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Hong Kong R&D Center Tests Anti-Counterfeiting Solution for Chinese Herbal Medicine

The group expects next month to commercially release the low-cost EPC Gen 2 UHF reader chip that it developed for its AuthenTick application.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 11, 2013

The Hong Kong R&D Center for Logistics and Supply Chain Management Enabling Technologies (LSCM) is developing a radio frequency identification solution intended to prove that its AuthenTick solution can confirm the authenticity of traditional Chinese herbal medicines sold in stores when a customer places a tagged item on a reader kiosk at a store prior to making a purchase. LSCM tested the technology earlier this year, by attaching tags to containers of Eu Yan Sang's Extra Strength Lingzhi Cracked Spores—a mushroom product used for medical purposes—which were being sold at a Hong Kong store.

LSCM is preparing to launch a multi-brand and -store test of its RFID solution using both EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and passive high-frequency (HF) Near Field Communication (NFC) tags applied to products from four manufacturers. The goal of the test, says Frank Tong, LSCM's director of research and technology development, will be to determine if the tags (and thereby the products to which those tags are attached) can be authenticated properly at stores via a UHF kiosk reader and an NFC-enabled mobile phone. Next month, the R&D center plans to commercially release the low-cost UHF reader chip that it developed for this application, so that RFID hardware manufacturers can build inexpensive readers for short-range, single-tag applications.

LSCM is testing how its kiosk, which includes a low-cost RFID reader chip that it designed, can be used to verify the authenticity of Chinese herbal medicine.
During the second test, which will begin in November as well, LSCM will provide RFID labels to Eu Yan Sang, as well as three other makers of traditional Chinese medicines: Hin Sang Hong, Chinese Pharmaceuticals (HK) Co. Ltd. and Wisdom Come Medical Group Ltd.. The four companies will apply the labels to their own designated products' packaging, and then ship the goods to stores—where, in some cases, LSCM kiosks will be installed to read those products' RFID labels. The brand owners are then expected to provide feedback to LSCM regarding the technology, indicating how often the tags were read and what impact, if any, it seemed to have on sales.

In 2006, LSCM was launched and funded by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government's Innovation and Technology Commission to explore technology solutions that would revitalize the economy in the logistics supply chain area. LSCM's researchers began looking into traceability using RFID technology, and then started developing a solution for authenticating luxury goods, jewelry, medicines and other products.

In September 2012, the organization began testing a medicine-tracking solution that it designed, by attaching various makes and models of UHF EPC tags to Eu Yan Sang's Lingzhi Cracked Spores, and employing its own reader technology built into a kiosk installed at stores. Chinese herbal medicines are commonly counterfeited, in part because they are often expensive and can be faked fairly easily. The anti-counterfeiting system's objective is to provide manufacturers and stores with a way to prove to customers that a product is authentic before they pay for it. The technology is designed not only to save consumers the cost of buying counterfeit goods, but also to ensure their safety, since consuming fake medicines could be harmful to a person's health.

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