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New NFC Tag Detects Tampering, Transmits That Status to Readers

Automotive, pharmaceutical and high-value brand companies are testing samples of Smartrac's Circus Tamper Loop tag with NXP's NTAG 213 TT chip built in, to identify whether a product has been tampered with and respond to interrogation with the tampered status.
By Claire Swedberg

With the Circus Tamper Loop, if anyone attempts to sell an opened bottle of motor oil, users equipped with an NFC-enabled smartphone can detect that it has been opened, as well as what product has been compromised. In that way, they can then trace back where it originated, and the product authenticity can be checked.

The NXP chip provides 144 bytes of user memory and mirror functionality, enabling the tag to be encoded with a unique ID number and a URL address. If a user taps his or her mobile phone or tablet against the tag, he or she could then be directed to a website, where the unique ID number could be accessed. Appropriate content related to that item could then be displayed on the user's device.

Smartrac expects the new product to be used not only in the automotive industry, but also by pharmaceutical companies and by high-value product brands. The proliferation of NFC-based solutions, Danhauser indicates, is expected to grow during the coming year, and Smartrac is poised to provide the necessary tags for that growth. The increase in NFC technology use, he says, is partly fueled by Apple's release of products using open NFC functionality.

Smartphones employing iOS 11 (such as Apple's iPhone 7or 8) are already being used for NFC tag reading in a variety of use cases. The new iOS-based phones must have the NFC functionality turned on before they can read tags (unlike Android devices), and once they are in operational mode, they have a longer read range than that to which most NFC technology users are accustomed.

Instead of having to orient the phone correctly over the tag, Danhauser says, the system can read tags very easily on a product. That, he explains, makes it easier for those unfamiliar with NFC technology to use such a system. Smartrac has conducted tests in which it has offered smartphone users lacking NFC experience the task of reading a product's tag. Such users have been able to utilize the system very easily, he reports, adding, "I think it's going to be huge for the market."

The tag's cost will vary according to the volume of an order, Danhauser says, but the value it will bring will pay for the relatively higher price than a standard authentication label. The company is now selling the new Circus Tamper Loop tag in samples to customers. During the first quarter of 2018, a Smartrac authentication and tamper-evident app is expected to be made available for both iOS and Android devices.

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