Xerox unveils security labels based on printed memory

Xerox, ThinFilm imageA collaboration between Xerox and printed circuitry specialist ThinFilm has yielded its first fruit - two security labels aimed at the pharmaceutical and tax stamp sectors.

The two companies have been working together since December 2014, when they entered into a broad-ranging deal to use printed electronics such as processors, sensors and memory to imbue everyday objects with digital capabilities.

Xerox is using ThinFilm's printed memory - along with cryptographic security features - to make labels that can offer a variety of functions, such as identifying "if a medication refill has been authorised, a shipping tax has been paid, or whether a package passed through an authorised distributor."

Using a smartphone-based reader, the printed memory labels can be used for tracking and tracing the location of packages, authentication and verification of a product’s information, according to the two companies.

They are due for a commercial launch before the end of the year and will be produced in bulk at Xerox' plant in Webster, New York.

"Traditional anti-counterfeiting methods such as invisible ink, holograms and RFID tags can be easily copied and hacked, and are often expensive to implement," said ThinFilm.

"By integrating Thinfilm memory with advanced security printing and digital cryptography, the solutions are inexpensive and difficult to counterfeit as every stamp is uniquely encrypted and can only be created by authorised personnel."

Printed electronics can be produced at a fraction of the cost of traditional circuits made by techniques such as photolithography, and the technology is expected to stimulate a massive increase in the smart label market, with security one of the drivers for growth.

All told, the total market for printed, organic, and flexible electronics is projected to grow from around $16bn in 2013 to $76.8bn by 2022, according to market research firm IDTechEx.

"We see a significant opportunity for printed, flexible electronics to make an impact across a range of industries," said Steve Simpson, vice president, responsible for Xerox printed labels.

"By building upon Thinfilm’s printed memory technology, we were able to develop an innovative, anti-counterfeiting solution and launch the next phase of the project, which will bring the solution to the market."

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