Combining Blockchain and Nanotechnology to Fight Criminal Counterfeiters and Build Brand Trust


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Say the word “blockchain” to businesspeople and you’re likely to be met with either a “never heard of it” or an “it’s also called bitcoin isn’t it?” response. These kinds of comments are probably well known to those involved in nanotechnology. The reality is that neither of these transformational technologies are yet widely understood, and real-world applications are only now emerging to address business opportunities.

While blockchain is perhaps best known as the technology that underpins the (somewhat notorious) cryptocurrency called bitcoin, it can be applied to many different business areas like finance, healthcare, identity and supply chain. Major IT companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, have invested big in making blockchain usable by business enterprises for these applications, and more.

In this article, we’ll highlight how the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology can be applied to a particularly challenging aspect of supply chain management, namely the huge global criminal marketplace in counterfeit goods, which hurts business profits, impacts brand trust and undermines customer relationships.

First, a quick primer on blockchain. A blockchain is a type of database that is tamper proof. Data stored in a blockchain cannot be changed (the technical term is immutable), it can be shared among multiple users, and significantly the composition of the data stored is agreed to by multiple users of the blockchain before it can be stored (this process is known as consensus). In short, blockchains are an incredibly secure way to keep information safe and consistent among multiple participants in a business network.

blockchain-share 2READ MORE: How Blockchain Technology Could Be The Primary Key To Cybersecurity

Next, a few words about the shadowy world of counterfeit goods. Sadly, it’s a big business for criminals. Recent industry statistics suggest counterfeiting is a $1.8 Trillion endeavor that spans the globe. Just about every product is a target for counterfeiters – luxury fashion accessories, wine, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, sports apparel and consumer electronics are common examples – and this activity impacts businesses and their brands both financially and reputationally and can represent a significant safety risk for consumers.

So how is the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology being leveraged to fight the counterfeiters?

At Quantum Materials Corp. we have developed nanomaterials called quantum dots over the past decade. Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductor particles that possess notable and extremely useful optical and electrical properties. They measure from 10 to 100 atoms in size (approximately 10,000 dots would fit across the diameter of a human hair) and they generate light when energy is applied to them or generate energy when light is applied.

QMC creates in commercial quantities quantum dots that can be finely tuned to emit predetermined wavelengths of light (in both the visible and non-visible spectrums) with the ability to create billions of unique optical signatures. Moreover, they are excitable by numerous excitation energy sources.

Our quantum dots can be incorporated into almost any physical item at time of manufacture, and then provide a unique light signature that establishes absolute product identity. These identities are impossible to copy or clone so that products enhanced by them can be verified as being genuine items and not counterfeits.

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Read About Another New Quantum Dot Security Company Dotz Nano ~ Tag – Trace – Verify

Dotz is a technology leader, specializing in the development and marketing of novel advanced carbon-based materials used for tracing, anti-counterfeiting and product-liability solutions. Our unique products: ValiDotz ™, Fluorensic™, and BioDotz™ can be imbedded into plastics, fuels, lubricants, chemicals, and even Cannabis  plants to create product specific codes and trace for origin Twitter Icon 042616.jpg Follow Dotz Nano on Twitter

When the quantum dot signature of a product is scanned (via a hand-held scanner or an app on a smartphone), a digital representation is created that is stored on our secure and tamper-proof blockchain platform. It is this platform that allows for tracking of products providing visibility among all participants in their supply chain – from manufacture to customer purchase.

In addition, the blockchain platform is also used to store the unique digital identities of individual customers, and to tie ownership of a product to a customer at purchase time. No longer is it necessary to keep the receipt!

For example, a customer purchasing a luxury handbag that has QMC’s quantum dots incorporated into it by its manufacturer can use their smartphone to scan the bag to give them confidence that the bag is genuine. As a bonus, the manufacturer is notified that the bag’s authenticity has been checked and can offer a warranty or loyalty program to the customer in order to establish an enduring brand/customer relationship.

The bottom line for blockchain plus nanotechnology is that … it certainly impacts the bottom line. Surveys conducted by retailers point to customers not only appreciating being able to prove product authenticity but tending to buy more products where that functionality is available. They also frequent the retailer more often. Almost everyone is a winner – the customer, the retailer and the product brand. The criminal counterfeiters? Not so much.

By Stephen Squires, Founder & CEO, Quantum Materials Corp

Nanoparticle ink could combat counterfeiting


anticounterf 041516Researchers have demonstrated that transparent ink containing gold, silver, and magnetic nanoparticles can be easily screen-printed onto various types of paper, with the nanoparticles being so small that they seep into the paper’s pores. Although invisible to the naked eye, the nanoparticles can be detected by the unique ways that they scatter light and by their magnetic properties. Since the combination of optical and magnetic signatures is extremely difficult to replicate, the nanoparticles have the potential to be an ideal anti-counterfeiting technology.

The researchers, Carlos Campos-Cuerva, Maciej Zieba, and coauthors at the University of Zaragoza in Zaragoza, Spain, and CIBER-BBN in Madrid, Spain, have published a paper on the anti-counterfeiting nanoparticle ink in a recent issue of Nanotechnology.

“We believe that it would be interesting to sell to different manufacturers their own personalized ink providing a specific combination of signals,” coauthor Manuel Arruebo at the University of Zaragoza and CIBER-BBN told Phys.org. “The nanoparticle-containing ink could then be used to mark a wide variety of supports including paper (documents, labels of wine, or drug packaging), plastic (bank or identity cards), textiles (luxury clothing or bags), and so on.”

