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Xerox introduces printed-memory labels to fight counterfeiting

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 16, 2015
The labels can contain encrypted data.

xerox printed memory 20 bit memory label
A printed "memory label" from Thinfilm and Xerox. The label will store 36 bits of data that can be encrypted and used for authentication and tracking. Credit:Thinfilm

Xerox yesterday announced two new printed packaging labels that can store 36 bits on rewritable memory. The labels are aimed at combating counterfeiting and helping businesses and government better secure products as they are distributed.

The two printed electronic labels, which Xerox is also calling "printed memory," can collect and store information about the authenticity and condition of products, storing up to 68 billion points of data, the company said.

The labels, for example, can be used to determine if a product is genuine and to track how it's been handled during distribution, Xerox said.

thinfilm memory converting to labels
Thin Film memory labels being printed onto a roll of paper. Credit: Thin Film

"This makes it possible to ensure the integrity of a product from the time it leaves the factory to the time it gets into the hands of a customer," Steve Simpson, a Xerox vice president, said in a statement.

Other uses for the rewritable data within each tag could be to identify if a medication refill has been authorized, if a shipping tax has been paid or if a package has passed through an authorized distributor.

The memory labels can be scanned using a simple smartphone-based reader. The key label verification features will work offline, allowing secure validation of an object or process without being bound to the Internet.

The memory labels can store up to 68 billion bit pattern combinations because each binary digit (0 or 1) can be combined for 2^2 or 4 possibilities (00, 01, 10, 11). When there are three bits, there are 2^3 or 8 possibilities (000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, 111). Scaled to 36 bits, there are more than 68 billion possible bit pattern combinations, according to Bill Cummings, a spokesman for Thin Film Electronics ASA.

"In practical terms, it means that a relatively small number of bits can be used to digitally record important information about a labeled product as it moves through the supply chain and distribution network," Cummings said. "In addition to a core yes/no verification of product authenticity, the memory bits can verify the intended distribution channel and other item-specific information, such as region code, warrant info, service history, etc., to assist brands and their partners."

Xerox licensed the proprietary printed memory technology from Thin Film, a Norwegian company. Xerox plans to produce printed memory at its plant in Webster, N.Y.


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