Globalization and the internet open new opportunities in virtually every industry, including counterfeiting. Optics for anti-counterfeit offer an array of visible and invisible tools to combat IP crimes and authenticate products.

Discover the innovative way optics are used for cost-effective, practical anti-counterfeiting technologies.

Anti-Counterfeiting Technologies with Optical Components

Optical Memory Stripe

An optical memory stripe is a laser reading device that can store data and images up to 4 MB. The device is read-only, so the data it stores about a product can’t be updated over the life of the product. The optical memory stripe may be placed on a plastic card, like an identity card, or directly affixed to the product itself.

This technology offers a high degree of security based on the WORM, or “write once, read many” data writing method. Data cannot be deleted, replaced, or rewritten. It’s most widely used for document authentication.

Optical memory stripes may be used for:

  • Tracking and tracing
  • Physical products or packaging
  • Small, medium, or large products

This is a visible type of anti-counterfeiting technology that requires a reading device and connection to a server.

Machine-Readable Codes

Machine-readable codes, or barcodes, are identification codes that are designed to be read by optical scanning devices and similar technologies.[1] A barcode consists of a series of black lines and white spaces that run parallel or sometimes squares of varying width. Unique identifiers are written into the codes or product-related data, such as the manufacturer, origin, or expiration date.

The data contained in these codes may be analyzed and extracted by a reader. Most devices use a laser beam or smartphone camera to decode the information in the barcode. Machine-readable codes may be embedded into other visual security features that can be scanned to provide additional verification instructions and traceability.

There are two types of barcodes available:

One-Dimensional Barcodes

One-dimensional barcodes are composed of a single row of bars with data coded horizontally. The size and shape of the barcode are the key features that ensure readable data, even if the label is damaged. Sometimes, one-dimensional barcodes can be widened to store more data, but it quickly reaches a limit where it’s no longer readable.

One-dimensional barcodes are often used for:

  • Tracking and tracing
  • Small, medium, and large products
  • Physical products and packaging

One-dimensional barcodes may be visible or invisible and require a reading device and connection to a server.

Two-Dimensional Barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes, also known as matrix codes or matrix barcodes, have a series of spaces, dots, and squares to store various data. These barcodes have a higher capacity than one-dimensional barcodes. Data may be stored in both the vertical and horizontal axes of the image, which may be printed, embedded on a digital screen, or presented for scanning.

Two-dimensional barcodes may be used for:

  • Authentication
  • Tracking and tracing
  • Very small to large products
  • Physical products and packaging

This anti-counterfeiting technology is visible and requires both a reading device and a connection to a server.

Security Holograms

A hologram is a general term that identifies optical devices that work on variable diffractive images or diffractive optical variable image devices (DOVIDs).[2] The visual effects of a hologram change as the lighting and viewing angle vary, which is how a three-dimensional image is created.

They’re created using a photographic technique that records the light scattered from an object, presenting it three-dimensionally. No color printer, scanner, or camera can reproduce holography due to its complexity.

Holography has many fields of application, but in anti-counterfeiting, holograms may be used to authenticate products. The authentication of a hologram requires intimate knowledge of the original hologram. Any minuscule difference between the two could indicate a counterfeit.

There are two types of holograms:

Traditional Holograms

Traditional holograms are three-dimensional images that provide a visual way of authenticating a product or a document. The mere presence of a traditional hologram is understood to reliably indicate authenticity. They may be included in labels or printed directly on a product.

There are several types of traditional holograms, including

  • 2D-3D multilayer holograms
  • 3D holograms
  • Dot matrix holograms
  • Hot stamping foil (HSF)
  • Holograms with de-metallization

These holograms may be used for:

  • Authentication
  • Very small to large products
  • Physical products and packaging

Holograms are visible forms of anti-counterfeiting and require no server or reading device.

Complex Holograms

Complex holograms have the same visual appearance as traditional holograms, but they contain information in a cryptogram for both visible and invisible security.

They may be used for:

  • Authentication
  • Very small to large products
  • Physical products and packaging

Complex holograms are beneficial for both visible and invisible information and require no server access or reading device.

Check out the other optics systems used for anti-counterfeiting in Part 2 of this series.

Explore Optics for Anti-Counterfeiting at Apollo Optical Systems

Apollo Optical Systems designs, engineers, and manufactures optical components for core markets like anti-counterfeit, including barcode and holography. Contact us today to discuss your custom optics project.






About Dale Buralli

Dr. Dale Buralli has served as the Chief Scientist for Apollo Optical Systems since 2003. In this role, Dr. Buralli is responsible for the design and optical modeling of various optical systems. These systems include virtual or augmented reality, ophthalmic and other imaging or illumination systems. Additionally, he provides support for optical tooling of lens molds and prototypes, including the development of custom software for both production and metrology. Dr. Buralli got his Ph.D. in optics from the University of Rochester in 1991. Now he is an Adjunct Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics.