Authentix National Fuel Integrity Programs: Enabling Governments to Optimize Tax Revenue, Reduce Carbon Emissions, Improve Fuel Quality, and Fund Public Infrastructure

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  1. Why do National Governments Rely on Authentix to Implement and Operate National Fuel Integrity Programs?

In the last 25 years, dozens of national governments have selected Authentix to provide the technology and support services to start and operate national fuel integrity programs (NFIPs) with the aim of reducing illicit trade, smuggling, and adulteration of the country’s fuel supplies. Primarily, governments are quick to produce high returns on investments in and enforcement of these programs as illicit trade is reduced, and criminals are no longer able to profit through fraud and tax avoidance. Authentix also appreciates that markets are never static and new threats will always appear. Therefore, we design all our programs around continual improvement to constantly address the changing scope in illicit activity. Additionally, Authentix is committed to capacity building and knowledge transfer striving to empower and train the local workforce in utilizing the best-in-class technology.

Prior to implementing a NFIP, many countries had experienced between 30%-40% total fuels sales coming from illicit activity including several methods of illegal trading such as:

  • Smuggling non-taxed, low-taxed, or subsidized fuels from neighboring countries and selling these as fully taxed fuels.
  • Adulteration (commingling) with off-road, tax exempt, or subsidized fuels and selling as fully taxed fuels.
  • Adulteration/dilution of high-quality refined fuel with substandard or inferior quality products such as kerosene or waste oil and selling to the unsuspecting consumer as high quality, fully taxed fuel.
  • “Round Tripping” where untaxed products destined for export or transit through the country never leave the national borders and are dumped into the legitimate supply chain.

2. The Adverse Effects from Illicit Trade of Fuel Products

In addition to the obvious loss of excise tax revenue to the country from criminals who profit from these fraudulent activities, there are many detrimental outcomes when allowing this nefarious activity to go unchecked including:

  • Lower revenue collection by the government and less public funds for roads, schools, healthcare, and other important infrastructure needs of the citizenry.
  • Possible need for the government to increase marginal or other taxation rates on the citizens to make up the funding shortfalls caused by these fraudulent schemes.
  • Environmental damage and increased air pollution caused by low quality and sometimes dangerous adulterants present in the country’s fuel supply chain.
  • Lower fuel efficiency by vehicles where fuel or oil adulterants can reduce the fuel quality and engine performance standards.
  • Increased costs to consumers and industry via damage to motor vehicles and other motorized equipment caused from use of low-quality oil and fuel adulterants not specified for use by these vehicle manufacturers.
  • Reduction of legitimate and compliant retailers who cannot compete against illicit operators’ reduced cost basis.

3. The Quick Payback to Implementing Authentix NFIPs

In the dozens of NFIPs implemented by Authentix on behalf of governments around the world, the positive impact has been rapid, consistent, and substantial in counteracting these adverse effects and ongoing damages of illicit fuel trading. It is common to see significant reductions in illegitimate fuel in the supply chain within only a few weeks of the program’s inception. In fact, well within the first year of program inception to see previous fuel supply compromise rates easily cut in half and even greater reductions through the remainder of the first year. As the program gains velocity and following successful enforcement activity, it is common to see illicit activity drop below a 5% rate.

In case studies completed on various programs, it was common for the illicit trading of fuels to go from over a 30% compromise rate to less than 5% in a matter of months from enforcement starting. Through continued program operation and ongoing enforcement, countries have been able to sustain these single digit compromise rates perpetually. Given the increased collection of legitimate taxes, the program metrics means the client could easily pay for the initial NFIP investment within a few months. Continued enforcement through suitable legislation then allows these gains to be protected through the life of the program.

For most countries, excise tax collections from fuel sales can be a major component of the government’s budgeted revenue often exceeding over USD250 million in smaller countries and billions of dollars in larger countries. With such large numbers at stake, cutting fuel fraud even a few percentage points can result in a massive return on investment for the government, often more than 20 times the annual cost of the NFIP.  In many instances, Authentix clients have seen fuels excise tax revenues increasing by USD50 million to hundreds of millions per year. In a single client circumstance that was one of the first to institute an Authentix NFIP over 20 years ago, the total recovery of additional funds is estimated to be more than USD2 billion in the last 23 years.

4. The Environmental Benefits of Authentix NFIPs

While most governments are starting to consider implementing NFIPs due to the positive experiences of other countries who have already deployed a program, there are many more returns on investment to be realized beyond the large tax revenue increases. Reducing the amount of low-quality and harmful adulterants in the fuel supply has an immediate and extremely positive impact on air pollution and can allow a country to meet its commitments and be compliant with international air quality standards established through international and cooperative treaties. These treaties, such as the Stockholm Convention enacted in May of 2001, brought most countries together in a global, written pact agreeing to ban harmful Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) from being used. Many fuel adulterants being added to dilute legitimate high-quality fuels contain POPs, or precursors to POPs and are harmful to air quality and toxic to humans. By eliminating these adulterants from the fuel supply the government is also reducing air pollution.

