspectron uses magnetic ink, which contains tiny magnetic particles like iron filings, to allow a user to track an item.
Explaining how the system works, Muller said: “The filings align themselves with field lines of magnets that are nearby because each filing in effect becomes a tiny little magnetic cell.
“It’s the field of these combined particles that lets you detect – even when you take big magnets away, the field lines remain there.”
The benefits of developing track-and-trace technology using this method include it being environmentally-friendly, as well as it being a self-serve, cloud-based platform.
It’s also very low-cost to implement – making it accessible to small and medium enterprises for brand protection – and it’s fully secure, with all the data owned and controlled by the brand owner.
Muller said: “The [data-storage] platform allows for completely different applications being used by each customer, because we know they all have different needs in both the applications themselves but also the level of security and access they need.
“That means every customer can create their own applications on our platform, which we can help them with.”
In addition to this, Inspectron has developed an app that can be used to track items that have been diverted from their intended market.
The platform can also use codes other than a MagID tag – including radio-frequency identification, near-field communication, barcodes or digital watermarks.
The MagID tags developed by Inspectron can be printed on the inside of packaging and labels, and be covered by any non-ferrous material – such as paper, plastic, aluminium, paint or rubber.
Discussing potential applications, Muller explained: “We think track-and-trace is a very obvious application – being able to hide a code in packaging is an ideal way to authenticate items. It can also be used for track-and-trace in the supply chain.
“Another packaging-related application we’re very much interested in is marking reusable containers – such as cups, trays or drums.
“We’re all aware that extended producer responsibility places more emphasis on producers knowing where their products end up, and we know it’s sparking more thinking around how we’re reusing packaging in the supply chain.
“We think that a low-cost, low-environmental-impact covert solution is sorely needed – however, I’d emphasise that we are not the only solution. Visual and overt codes are definitely possible in many situations, but it’s not always the answer.”
MagID is already being used in high-speed automated environments, with the South Korean postal service using it to match content to envelopes for personalised mail that aren’t windowed envelopes.
Muller added: “In the packaging sector, Inspectron is working on a pilot project in the UK with a personalised-can manufacturer, which is currently being exported to 48 different countries.
“That’s expanding very soon so we’re doing a lot of work with them, including using the technology for stocking and packing applications.”
Muller believes MagID would be effective in the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries.
She added: “We know there is already quite a bit of track, trace, anti-counterfeit and secure verification in the luxury goods market, because if the item itself is expensive, consumers don’t mind paying another 50p for it to have a tag that does that.
“However, if the item itself is far less expensive – if it’s not £50 ($65) but £5 ($6) – you don’t want to spend another 50p on the tag or security feature.
“And then it becomes much more usable and possible if you have a very cheap way to run this.”