Digital Advancements Improve Fuel & Data Integrity — And Answer Tough Supply Chain Questions

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Fuel integrity failures lead to significant revenue losses, brand damage, environmental pollution, poor vehicle performance and increased consumer complaints. To avoid these industry challenges, many branded fuel companies and government agencies are implementing fuel authentication programs throughout the supply chain. As more of these programs are implemented worldwide, stakeholders are finding significant return on investments as fuel quality is greatly improved, revenue and tax collections increase, and the overall integrity of the downstream supply chain is confirmed.

Digital Transformation in the Fuel Supply Chain — Right Data, Right Time

“Digital transformation in fuel authentication programs such as Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices that communicate directly with our data analysis and reporting platform, AXIS®, can reduce data collection and reporting time in the field by 50 percent or more. The automated data uploads increase the speed and accuracy of data entry, eliminating errors resulting from manual processes used in the past.”Jeff Conroy, Chief Technology Officer, Authentix

The responsibility of managing the complex fuel supply and distribution chain falls on multiple stakeholders within a commercial brand or governmental agency. The value added through a reliable flow of accurate and timely data provides actionable insight for these stakeholders to measure and reconcile information quickly and enforce, react and remediate fuel fraud. In national fuel integrity programs for example, the agencies responsible for the collection of fuel excise taxes use data analytics to quickly detect the introduction of illicit fuel in the supply chain and, through fast enforcement action, increase tax collections and provide tremendous societal benefits.

Additionally, reliable digital data flow enables branded fuel owners to answer critical business questions about their downstream retail operations. Using a fuel marking program, coupled with digital data analytics, can ensure that premium additized fuel products are being distributed correctly under the right brand retail operations.

“Only one in four (25%) professionals believe they have the data needed to assure their brand’s fuel integrity.”Downstream Fuel Manipulation: The threats that could cost you, Oil & Gas IQ, 2018

Authentix has been a pioneer in combining physical fuel marking programs and the collection and automated analysis of supply chain data, and it has led the way on this digital transformation.
Advancements in digital technologies have made fuel authentication programs and the resulting data analytics easier to collect, secure and provide both enterprise and mobile reporting capabilities for its customers, driving improved supply chain security and integrity. Instead of gathering, entering and storing data manually, as in the past, Authentix field inspectors use portable, handheld analyzers digitally connected to the cloud. These advanced mobile
devices record supply chain data and communicate directly with our cloud-based data analysis and reporting platform, AXIS® (Authentix Information System).

The slow collection and reporting velocity of manually supplied data greatly increases the risk of fuel manipulation. Today, with advances in mobile or electronic telemetry data collection technology, AXIS® can enable users to quickly correlate fuel supply chain data with other correlated data from field devices and lab-based results for rapid response capability. For over 20 years, Authentix has been executing data reporting for our customers in real-time, analyzing supply chain results and creating actionable insights for improved program management and decreased opportunities for fuel manipulation or adulteration.

How Does AXIS® Work?

AXIS® is an integrated set of software applications designed to aggregate, store, analyze and present data from multiple and disparate sources to solve for potential supply chain integrity problems. Accessible through a remote web application, the system also presents dashboards and user-configurable reports to enable data-driven decisions and confident actions. Collected data could include geolocation, date and time of collection, retail or terminal IDs, and other identifiers and contextual data.

These identifiers ensure data integrity by establishing a chain of custody and providing contextual informa- tion to ingest and analyze. The correlation and analysis processes generate alerts and insights to ensure any needed revisions and optimization. For example, contextual data (e.g., truck tracking, bills of lading, retail pricing, etc.) provides insights beyond simply providing fuel integrity confirmation. It can also help determine how, when and where fuel supply chain fraud has occurred.

The insights and analytics provided by a robust information system like AXIS® can help prevent supply chain interruptions, program stoppage and lost revenue, while employing strict cybersecurity controls to ensure IT environment security. By generating answers and recommended actions through data analytics, AXIS® helps commercial brand owners and governments better understand and secure their fuel supply chains for the long-term.