With an Authentix NFIP, the chemical and covert markers to track and identify the fuel to confirm compliance do not affect the quality of the marked fuel and are environmentally safe. In fact, the proprietary and patented covert markers used by Authentix in these programs are made from Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen (CHONs) which are already compositional elements of high-quality diesel and petrol fuels today. Further, these covert markers are added to the fuel supply at extremely low concentrations, often at a low parts per billion (ppb) level. To fully understand and visualize something at, say a concentration of 10 parts per billion, imagine starting a trip to fly from Eastern Asia to the tip of South America, which is approximately 14,000 miles. As you begin the journey, you take a half step to pick up your bag. You have now traveled 10 parts per billion of the planned trip, just a distance of 8 inches out of the total 14,000-mile journey.

5. Authentix NFIPs Save Consumers and Vehicle Manufacturers Money

Authentix fuel markers cause no harm to combustible engines and are also approved for use in the fuels for many of the world’s largest branded fuel companies. Unfortunately, this is not the case for harmful adulterants and other oil waste products added to fuels through illicit trading. In today’s modern vehicles, carburetors, fuel injectors, real time oxygen sensors, catalytic convertors, exhaust filters and other expensive, computer controlled electronic components are all precisely engineered to work with specific fuels having minimum quality thresholds for composition including those able to utilize fuels containing percentages of ethanol. However, as non-fuel hydrocarbons and other substandard chemicals are intentionally added to dilute quality fuels for profit seeking, vehicle fuel systems and other components can be severely damaged even resulting in catastrophic engine failure. These costs are extremely high for both consumers and vehicle manufacturer warranty claims in countries experiencing prominent levels of fuel adulteration.

While many consumers try to purchase fuel from reputable retailers it is next to impossible to know if the quality of any fuel being dispensed to a vehicle meets the minimum government and vehicle manufacturers requirements. And it is not just the retailers who are suspect in these cases as even the most high-quality and well-intentioned branded fuel retailers can fall prey to the illicit wholesale transporters and distributors involved in fuel adulteration and supplying these retail stations. Regardless, implementing an Authentix NFIP is the first important step to improving overall fuel quality by eliminating these harmful adulterants and reducing repair and warranty costs to the consumer.

6. The End Result to Enacting a NFIP? It is the Citizens Who are the Ultimate Winners

While increased tax revenue and high return on program investment is an immediate and clear benefit from an Authentix National Fuel Integrity Program, it is the common citizen and consumer that ends up benefiting the most. With the increased excise tax revenues for the government, there is less reliance on taxation of consumer income or use tax that often becomes necessary to replace the lost revenue from illicit fuel trading. Also, as fuel quality in the country improves from less mixing of low-quality adulterants into the fuel supply, fuel efficiency improves, and costly repairs and unforeseen maintenance issues diminish. Citizens have improved air quality and governments have more resources to build improved highways, airports, and other infrastructure projects necessary to improve the quality of life for all its constituents.

7. Selecting the Right Solution Provider for NFIPs Makes all the Difference. With the Most Fuel Authentication Projects in the World, Authentix is the Market Leader and The Authority in Fuel Authentication

Authentix is the market leader in Fuel Integrity Programs with over 25 years of experience and more active National Fuel Integrity Programs deployed than any other company. Providing our clients with the most sophisticated marking technology, cloud-based software suites, mobile applications, supply chain management tools, documentation, and more is our only focus. Our driving purpose is to create a world of confident commerce and ensure the safety and integrity of products purchased by consumers and companies every day. For more information, please visit our website at www.authentix.com or contact us at info@authentix.com.

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Social Selling Has Empowered Counterfeiters: How Can You Fight Back & Protect Your Brand?

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By Bharat Kapoor, Vice President of Online Brand Protection, Authentix

With online sales continuing to surge, companies are focusing on digital marketing and advertising products through various social media channels.

Not only has there been a rapid shift towards sales through online channels as a result of Covid-19, with corporations such as L’Oréal for example reporting a 62% increase in online sales across divisions and regions, the marketing of products through influencers has also experienced a dramatic uptick with the influencer marketing industry estimated to be worth US$9.7bn in 2020.

However, according to a report published by Instagram, 20% of the posts associated with top brands on social media featured counterfeit or illicit content.

The way customers interact with brands has been changing over time with two factors driving that change. One is technology where you have omnichannel sales and you’re getting messaging from social media feeds, e-commerce, marketplaces, influencers and so on. Customers buying products online also have access to delivery infrastructures that haven’t before existed in the way they do today. For example, if you buy something on Amazon in Southeast Asia, Asia or the US, it can come to you within hours. And what counterfeiters really take advantage of is exactly that: they find places where it’s easy for them to promote and sell anonymously and use this delivery infrastructure that’s been created by other legitimate businesses who have invested billions and billions of dollars in e-commerce.

The second thing that is helping smooth the path for piracy are payment systems that make it possible to move funds cross-border seamlessly, which are often associated with e-commerce and the rise of China’s cross-border ‘daigou’ trade. Via this method, counterfeiters will attempt to use the pricing gap between retail prices and grey market products to sell counterfeits.

Today, with the various means of transacting, getting money from someplace in Europe into China is also instant. This type of financial structure unfortunately is geared up to benefit fraudsters.

What we’ve seen is cross-border e-commerce channels becoming extremely popular because they offer crazy discounts. These deals are backed by sellers in a foreign country that will be responsible for delivering the product once a transaction is completed. For example, we found and investigated sellers in Singapore that have no inventory and they simply place a back-to-back order when they receive an order. This makes it more complicated for the police to take criminal actions against such sellers.

