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Authentication and Anti-counterfeiting: The Next Key Application to Drive Growth for RFID?

There is more to the emerging success of RFID in markets such as retail and pharmaceuticals aside from the benefits associated with track and trace applications on an item-level. 

The successful use of item-level RFID within the supply chain is also creating new opportunities for suppliers to create a more secure supply chain.  It’s a natural extension – if you are able to track an individual item throughout the value chain with an RFID transponder, you should be able to use that same system to ensure that all product within the value chain is authentic.

It is true that the installed base of RFID systems in these environments is already enhancing security, but hardly. 

In order to materially, persistently and flexibly enhance the security of an open supply chain, RFID needs to be deployed across a number of levels of a commercial value chain – from the point of manufacture through the point of sale.  In addition, infrastructure must be further developed to provide rapid and reliable authentication in tamper-proof remote installations.

Reads like a heady mix of requirements, no?  This is not necessarily a ‘giant leap for RFID-kind’. 

IC suppliers such as Impinj, Alien, and NXP all introduced new product families this year that enable higher security and improved authentication capabilities – at prices that the market should be able to accept.  Tag manufacturers such as Avery Dennison and Raflatac continue to develop and ship tamper-resistant product for a wide range of installations.  

The developer and supplier communities appear to be on the right track, but, they will, as always, need a fair amount of help from educated, visionary, liquid customers. 

From brand name fashion to pharmaceuticals to electronic components, demand for anti-counterfeiting and authentication has been a primary adoption driver of RFID since the very beginning.  The pharmaceutical industry is a prime example … over 30 million tags are to be placed on individual bottles and cases of high-theft, high-counterfeited drugs (i.e.: Viagra, OxiContin) over the next year, and the primary driver was secure supply chain, not operational efficiencies.  In fact, based on responses from more than 580 RFID end users and channels, the use of anti-counterfeiting and authentication applications is expected to increase more than 100% over the next 3 years and was listed as one of the most important adoption drivers.

The market is absorbing and applying more RFID technical and commercial requirements and capabilities information than ever before.  From market share leading Tier 1, through fast-growth Tier 3 enterprises, the vision is there.  And balance sheets continue to improve – highlighted by the 1.25 trillion in cash in the treasures of the S&P 500. 

So, let me leave you with this … the trend toward anti-counterfeiting is authentic.

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