Understanding Your Fuel Supply Chain

  • What has happened? Historical data is gathered — including store and terminal IDs, and date and time stamps — and correlated with similar data. Through data analysis, patterns and anomalous behavior become evident, potentially indicating manipulation or fraud. These descriptive insights are used to flag those incidents.
  • Why did it happen? Diagnostic insights from sales and supply chain data can help determine how a retail location received illegal or illicit fuel and point to specific transactions and individuals involved. Using that data, AXIS® can help users ascertain if all the non-compliant retail stations in a designated region received their fuel from the same terminal, implying that the exceptions noted could be quality control problems and not fraud. Data such as temperature and voltage records also help field inspectors monitor portable device performance, flagging potential servicing requirements that may be needed.
  • What will happen? Authentix is accelerating digital transformation for customers with a focus on advancing predictive analytics capabilities. For example, AXIS® can correlate and analyze program data and other external data sources to spot patterns and anomalous behaviors. This provides unique insight into new threats and accelerates detection and learning to provide a significant competitive advantage.
  • Can it be repeated? Prescriptive insights can help define possible actions needed to prevent fraud, enabling branded fuel companies and governments to create processes and improve supply chain management.

Leveraging Data Analytics to Drive Actionable Insights

Organizations often discover illicit fuel in certain markets, such as tax-evaded fuel sold as premium or transit fuel outside of an intended designated region. Comprehensive, end-to-end fuel authentication programs — from marker injection at the terminal down to field or lab testing results, and data analytics and resulting actionable insights — empower organizations to discover the origin of illicit fuels and prevent these events from happening in the future. By providing contextual information, Authentix fuel authentication programs help pinpoint trouble spots in the fuel supply chain that would not be discovered through normal security audit processes. With the technology to collect, upload and aggregate data using portable web-based devices, the workflow becomes truly automated, assuring greater fuel and data integrity through increased insights and accuracy.

“There is still a global underestimation of the vulnerability of paperwork, and many of the world’s largest companies are failing to recognize the risk of fraudulent or inaccurate documentation — not just their products.”

— Downstream Fuel Manipulation: The threats that could cost you, Oil & Gas IQ, 2018

Authentix: Accelerating Digital Transformation for Competitive Advantage

Authentix’s 25 years of industry experience and advanced technology provides customers with a distinct competitive advantage. Our secure marking technology, flexible implementation, proactive program support and actionable insights through the AXIS® platform, help customers thrive in a global economy. For more information, visit authentix.com.

Doing Business on the Blockchain – Applications for the Lubricant Sector

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Jeff Conroy, Chief Scientist, Authentix

Mention blockchain and many people will immediately think of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies that have been dominating headlines over the past few years. Although cryptocurrencies are an example of blockchain technology, there are many other uses for the underlying fundamental properties that blockchains provide.

A general definition of blockchain is a distributed, append-only, immutable digital ledger. A blockchain is the connecting (or chaining) of packages of information together in a verified record by a network of users with an agreed upon protocol. This network of users and the record may be publicly available like the well-known cryptocurrencies, or it may be private and require permissions to access like the Hyperledger Fabric that is the basis of many commercially available blockchains for business use.

The protocols in different blockchains may have different advantages for different applications, but the important concept is that the ledger entries (data) are used as the input to a function.  That digital data is used as a set of inputs to a protocol (mathematical functions), the output of which is another set of digital data.  Once calculated (and validated by multiple parties) the ledger of transaction is updated with the new entries (a new block), and the answer to the function is published (added to the chain). These answers for each block are intertwined in the protocol so that all the past entries and the values calculated for the ledger cannot be changed without a different answer being arrived at by the algorithm.  The new blocks would fail to give a correct answer, and nothing would be added to the chain.

The shared possession and processing of the blockchain amongst users acts as a means of instant validation of a historical set of data in that blockchain. No data can go into the blockchain unless it is formatted correctly, processed by the agreed upon protocol, and the new blockchain confirmed by multiple parties as being a valid record given those inputs. In the purely digital world, a blockchain can provide assurance that the all steps taken in a procedure have been undertaken, approved, and immutably recorded for future reference.

However, when we tie a blockchain to the physical world, more elements are needed to ensure a secure record of transactions is produced. While a ledger provides a record of a series of steps or transactions involving digital data, the generation of data such as ASTM test results, API certifications, or volumes of a product shipped between parties must also be done in a way to ensure the data produced is authentic. As in other supply chain solutions, the key is to design the protocol by which the physical to digital transformation of data is robust to accepting falsified data.

In the development of a finished lubricant, a blockchain could be used to carry the complete audit trail in the various production process. For example, the specifications, batch, and quality control results for base materials and additives can be recorded as they are produced according to accredited suppliers’ quality management systems. The procurement of such accredited materials can be tracked, and their use in a blended product verified by the production systems in place at blending facilities. The final QC values of finished goods can be recorded by the approved methods internal to producers or by independent third parties. All information can then be associated with batch, lot, or even individual container identifiers as part of the delivery and distribution process.