For the cosmetics industry for example from a brand perspective, it’s not only about counterfeiting, which may be 30-40% of the issue. But you will also find infringers using other brand assets – films, photos, design patents, a wide spectrum of IP – to sell a particular product that could be a counterfeit, or even a lookalike product.”

Finding Out Who’s Selling Fakes

SIPI has a unique strategy for discovering the online vendors who are responsible for dealing in counterfeit products and those dealing in legitimate goods via its proprietary online monitoring and enforcement solutions. The aim is not only to protect clients’ brand image and copyright, but also their customers and reputation.

SIPI uses machine learning-based algorithms to scale up analysis and identify hidden trends in data gathered both online and offline to identify high-value targets.

The process begins with data gathering, in which SIPI scrapes data for clients’ brands from around 500 different e-commerce marketplaces and social media platforms. This data is fed into its online platform for risk screening and risk-scored by SIPI’s proprietary algorithms, under which over 30 parameters (including price, images, keywords, customer reviews and seller activity) are taken into account.

In terms of the algorithms, you must approach your research and your study of a potential infringinglisting by looking at the listing in the wider context. It is sometimes quite difficult to identify a counterfeit product just by looking at the listing, because legitimate brand owners may also sell their products at discounted prices. They have other channels and many other ways of selling. So, you can’t just say that the price of a product being 30% or 40% below average is, alone, an indication of it being counterfeit.

You must be more diligent in terms of your assessment of a seller. And that’s what SIPI has trained our algorithms to do – to know what else to look at online. For example, you can look at customer comments, store rating, how old the stores are and the types of products that you see the store selling, such as luxury goods alongside very generic products, which may be viewed as being suspicious.

To identify offline targets, high-risk sellers are further investigated to create seller and product clusters, the name for groups of sellers concentrated in a region or dealing in a single product. A complete digital profile is created for high-value targets after which these leads are shared with an offline investigator for further investigation and action. The remaining infringing listings are reported to the respective marketplaces and social media platforms for takedowns.

SIPI currently protects over 200 brands and maintains a 94% success rate across platforms. While it strives to have a 100% success rate, certain major marketplaces in China and Asia make it extremely difficult to file complaints against each and every counterfeit instance.

And it is not simply a case of either how sophisticated or poorly-made the fake products are as to whether these are blatantly obvious versions. There are multiple avenues for illicit commercial activity.

SIPI has noticed a sharp increase in the number of sellers claiming to manufacture products and supply packaging materials that support the counterfeiting trade. There are also cases of verifiable and legitimate products being sold illegally.

Looking Forward

Given the wider e-commerce environment playing so well into counterfeit sellers’ hands, we believe the combination of Authentix and SIPI’s expertise comes at a beneficial time for brand clients. The acquisition of SIPI by Authentix increases the scope of its offerings to brand protection clients by integrating digital security technologies and online anticounterfeiting and content rights services for an end-to-end, comprehensive brand protection solution.

SIPI provides clients with solutions to digitize their supply chains and uses investigation techniques to determine instances of counterfeiting and diversion while attempting to keep the internet free of fakes by building effective online enforcement programs.

For a limited time, SIPI is offering a free online brand risk analysis to qualified brands. More information can be found here.

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Cosmetics Business Magazine

The Sum of Its Parts: Well-Curated Authentication Technologies in the Fight against Illicit Trade

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By Jessica Wirka, Brand Protection Director, Authentix

Whether you’re a brand owner protecting a commercial product or a government authority issuing critical, high-security documents, you’re continually faced with the ongoing challenges of combating illicit trade and counterfeiters.

To counter these constant attacks on legitimate industry players, high security authentication solutions are needed to safeguard the integrity of global commerce and can include both physical and digital security solutions. Security can be added to documents, products, and product packaging or labels. In addition to adding these security features, the more advanced and effective authentication programs should also include track and trace capabilities that allow the tracking of protected products throughout the supply chain.

With a comprehensive and well-curated authentication program, brand owners and governments can take a more proactive approach to protecting consumers from potential health and safety issues and themselves from the financial impacts of counterfeiting and diversion.

Product Marking: The Foundation

Physical marking solutions can range from simple yet effective to highly sophisticated and extremely secure. A typical marking ‘toolkit’ consists of four basic elements, each of which performs a different function, ranging from detection, prevention, deterrence and engagement.

  • Tamper Evident – cannot be opened and reapplied without visible damage, therefore deterring and preventing nefarious actors from interfering with the product
  • Overt – visible to the eye and hard to copy, which deters from and ultimately prevents attempts to mimic the feature due to the high barrier to entry both from a cost and from a technical point of view
  • Semi-overt – visible to the eye upon performing a simple action, which means the brand owner can choose when to change a feature from covert to overt by timing the invitation to the public to engage in the authentication of the product
  • Covert/forensic – invisible to the eye, detectable using a hand-held device (covert) or laboratory equipment (forensic); being invisible, covert and forensic features do not prevent counterfeiting, but they facilitate unequivocal and quick in-field verification of authenticity and detection of counterfeits.

A combination of these features presents the most water-tight strategy against a number of illicit trade activities including counterfeiting, diversion, and infringement. To ensure successful implementation with minimal impact to current processes already in place, the most effective approach is to integrate the application of security features into existing processes within your manufacturing and vendor base, whether it is printing, labels, tamper evident seals or specialized overt and covert inks, using existing materials and packaging designs.

