When it comes to brand protection and product authentication, there are a wide variety of technologies and solutions available in the market. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Among all the options available to brands today, NFC (Near Field Communication) and more specifically secure NFC tag technology has become a game-changer in the world of brand protection and offers near unclonable item authentication and security. In an era where counterfeiting and unauthorized reproductions pose significant threats to businesses, secure NFC tags offer a robust solution to safeguarding brand integrity.
Understanding Secure Type-4 NFC Tags
NFC tags are small, wireless devices that communicate with smartphones and other NFC-enabled devices through short-range radio frequency identification or RFID. When tapped with an NFC enabled smartphone, it allows the user to access data stored on the chip / tag memory or even redirect to a URL embedded in the tag
Type-4 NFC Tags or secure NFC tags have the inherent capability to go much further than standard Type-1, Type-2 NFC tags which are more common. They can generate a unique key on every fresh tap which can be used to authenticate the item it is paired with and within seconds, that key is expired and no longer valid. This means the URL generated along with the dynamic changing key is only valid for a few seconds while it is decrypted and authenticated by a server or software on the brands side before it is expired and as a result it can not be copied, can not be cloned and put into other NFC tags, can not be shared online and effectively makes the item it is embedded into unclonable and impossible to counterfeit. In the realm of brand protection, these tags serve as digital fingerprints, uniquely identifying and authenticating products.
Benefits of Secure NFC Tags
Enhanced Security Features
Secure NFC tags go beyond basic identification. They incorporate advanced security features such as dynamic unique key generation, encryption and authentication, ensuring that only genuine products can be verified. Also, each NFC chip / tag comes with a unique identification number which can be registered against an individual item that it is applied on / or embedded within which prevents anyone from purchasing similar tags and trying to replicate the authentication process. Only tags purchased by the original brand / manufacturer which are registered within the software system are activated and will work for authentication. Essentially, there is no possibility to replicate or duplicate them.
Real-time Tracking and Monitoring
Brands can monitor the movement of their products in real-time using secure NFC tags. This not only helps in tracking inventory but also provides valuable insights into consumer behavior. Data like number of scans, location of the scans, the type of device being used to interact with the item, time spent on the experience linked to the tag and other insights can be gathered and monitored.
Implementation of Secure NFC Tags
Integrating secure NFC tags into products can be done by embedding them as part of the product, applying them to the product with strong adhesives or applying them to packaging based on the requirement. Brands can choose from a variety of tag designs and sizes, form factors and special requirements based on the kind of product they are looking to protect allowing for flexibility in implementation. A number of options are available for encoding these highly sophisticated Type-4 NFC tags based on the volume and scale required and the business process.
Challenges in Implementing Secure NFC Tags
While the benefits are clear, brands face challenges in implementing secure NFC tags.
While the price of NFC chips has come down considerably over the past few years and continues to drop as demand and production increases, cost is a consideration. The Type-4 NFC tags or secure NFC tags which have the technology to generate authentication keys that keep changing are more expensive as compared to common varieties of NFC tags used for other use cases and would only be relevant to high value, higher price margin product categories. However, a cost-benefit analysis often reveals that the long-term advantages far outweigh the upfront expenses and in terms of the level of security and protection this specific technology offers, it is unparalleled for higher value items.
Technological Barriers and Solutions
Some brands may encounter technological barriers during implementation. However, continuous advancements in NFC technology and supportive solutions make these barriers surmountable. Traditionally encoding these Type-3 secure NFC tags like the NTAG 424 DNA NFC Tags has been very complicated and cumbersome with most software and tag encoding solutions available in the market. However, Qliktag has invested in developing its own custom NFC tag encoding hardware device and software specifically to work with its software platform and solution making the process of encoding these kinds of tags easier and scalable. Also, the secure NFC tags on their own are an incomplete solution and do not work out of the box. The software solution or platform that the tags work with, communicate with and send the encrypted data and keys to is just as critical so the technology involves the NFC hardware tags + a software service in the backend like the Qliktag Platform to complete the brand protection solution.
In conclusion, brand protection with secure NFC tags is not just a technological necessity but a strategic imperative. As consumer awareness grows, brands need to invest in cutting-edge solutions to combat counterfeiting and build lasting relationships with their audience.