With proper physical controls in place, a blockchain can provide a validated audit trail of digital data that would accompany a finished product to verify the authenticity, provenance or properties of the products in the marketplace. When following established protocols for sampling, testing, and distributing physical products, tying a blockchain to a lubricant production process would allow quick verification of compliance. This would replace the disparate information systems, third-party audits and lack of common protocols that make fast and easy validation of materials difficult today.

This article can also be found in the February 2019 edition of Lubes, The European Lubricants Industry Magazine.

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Blockchain in the Oil Industry: Insights shared at the UEIL Annual Congress

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By Dr. Phil Forshee, Senior Principal Scientist, Authentix.

Speaking at the UEIL Annual Congress in Budapest, Hungary on October 25, 2018, I was honored to share my insights in “Building Trust in the Supply Chain – An Introduction to Blockchain.”

Since its introduction in 2008, blockchain has taken the world by storm as the underlying technology for Bitcoin and the exploding cryptocurrency industry. At its core, blockchain is an information technology innovation that will likely change how many systems of record are designed and implemented. By offering immutability and transparency, blockchain can offer significant benefits to enhancing trust across complex business networks.

An application for which blockchain is particularly well suited is supply chain management. Blockchain provides two supply chain elements that are critically important – reliability and integrity. Everyone on the blockchain can see the complete chain of ownership for an asset because all the entities on the chain have the same version of the ledger, providing consensus. Once a record is on the chain it cannot be erased or modified, thereby adding further transparency to the supply chain.

Securing the supply chains of bulk products such as lubricants and refined fuels has its own unique challenges, as bulk products do not lend themselves to using conventional packaging-based security technologies such as 2D barcodes or NFC chips. However, the creation of spectral fingerprints for products (based on molecular spectroscopy) or results from chemical marker analysis can be uploaded to the ledger along with other transactional elements to authenticate the physical product throughout the supply chain.

While blockchain technology by itself does little to address the physical authentication of products, it does create demand for secure technologies to enable authentic physical to digital transformation of a transaction. Verifying the physical end of transactions going into a ledger provides the trusted inputs required to exploit the promise blockchains can provide to a multi-stakeholder supply chain.

Elevating Your Brand Protection Strategy with Multilayered Security Solutions

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By: Jeff Conroy, Chief Scientist, Authentix

Many companies are thinking more broadly about how to implement coordinated anti-counterfeiting, anti-diversion strategies across their brands and throughout different regions of the world. Just as tamper-evident seals on bottles of pills and liquid formulations became more common due to a tampering scare in the 1980s, attitudes toward anti-counterfeiting technologies are beginning to evolve.

Once viewing such measures narrowly as an “extra feature” that only “added cost” to the bottom line, brand owners are beginning to realize the importance of protecting the integrity of their brands and the most important part of the equation: protecting the safety of consumers. As serialization technologies continue to evolve, the tracking of individual units through the supply chain could enable very secure and traceable evidence of authentic products being supplied by manufacturers and distributors to end users.

Different Features, Different Purpose

Anti-counterfeiting features that can authenticate products are both overt and covert, and they can be applied in numerous ways: on labels, onto closure seals, on cartons where containers of products are stored, into plastic parts of individual packaging, and even onto metal and glass components of packaging.

The different types of features all serve a different purpose, from enabling end users to quickly identify a branded product as genuine, to covert markings that enable a manufacturer or inspector to identify the source of diversion or other illicit activity. When combined with the careful design and production quality controls used in authentic product manufacturing, these features raise the bar of complexity for counterfeiters and make the product a less attractive target.

With that said, it’s worth considering the value of individual security features versus a multilayered approach.

Overt security features: Visible security features serve a valuable purpose in the authentication stack. They offer a way for individuals to inspect packaging without any specialized tools, and the specialized color-shifting inks (similar to those used on currency) are often difficult to reproduce using scanners or reprographic methods. There are other types of optically variable features as well, including holograms, micro-optics (like the blue stripe found on the current US $100 bill), and reflective features.

Visible security features are a starting point, but counterfeiters are extremely creative and clever. Even if a visible authentication feature is hard to recreate perfectly, a counterfeiter only needs to copy it closely enough to confuse a consumer who just gives a package a quick glance. Additional features create layers of security.