Going Digital: Connecting your Asset to the Cloud

Product marking is the foundation that supports digital security technologies, given that the physical form of digital identifiers can be validated when combined with robust printed security features.

Products become digital touchpoints by adding unique, item-level digital identifiers to the product or its packaging. Unique identifiers can be delivered in various formats such as overt or covert Datamatrix codes, QR codes, human readable alphanumeric codes, or embedded NFC chips, added to any part of the product or packaging or other carrier vehicle. These digital identifiers can also be embedded into an existing code format or added as a covert ‘twin’ of a visible code in cases where codes are at risk of being removed in an unauthorized attempt to destroy the traceability of the product.

In general, there are three main users of this technology:

  • Supply Chain Participants – manufactures, distributors, 3rd party logistics
  • Inspectors – a brand’s internal team, local law offices, law enforcement and customs agents
  • Consumers/e\End-Users – for authentication verification and engagement

What’s Next: Using your Connected Asset to your Advantage

Connected products are typically used in three different ways and for different objectives. These include journey tracking, authentication and consumer engagement as shown in this graphic.

 

Driven by a rules engine that is calibrated by the brand owner or government, each of these paths direct critical data back to them in the form of actionable insights and analytics that are leveraged for strategic decisions across multiple agency focus areas or corporate functions, such as legal, operations, supply chain, marketing and others.

Examples of data that can be gleaned include locations of suspicious activity, excessive scan volume, geo- fence violations, multiple scans/single ID alerts, top scanned codes, and more.

The Role of Data: Collect, Analyze, Act, Share

There are many areas in which data can prove exceptionally meaningful. These include:

  • Secure mark: validates if the product is genuine or fake
  • Distribution: routes, port of entry, freight forwarders, dates, etc.
  • Illicit activity: captures and ear-marks products/codes that are suspected as counterfeit or diverted
  • Source: increasingly important raw materials and components
  • Product: records product make or model, part number, batch and quality control data
  • Production: captures manufacturer, date and time of production
  • Location: identifies where was the product made, shipped, sold, or scanned
  • Consumer: opt-in driven consumer intelligence, contact data, location of scan, device, engagement

This data can easily be shared across internal teams, with law enforcement and customs, and used for benchmarking and best practices in discussion with other brands.

Examples of client dashboard in the Authentix DigiTrax™ platform

 

In summary, both physical and digital technologies play an important role in the fight against illicit trade. Creating digitally connected products turns them into valuable tools for inspection, reporting and communication. When leveraged to its full functionality, the combination of physical and digital technology is a game-changer for our industry.

To learn more about Authentix brand protection solutions, visit authentix.com.

Authentix® UK Ranks #6 on York’s Top 100 Business List

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ADDISON, Texas, 8 April 2022 — Authentix, the authority in authentication and information services, has been ranked sixth in York’s Top 100 Businesses in an annual report published by The Press in conjunction with its partners, York St John University and City of York Council.

Moving up in three years from 50th to now 6th in York’s Top 100 Business List, the York-based Authentix team is proud to be a part of this list of significant businesses that have remained committed to investing in the local York economy. According to York St John Business School, a custom algorithm takes into account performance indicators such as turnover, profit, size and growth to determine the businesses that are key contributors to York’s professional landscape.

“We are honored to be a thriving part of the York business community. Being recognized in the York Top 100 Business List is a testament to our continued rapid growth and moreover to the Authentix team and all of our employees worldwide who are focused on our clients and helping to create a world of confident commerce,” said Kent Mansfield, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “Being named in the top 10 of these 100 excellent companies for two consecutive years, is an honor and our team is motivated to continue our company’s strategic focus to expand our reach as a global organization while still being grounded to the local communities we serve.”

The top 100 businesses were featured in a special supplement publication that was distributed along with the April 5th issue of The Press. The top businesses who were honored gathered at the university to launch the issue, network, and toast to the diverse range of businesses in York.

About Authentix:

As the authority in authentication solutions, Authentix thrives in supply chain complexity. Authentix provides advanced authentication solutions for governments, central banks, and commercial brand owners, ensuring local economies grow, banknote security remains intact, and branded products have robust market opportunities. The Authentix partnership approach and proven sector expertise inspires proactive innovation, helping customers mitigate risks, promote revenue growth, and gain competitive advantage.

Headquartered in Addison, Texas USA, Authentix, Inc. has offices in the North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa serving clients worldwide. For more information, visit https://www.authentix.com. Authentix® is a registered trademark of Authentix, Inc.

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Connected Products for Brand Protection

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Control diversion, reduce counterfeiting and engage consumers.

By Jessica Wirka, Brand Protection Director, Authentix

Preventing unauthorized products from entering the marketplace has long been a major concern and challenge for brand owners. Products determined to be at risk should be protected to prevent adverse financial impacts as well as the health and safety of the loyal consumer.  In today’s more complex supply chains, deceptive practices such as counterfeiting, diversion and product tampering continue to be an unfortunate reality requiring more brand owners to take a proactive approach and implement protective measures to insure both the value of their brand investment and the safety of their customers.

Traditionally most brand owners have turned to a combination of security features including covert taggants and inks, overt specialty inks, and tamper evident closures as the most widely utilized security features to protect the higher value and most targeted products. However, other emerging technologies are enabling more choices by taking advantage of the near ubiquitous base of smartphones now estimated at over 3 billion active users worldwide.  New technology is becoming available which takes advantage of recent improvements in optical imaging and digital graphics to create digitally ‘connected’ products that can be added to the security feature portfolio for even greater brand protection while providing a connection and interaction with the consumer.