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A paper with the word “Nanotechnology,” where different pairs of letters are printed with different combinations of overlapping nanoparticle inks. Credit: Campos-Cuerva, et al. ©2016 IOP Publishing 

Whereas previous methods of using nanoparticles as an anti-counterfeiting measure often require expensive, sophisticated equipment, the is much simpler. The researchers attached the nanoparticles to the paper by standard screen-printing of transparent ink, and then authenticated the samples using commercially available optical and magnetic sensors.

“We demonstrated that the combination of nanomaterials providing different optical and on the same printed support is possible, and the resulting combined signals can be used to obtain a user-configurable label, providing a high degree of security in anti-counterfeiting applications using simple commercially available sensors at a low cost,” Arruebo said.

anticounterfeiting nanoparticles
An SEM micrograph of paper printed with nanoparticle-based ink, with the nanoparticles circled in red. Credit: Campos-Cuerva, et al. ©2016 IOP Publishing

Although the nanoparticle ink is easy for the researchers to fabricate, attempting to replicate these authentication signals would be extremely difficult for a forger because the signals arise from the highly specific physical and chemical characteristics of the nanoparticles. Replicating the exact type, size, shape, and surface coating requires highly precise fabrication methods and an understanding of the correlation between the signals and these characteristics.

Making replication even more complicated is the fact that the combined optical and are printed on top of each other in the same spot, and this overlap creates an even more complex signal. Another advantage of the new technique is that the nanoparticles are able to withstand extreme temperatures and humidity under accelerated weathering conditions.

One of the greatest applications of the technology may be to prevent forgery of pharmaceutical drugs. Counterfeit medicine—which includes drugs that have incorrect or no active ingredients, as well as drugs that are intentionally mislabeled—is a growing problem throughout the world. The researchers plan to pursue such applications as well as further increase the security of the technology in future work.

“We plan to add more physical signals to the same tag by combining which could provide optical, magnetic, and electrical signals, etc., on the same printed spot,” Arruebo said.

Explore further: Upconverting nanoparticle inks: Invisible QR codes tackle counterfeit bank notes

More information: Carlos Campos-Cuerva, et al. “Screen-printed nanoparticles as anti-counterfeiting tags.” Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/27/9/095702

 

 

Nanoparticle Ink could Combat Counterfeiting


anticounterf ink 021116Researchers have demonstrated that transparent ink containing gold, silver, and magnetic nanoparticles can be easily screen-printed onto various types of paper, with the nanoparticles being so small that they seep into the paper’s pores. Although invisible to the naked eye, the nanoparticles can be detected by the unique ways that they scatter light and by their magnetic properties. Since the combination of optical and magnetic signatures is extremely difficult to replicate, the nanoparticles have the potential to be an ideal anti-counterfeiting technology.

The researchers, Carlos Campos-Cuerva, Maciej Zieba, and coauthors at the University of Zaragoza in Zaragoza, Spain, and CIBER-BBN in Madrid, Spain, have published a paper on the anti-counterfeiting nanoparticle ink in a recent issue of Nanotechnology.

“We believe that it would be interesting to sell to different manufacturers their own personalized ink providing a specific combination of signals,” coauthor Manuel Arruebo at the University of Zaragoza and CIBER-BBN told Phys.org. “The nanoparticle-containing ink could then be used to mark a wide variety of supports including paper (documents, labels of wine, or drug packaging), plastic (bank or identity cards), textiles (luxury clothing or bags), and so on.”

Whereas previous methods of using nanoparticles as an anti-counterfeiting measure often require expensive, sophisticated equipment, the is much simpler. The researchers attached the nanoparticles to the paper by standard screen-printing of transparent ink, and then authenticated the samples using commercially available optical and magnetic sensors.

“We demonstrated that the combination of nanomaterials providing different optical and on the same printed support is possible, and the resulting combined signals can be used to obtain a user-configurable label, providing a high degree of security in anti-counterfeiting applications using simple commercially available sensors at a low cost,” Arruebo said.

anticounterfeiting nanoparticles
An SEM micrograph of paper printed with nanoparticle-based ink, with the nanoparticles circled in red. Credit: Campos-Cuerva, et al. ©2016 IOP Publishing

Although the nanoparticle ink is easy for the researchers to fabricate, attempting to replicate these authentication signals would be extremely difficult for a forger because the signals arise from the highly specific physical and chemical characteristics of the nanoparticles. Replicating the exact type, size, shape, and surface coating requires highly precise fabrication methods and an understanding of the correlation between the signals and these characteristics.

Making replication even more complicated is the fact that the combined optical and are printed on top of each other in the same spot, and this overlap creates an even more complex signal. Another advantage of the new technique is that the nanoparticles are able to withstand extreme temperatures and humidity under accelerated weathering conditions.

One of the greatest applications of the technology may be to prevent forgery of pharmaceutical drugs. Counterfeit medicine—which includes drugs that have incorrect or no active ingredients, as well as drugs that are intentionally mislabeled—is a growing problem throughout the world. The researchers plan to pursue such applications as well as further increase the security of the technology in future work.

“We plan to add more physical signals to the same tag by combining which could provide optical, magnetic, and electrical signals, etc., on the same printed spot,” Arruebo said.

Explore further: Upconverting nanoparticle inks: Invisible QR codes tackle counterfeit bank notes

More information: Carlos Campos-Cuerva, et al. “Screen-printed nanoparticles as anti-counterfeiting tags.” Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/27/9/095702

 

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