Covert security features: High security covert features can be embedded into labels, closure seals, or other features of product packaging. Although such markers are invisible to the naked eye, they can be detected using specialized handheld surface spectrophotometers. Field instruments use proprietary excitation and detection optics and detection algorithms for rapid, secure field authentication. Additional forensic layers of security are also embedded into the materials and can be confirmed through more extensive laboratory analysis. This additional layer of security proves very difficult for the counterfeiter, but easily verified by field inspectors.

Serialization: In the serialization process, a company marks individual units at the point of manufacture (giving each a unique serial number) and implements stations to read those markings, capture the tracking data, and drop that information into a managed database that allows authorized personnel to monitor where products go after they leave the manufacturing facility. You’re probably most familiar with this process as it applies to shipping a package overnight, when you can track it on the Internet until it reaches its destination.

An effective anti-counterfeiting solution contains multiple, layered components

As a brand owner, it’s good to have options. However, the counterfeiter also has options. Fortunately, technology continues to evolve to help you protect your end users. Today’s reality is that one level of security isn’t enough.

Recently a number of technologies have become available that offer the benefit of not having to add any additional features to the packaging, but the imaging requirements on the production lines can be quite demanding and difficult to implement at speed. Once captured, the identification of the package can take place with conventional cameras, allowing widespread authentication and tracking by inspectors, retailers, or even consumers.

Any combination of covert or overt features or serialization enhance your anti-counterfeiting, anti-diversion strategies. Click here to learn more about brand protection. You can also contact Authentix at info@authentix.com.

Frost & Sullivan Awards Authentix with the Authentication Solutions Technology Leadership Award

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By: Mohamed Lazzouni, COO, Authentix

Remember as kids the excitement you felt upon receiving a blue ribbon or trophy from sports or an art or science project? Your parents would post it on the refrigerator and tell everyone how proud they are of you. That’s how I felt upon learning that the prestigious Frost & Sullivan research firm presented Authentix with the North American Authentication Solutions Technology Leadership Award. In that excitement, I immediately recognized that the award itself takes on a different meaning.

For more than 20 years, Authentix has proudly supported a global customer base in combating illicit trade and counterfeit practices. Frost & Sullivan is diligent in their research to identify those companies exemplifying best practices in the development and delivery of technology. The technology leadership award recognizes the transition Authentix is leading toward incorporating more IoT and Big Data analytics within authentication technologies.

According to Frost & Sullivan, “The company’s solutions capitalize on the evolution of Mega Trends such as Internet of Things, Big Data analytics and supply chain integration to thwart counterfeiting measures. This integration enables the company to build and implement robust, end-to-end authentication solutions to help each customer recover lost revenues and protect brand equity.”

Full transparency, it is rewarding to know that the hard work of all Authentixians is front and center for others to witness. Just as relevant is the spotlight being shined on a greater cause – the charge against illicit trade.

The Core of Authentix Comes to Life

Like many organizations, we have our core values that drive how we engage internally and externally. I am most proud of this team because those values come to life with such recognition. This Frost & Sullivan technology award symbolizes validation of our strategy in the authentications market.

All employees seek to focus on the following core values:
Teaming and Collaboration
Advancing Science
Dedication to Client Success
Competing and Winning

This third party validation imparts depth to those value statements that demonstrate more than words on paper. We are laser focused on creating a path where our clients have visibility to their supply chain to efficiently address illicit activity. While the Authentication Solutions Technology Leadership Award speaks to how we are advancing science to create successful outcomes for our clients around the world, I know that this award also demonstrates a group of people who respect and trust each other enough to innovate for a greater good.

Recognition for a Greater Cause

To have Frost & Sullivan acknowledge that Authentix offers leading authentication technology touching across multiple industries is one thing. To also have confirmation that our strategy and execution in the marketplace is meaningful toward a social good is even better.
Oftentimes, this activity is funding organized crime or terrorist groups. In the oil and gas market, we are helping companies fight against fuel smuggling, adulteration or dilution, which can impact the environment and ultimately people’s health. So, this award also confirms that our focus on innovation is contributing to a larger platform that encompasses protection for the health and well-being of the environment and all who inhabit it.

Thank you to Employees and Customers

Yes, our employees carry the brunt of this accomplishment. But, we can’t ignore the greatest collaboration effort with existing customers. Illicit trade is a huge and sometimes dangerous global problem eating away at billions of dollars of lost revenue for many governments and companies. We are very grateful to have a customer voice moving our technology forward because they too recognize a bigger issue.

Every day we enter our doors with the intent to make a difference. We want to make a difference for our customers. We want to make a difference in the lives of our fellow employees. More importantly, we want our solutions to make a difference within the communities around the world.