A connected product enables the sharing of information in real time about the product’s journey through the supply chain, its probable location of sale, volume-based unit sales trends, and if desired, an interactive connection to the customer whether prior to or after a purchase.

How are connected products created?

Products become digital touchpoints by adding unique, item level digital identifiers to the product or its packaging. This could include applications of a digital identifier to primary or secondary packaging; the capability to attribute or optically fingerprint an existing digital code or added as a covert digital identifier or “twin” to an existing printed code that prevents removal or copying of the code. These encrypted or covert digital identifiers can be added directly to the product carton, an adhesive multi-featured label, or a specialized tamper seal or other bottle or carton closure.

Unique identifiers can be delivered in multiple formats allowing for less complicated implementation, lower incremental costs, and increased levels of security. These may include overt or covert data matrix and QR codes, human readable alphanumeric codes, or embedded NFC chips, all of which can extend the visibility of the product’s journey from the manufacturer all the way to the retail consumer utilizing native smartphone capabilities.

Who can interact with connected products and how does it happen?

Multiple personnel can engage with a product and generate a recorded event or transaction as it moves through the supply chain to the final point of sale.  These transactions, evidencing a product’s journey, may occur in different ways and for different purposes. If we split these users into three groups, these could be classified as:

  • Group 1: Brand owners, vendors, employees, agents, or 3PL providers
    • This group tends to use industrial scanners to engage with or interact with the codes for inbound and outbound shipments through standard supply channels
  • Group 2: Contracted or agent inspector teams, law offices, law enforcement, or customs agents
    • These users can validate the authenticity of a product via a smartphone, with or without an app. The addition of an app allows inspectors to impart more detailed information, such as product pedigree and interactive incident reporting and management back to the brand owner
  • Group 3: End Users / Consumers
    • Consumers are growing more averse to downloading proprietary mobile apps to engage with a brand and have shown a preference for QR codes and NFC tags, both functions enabled natively in most smartphones today. Therefore, the ability to simply scan the secure and proprietary code to obtain more information about the product or its authenticity is essential for a greater level of consumer participation in this process. A digital track and trace solution such as Authentix’s DigiTrax™ also supports a unique ability to tailor the consumer web experiences to company brands by enabling interactive engagement post product scan. Integrated with a single scan event, the consumer can, for instance, receive brand storytelling, digital promotions, manage loyalty programs and connect to social media channels.

Using the DigiTrax solution as an example, the digital authentication process occurs as follows:

  • The user scans or taps a code on a product using a smartphone.
  • The data is submitted to a secure platform which determines the authenticity of that product and the result (yes/no) is sent back to the user in real time.
  • If the code is marked in the system as invalid, the user is notified, and an incident is recorded in DigiTrax.
  • The user is exposed to the delivery of branded content after authentication.
  • The brand owner accesses real-time scan data on a dashboard, which provides strategic insights and analytics that are helpful to multiple functional areas within the company.
How are connected products used?

Connected products are extremely powerful when used for the following objectives:

  • Journey Tracking for supply chain security and operations management. This is generally used for diversion management so that supply chain personnel can see how product flows through the supply chain and if the product is in the right place at the right time. If the product is in the wrong channel or market it can then be traced back through the supply chain to determine where the diversion occurred.
  • Authentication for brand protection and consumer assurance. Consumers and other users scan the product with their smart phone camera and learn whether the product is genuine or suspect. Counterfeits are revealed, and brand owners are alerted in real time with purchase locations and other critical details.
  • Consumer Engagement for storytelling, branding and consumer nurturing. After authentication, consumers are invited to engage with the brand for marketing purposes. This could include receiving brand storytelling, digital promotions, loyalty and reward information, and links to social media and other brand channels.

The key to a successful brand protection program is the recognition that ROI can be achieved across multiple functions in the company and leveraging the data gleaned during the process for actionable insights and business analytics.  Functions that benefit from scan data include legal, brand protection, supply chain, operations, channel management, marketing and digital engagement.

What types of data can be delivered to the brand?

An enormous amount of meaningful data can be delivered to brand owners in digital brand protection programs including information about a product’s provenance, its journey through the supply chain, the location/date/time of associated transactions including consumer scan events, validation of authentication or suspected illicit activity, and direct consumer marketing and engagement.

In summary, digital authentication and connected products are a critical component in rapid detection of product compromise and can be harnessed to deliver much more, too. Connected products are powerful inspection, reporting and communication tools that continue to deliver data to the brand and information to the consumer long after their point of sale.

To learn more about Authentix digital brand protection solutions, schedule a meeting with our experts by emailing info@authentix.com.

Criminal. Click. Catch.

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How criminal websites are getting rich with conventional online advertising.

Digital advertising on the internet has far surpassed traditional media platforms when it comes to global advertising spending and it continues to climb in importance. Many of the advertisements that appear on websites are displayed as a result of programmatic advertising, a complex set of technical operations undertaken by software and without direct human intervention. This type of advertisement is a major source of revenue for operators of copyright-infringing, criminal websites and it can be a nightmare for legitimate brands to find their ads lending an air of legitimacy to such platforms and confusing consumers.

