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The Potential of RFID in Anti-Counterfeiting
Jun 06, 2018

The Potential of RFID in Anti-Counterfeiting


A drawback of existing anti-counterfeiting measures is the low achievable degree of automation when checking the originality of a product. With existing schemes, large-scale checks, for example required in pharmaceutical warehouses, are not feasible. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, helps to address this problem, and provides the possibility to implement extensible, secure protection mechanisms.


RFID - Tags and Infrastructure 

RFID is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify objects. In the most basic form, a serial number that identifies an object is stored on a microchip attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called RFID transponder or RFID tag).  

Passive and active tags are distinguished. The former have no battery, but draw power from the reader, which sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in the tag's antenna. Transponders transmit information to the reader by reflecting the electromagnetic field. Passive tags have a short read range of typically less then 20 feet and can only perform computational nonintense tasks. Today, the price for simple passive tags is in the region of 20 US cents, but leading research institutes predict a further drop in price when the RFID market evolves. This effect could drive prices for passive labels well below 10 cents in the mid term. 

Active RFID tags have a battery, which powers the microchip's circuitry and the RF transmitter. They are suited for computational intense tasks as required for complex cryptography algorithms. The price for sophisticated active tags including the battery may be as high as 3 to 10 USD, but experts expect prices to drop below one USD with the evolving market and the advancing technology [RFID04]. 


Track & Trace - A Plausibility Check

The EPC Network can provide benefits in areas such as inventory control,while also providing the ability to track & trace the movement of goods from production to consumption. This capability provides pedigree information about goods.P edigree information enables the buyer to perform plausibility checks: a drug,for example, having a serial number associated with a product currently stored in a warehouse in the UK is likely to be a counterfeit when offered in Nigeria at the same time. For the specific example of the pharmaceutical supply chain,Koh et al. discuss the value of RFID in .This solution is adequate for some products. 


However, taking into account that an RFID tag with an EPC is easy to copy, the following scenario is possible: a manufacturer sells a product to a retailer via a number of shipping agencies. So far, every party, including the retailer, correctly updates the track & trace database. Then, the retailer copies the tag and attaches it to counterfeits. When selling the product, the customers may query the database, receiving a plausible history. This assumes that the counterfeiter does not update the database, nor does the costumer registers the deal. The latter is reasonable as the customer has no incentive to do so. Furthermore, he or she may have privacy concerns. This enables the retailer to sell counterfeits, as long as no customer updates the PML Server





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