The North American Authentication Solutions Technology Leadership Award from Frost & Sullivan is one more proof point that our suite of authentication solutions protecting fuel quality for national governments or oil marketing companies, banknotes and commercial brand products is making a difference to stop illicit trade.

Frost & Sullivan Applauds Authentix’s Impressive Authentication Technology Portfolio that Combats Illicit Trade

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Authentix harnesses the latest technological trends to present market-focused, adaptable authentication solutions for a customer’s specific market

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — July 11, 2017 — Based on its recent analysis of the authentication solutions market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes Authentix, Inc. with the 2017 North American Technology Leadership Award. Authentix’s portfolio of advanced authentication solutions supports companies in combating illicit trade and counterfeiting practices. The company’s solutions capitalize on the evolution of Mega Trends such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data analytics, and supply chain integration technologies to thwart counterfeiting measures. Authentix employs a lock-and-key approach, wherein physical devices are paired with proprietary chemical markers, creating offerings that deliver robust, data-driven authentication solutions helping customers recover lost revenues and protect brand equity.

Click here to view the multimedia release.

“Authentix seeks to aid customers with their transition to more IoT-based operations by capturing data at each point in the authentication process to ensure that any enforcement actions are based on secure and accurate information. This starts when authentication markers are applied to products and continues when markers are tested for or scanned in the field or at a laboratory as the product moves through a supply chain. The results of these tests and scans aggregate into a single data platform for easy verification,” said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Danielle VanZandt. “With Authentix’s solutions, customers can monitor their supply chain interactions, identify potential areas of vulnerability, and receive actionable insights, facilitating proactive decision-making to mitigate illicit trade.”

Authentix remains the only end-to-end authentication solution provider for fuel supply protection, combining the devices and covert markers with the Authentix Information System (AXIS®) and comprehensive Authentix services and support. The company also has a robust portfolio of proprietary authentication solutions for major industry verticals:

Vigilant™: Authentix’s flagship, this authentication solution protects national fuel supplies globally. The solution helps governments and in-country fuel suppliers fight fuel dilution, smuggling, tax evasion, and illicit trade. Vigilant recaptures valuable fuel excise tax revenues for government customers, ensures top fuel quality for citizens and the environment, and creates a level playing field for all participants in a country’s fuel market.

Jewel™: This solution allows Authentix to partner with global central banks to protect and authenticate banknotes. The Jewel optical markers, read with its high-speed sensor technology, can be easily integrated with any banknote design and deployed on high-speed note sorters to validate the authenticity of individual banknotes. Additionally, Authentix provides implementation services in tandem with banks to ensure a seamless transition.

Sherlox™: Sherlox is Authentix’s brand protection solution. Validated with a proprietary handheld reader and cloud technology, Sherlox utilizes covert markers to enable in-field authentication instantaneously through smart mobile devices during brand audits.

Assure™: Assure is the company’s proprietary fuel brand marking solution. Assure helps major, global oil marketing companies provide consumers with the fuel product quality they pay for and to guarantee that specific fuel additive treat rates are accurate.

“With the success of its solutions, Authentix continues to grow within mature markets. Its deep and rich experience and industry knowledge allow it to showcase the value of its authentication solutions and the ways in which they can generate a rapid return on investment,” noted VanZandt. “Leveraging trusted customer relationships and continuously focusing on the customer’s needs will win Authentix significant customer and revenue growth over the long-term.”

Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents the technology leadership award to the company that has demonstrated uniqueness in developing and leveraging new technologies that significantly impact both the functionality and the customer value of the new products and applications. The award lauds the large R&D spend toward innovation, its relevance to the industry, and the positive impact on combatting illicit trade.

Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research to identify best practices in the industry.

About Authentix

Authentix, a leading global authentication and information services company, assists customers in combating illicit trade and managing the integrity of their global supply chains. With comprehensive end-to-end authentication solutions, we help safeguard customers in refined fuels (e.g., gasoline, diesel, lubes, and LPG) and branded products (e.g., pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and spirits industries) from counterfeiting, product theft, product diversion, and adulteration. In addition, we help protect currencies for many leading central banks.

Headquartered in Addison, Texas USA, Authentix, Inc. has offices in the US, UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Africa serving clients worldwide. For more information, visit https://www.authentix.com.

About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, collaborates with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today’s market participants. For more than 50 years, Frost & Sullivan has been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector, and the investment community. Contact us: Start the discussion.

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