The business of advertising on illegal websites, or “badvertising” has now grown into a major global threat with the top piracy sites earning as much as US $1.34 billion. Bharat Kapoor, Vice President, Online Brand Protection further explains how this system is organized in an interview with journalist, Sabina Wolf of the German TV station, ARD, as she reports in the Hauptstadt Brief how criminal websites get rich with conventional online advertising. SIPI’s online brand safety service, Veri-Site can be used effectively to block advertisements to a range of high-risk sites across categories ranging from fake e-commerce, misleading news, extremist content, and piracy.

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Using Data Collected in Brand Protection Programs

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Protecting consumers and safeguarding your company’s brand identity and reputation is becoming increasingly challenging in today’s environment with the continued growth of counterfeit and diverted products entering the market. At the same time, consumers are taking a more proactive role in choosing to buy brands they know and trust, while expecting increased transparency in brand promise.

As supply chains become increasingly complex, brand owners are facing intense pressure to respond to traceability and transparency challenges by utilizing digital systems for collecting valuable data and analyzing and acting upon the visible trends to help consumers authenticate products at points of sale, or alternatively connect and engage with the brand owner directly via the web or app. A digital solution helps with monitoring product movement in the supply chain, as well as direct consumer feedback, to confirm legitimate or potential suspect product in the marketplace.

67% of consumers say brand trust has a great deal of influence over their buying decisions.

In todays connected marketplace, most companies already collect and use various forms of data analytics to drive ongoing business decisions and strategic initiatives. In fact, business action and decision making has become reliant on the use of data analytics to manage many day-to-day operations. Despite this growing reliance on data, most organizations have yet to apply the practice successfully when it comes to brand security. This can partly be attributed to the lack of reliable data available since the early adoption of digital track and trace capabilities for risk-based products is only beginning. The key to effectively using data in brand protection programs is to understand what data is available now, what data is needed that is not available, how to efficiently collect and analyze the data and lastly, what action can be taken based on this analysis to effectively reduce counterfeiting and diversion while simultaneously engaging directly with the consumer.

Data Identification

An enormous amount of meaningful data can be gleaned in digital tracking for brand protection programs including information about a product’s provenance, its journey through the supply chain, the location/date/time of associated transactions including consumer scan events, validation of authentication or suspected illicit activity, and even direct consumer marketing and engagement.

However, how to apply the data once collected can be different for each company. At Authentix, we collect supply chain and consumer interaction data from multiple sources and aggregate it into our secure cloud-based platform on behalf of our brand owner clients. From there we are able to configure rules and analyze data trends to provide our clients with complete visibility into the suspect events or grouped metadata revealing weak links or threats in supply chain operations that often point to product compromise.

Data Collection

The following are key areas for collecting data using digital track and trace technology.

  • Data Carrier Technology – includes multiple formats of barcodes, NFC and RFID technologies for supply chain tracking, purchase and post purchase consumer engagement, inventory movement, and theft prevention. These technologies vary greatly in terms of volume capacity, costs, application requirements and security levels, so it is important to evaluate the best types of code formats and integration to existing manufacturing and packaging processes that best meet the minimum needs that would produce a valuable return.
  • Track & Trace – can be accomplished during sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, and pre- and post-sale stages. During the printing, manufacturing or packaging process for example, the scope of implementation choices widen and we can provide multiple routes to enable tracking of product origin information, manufacturing location(s), production lines designation and more. Additionally, as the product nears closer to the point of sale, we’ll begin seeing authentication activity and the collection of meaningful data such as distributor and consumer interaction and engagement, and sustainability and circularity.
  • Authentication – in most digital track and trace systems, analysis of authenticity is often achieved via a smartphone. This can be by company inspectors using a proprietary mobile application all the way to the consumer who can interact with the product without having to download a mobile app. Using the Authentix DigiTrax™ track and trace solution as an example of direct consumer engagement, the smartphone user simply scans a proprietary and encrypted QR code which directs them to a custom URL experience that can include, among other things, the unique information associated with the individual product scanned. These consumer product scan events including geo location, date, time, product and product provenance information are submitted to the secure cloud-based DigiTrax platform where the information can be used to understand purchasing trends, market directly to the user, or allow the user to authenticate the product using proprietary codes or PINs. If designed for the purpose, the results of the authentication can be sent back to the user in real time. This technology also enables inspectors in the field and other key stakeholders to identify the authenticity of a product instantly using a more sophisticated mobile application. In addition, consumers may also use the DigiTrax platform to verify authenticity of other products or for the purpose of continuing engagement with brand owner purely for marketing purposes.
  • Online Surveillance and Enforcement – are methods, systems, and services used to identify, investigate and takedown unauthorized e-commerce websites that deal in illicit trade of counterfeit, diverted, or stolen products. This is accomplished through automated online tools and services such as marketplace monitoring, WeChat micro tasking, and machine learning which can identify risk levels, hot zones and image matching to police and eliminate unauthorized sales of product and illegal use of trademarks on the internet.
Putting Data to Use

Reliable and timely data feedback enables brand owners to quickly answer complex supply chain events, pinpoint trouble spots, and take corrective and even preventative action to reduce the instances and threats of unauthorized product entering the marketplace. Data can be used to assess multiple business-centric operations to increase sales and market share, acquire and build trust with new customers, and reinforce brand assurance, to name a few. In addition, as consumers become more reliant on smartphones for collecting and communicating information, brand owners can capture consumer data to tailor experiences and increase engagement and loyalty.

Using Data to Drive Success

Authentix customers are using valuable brand protection data and analytics in multiple ways with great success. In one customer success story, an international wine exporter faced counterfeiting and diversion issues in China, resulting in loss of consumer trust and risk to its strong market share and long term brand loyalty it had spent years building. Authentix helped the client implement a multi-layered digital authentication solution with covert and overt on-product features that flags, collects and analyzes all inspector and consumer scanning activity including the capability of retail product authentication by the consumer. The result? Over 150 counterfeit retail locations were identified and remediated. Also, through direct consumer engagement, loyal brand purchasers became more confident in product authenticity and the client was able to maintain premium pricing for their superior and quality products.

In another example, an international brand customer incurred online marketplace counterfeiting in Asia, putting consumer health, safety and loyalty at risk as well as decreasing revenues. Authentix helped the client implement a multi-phased online brand protection monitoring solution and services to identify and investigate the online sale of spurious product and locate complicit bottling and closure manufacturers involved in the illicit trading. Website takedowns were initiated, resulting a 90% reduction in fake products in Indonesia, 1,500 online listing takedowns in Malaysia, and 13 raids and enforcement actions conducted in China.

Start Big or Small. Just Start.

It’s important to point out that you do not have to implement a full scale approach to digital authentication initially and it’s easy to begin collecting and leveraging data – even if it’s just one product or product line for a particular geography. Alternatively, digital automation for brand protection programs can be implemented in a sweeping fashion as an end-to-end solution from the start with a full technology suite. Most clients choose to implement in logical steps based on risk assessment, ease of implementation, and to the most critical geographic areas. The key is to get a secure digital mark on your product and start the data collection process. Ultimately, it is how much data, the association of the data elements for analysis, and the conclusions and action you take that determines how much your brand protection program can be enhanced by bringing in digital track and trace automation. The key is to start, analyze, adjust, expand and continue until the data flow and insights provided are resulting in the development and refinement of actions and policies to take command of the risks faced each day.

Learn more about Authentix brand protection solutions, HERE.

Authentix Expands into Online Brand Protection Services

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From Identification, Surveillance, Investigations, and Website Takedowns: Authentix now Provides Full Service Online Brand Surveillance and Enforcement

To expand its capabilities in digital brand protection for brand owners, Authentix has recently acquired Strategic IP Information Pte Ltd (SIPI), a leading online brand and content rights protection service.

For over ten years, SIPI has offered state-of-the-art services for brands to track unauthorized channels for counterfeit products through its proprietary online tools and array of customized services including physical enforcement, investigations, sample purchases, and taking down pirated listings. Using a team of dedicated analysts and sophisticated platform technology, we can promptly detect infringement and counterfeiting activity for rapid action and consolidated, insightful reporting for the 200 brand customers now serviced.

In the last two decades, counterfeiting has quickly grown from city sidewalks to the internet marketplaces. While e-commerce has opened new doors for traditional and start-up brands, it has also provided illicit traders lucrative access to a global customer base.  Online counterfeit goods now total an estimated $590 billion globally and according to a recent study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, 1 in 10 online buyers has been deceived into buying a counterfeit product.

Tokyo Olympics – Example of Recent Target

As online marketplaces continue to be exploited by illicit traders there is a growing amount of peddling with convincing bootleg and falsified versions of branded products. This illegal activity increases during major global events such as the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo for example. While there was ample licensed merchandise sold through the official online store of the Olympics, there was also falsified and unlicensed merchandise selling through illegitimate, third-party websites.

As Authentix/SIPI closely followed the action in the Olympic games, they also investigated licensed branded merchandise sold online, where it was discovered that marketplaces, social media and multiple 3rd party websites were offering unlicensed and infringing products. Using t-shirt sales as an example, the product offered on certain websites we investigated all displayed the Olympic branding TOKYO 2021. However, despite being held belatedly this year because of the COVID pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics retained TOKYO 2020, precisely because merchandise with the 2020 branding had been manufactured prior to the delay. Therefore, any merchandise bearing 2021 in the labels was quickly identified through automated means and was presumed to be suspect. To date merchandise bearing Tokyo 2021 is readily available on major marketplaces such as Aliexpress, Wish, Dhgate, ebay and Amazon. Discrepancies in branding and use of marks such as the TOKYO 2020 logo were also found to be compromised during our investigation.

There are many technological advancements such as product clustering, geo location mapping and machine learning based algorithms that can be used to find products compromised in the various marketplaces, discover major networks of illicit traders, and find many other forms of IP infringement. Once infringements such as the examples used above for the Tokyo Olympics are identified, viable and rapid action including shutdowns can be taken against the perpetrators, holding them accountable for their actions and helping to further prevent unauthorized products from being placed on the market.

To learn how Authentix Online Brand Protection Services can quickly work for your company’s on-line monitoring and enforcement needs, visit our website.

Meeting The Biofuel Compliance Challenge

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By: Jeff Conroy, Chief Technology Officer, Authentix

Authentix is pleased to be included in the June/July edition of Tank Storage Magazine, a leading industry publication delivering the latest news and developments to the bulk liquid storage and terminal sector.

In our feature article, Jeff Conroy, PhD, Chief Technology Officer for Authentix, discusses the challenges and possible solutions for the quality assurance and source integrity of renewable biofuels which are increasingly relied upon to meet mandates greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.

However, the production of biofuels from non-sustainable sources or energy intensive processes can lead to reduced environmental benefits or even an overall increase in emissions, so the pedigree of otherwise chemically identical biofuels becomes very important.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

The Future of Brand Protection

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Part 6 of the ABC’s of Brand Protection series by Authentix focusing on the global scope of the counterfeiting epidemic and how to take action against it to protect your brand, your customers and your revenue.

The ubiquity of publicly available digital, manufacturing, and printing technology has enabled criminal enterprises to produce convincing but dangerously inferior counterfeit products.  Not only do these nefarious organizations damage the brand value of your legitimate products, they can create consumer mistrust, physically injure or even cause death. Those behind many counterfeit operations make millions in profit without regard to the investment you have made or the adverse effects on consumers.

To protect your company and your investment in high value products, brand owners must create a culture of risk assessment and leverage a security solution partner to monitor supply chains to detect, measure, act, and constantly refine the brand protection policy. This means not only developing the program and assigning responsibility to certain stakeholders in your organization but also selecting and working with a trusted security solution partner for risk assessment and deploying innovative technologies and overall program management.  An experienced solution provider will not push a single technology platform, but instead offer a suite of technologies that include a digital cloud platform for data collection and insights to help build trend analysis, track ongoing targeting, and leverage resources for a more effective outcome.  Creating this umbrella of protection that feeds digital insights that initiate action and remediation must be a part of the future for effective brand protection.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

While still in the early days of adoption, artificial intelligence (AI) is already being applied in some areas of brand protection. Using machine learning, for instance, computers can analyze and learn from large, complex datasets, recognizing patterns that reveal potential fraud or diversion. Packaging can be analyzed along with data compiled from sensors. Anomalies the human eye cannot see can be detected and exceptions can be flagged.

Data and Digital Platforms

It has been said that data is the oil in the engine of many business enterprises today. Despite this, only a few organizations effectively apply this to brand security. Over the next few years, this will change as many experienced security solution providers like Authentix, change the way data is collected and managed for the purpose of product and supply chain security.

Many companies have invested in supply chain and inventory management systems to collect data and optimize inventory management and manufacturing. However, the integration of brand security into this process is often overlooked.  Thus, many brand owners use bespoke physical security mechanisms such as holograms, license keys, and UV inks to manually detect problems in the post manufactured distribution channels. Moreover, as data collection technology improves and is more available to consumers via the ever-present smartphone, more brands may be able to actually integrate the reciprocal interaction with consumers via smartphones and products to begin the awesome scope of data collection towards the point of sale.  These days, more smartphones are capable of image and code collection at high resolution with native and downloaded applications for digital interaction with products and manufacturers.

Engaging with consumers via product interaction is not new. Certainly, many consumers have been scanning QR codes for years to gain more detailed product information, see other products in the lineup, and to take advantage of rewards and discounts. However, with many manufacturers, using this consumer interaction to authenticate legitimate from counterfeit or diverted products is tricky to say the least.  Therefore, using multiple layers of digital collection capabilities and correlating the data over time is the best approach. This may include a digital collection increment by inside inspectors who are querying for a graphic security feature using a proprietary mobile application.  This will immediately attest to UID level authentication and traceability or provenance. Alternatively, consumers may inquire directly via a QR or NFC basis. This would require no special mobile application but provide important geography, distribution, duplicate code, and transactional data that can help regarding distribution and transactional point of sale feedback, thereby securing the supply chain.

 

Right Data, Right Time

Having the right data at the right time will speed reaction times, enable faster diagnosis of issues, and deliver a more complete understanding of what specific corrective actions are needed and when. For instance, the DigiTrax™ digital platform is a cohesive data repository and dashboard interface that enables the collection, storage, and analysis of secure transactions to help companies make informed decisions on brand protection issues. DigiTrax™ is a secure, comprehensive, cloud-based, end-to-end platform designed to deliver a complete picture of your authentication and consumer interactive transactions and correlated results. It also is configurable to be customized to each client’s needs for detection, measurement, and targeting for unauthorized product placement and helps to form policy on corrective actions and investigations.

If the past is a prologue to the future, a tsunami of counterfeit goods continues to make its way into the global marketplace – from products such as luxury items, medicines, food, spirits, auto parts, and many more. The damage from illicit and fake products can cause nearly incalculable damages, including loss of human life, lack of consumer trust and the overall devaluation of your large brand investment.

So whether you choose to invest in the latest emerging single technology as a “one off” approach or you choose to select a fully integrated solution provider with a full technology suite – it is important to remember that ultimately, it is how you take action on the information retrieved from the security solution that ultimately determines how effective your product protection effort is. Risk will continue to grow as the arsenal of tools that criminals gain access to continues to expand. Stay ahead of the game and consult with a security solution provider who has the experience handling rapid deployment to help you migrate your organization to a digital platform as an ultimate component for brand enforcement strategy.

For more brand protection basics – why it is necessary, how it works, who is vulnerable, how to implement an effective program, what to look for in a technology partner, and which emerging technologies will make a difference in the future – download the eBook, The ABC’s of Brand Protection.

READ PART 1     |      READ PART 2    |    READ PART 3    |    READ PART 4     |     READ PART 5