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Château Le Pin Uses NFC to Ensure Its Wine's Authenticity

The French vintner is attaching RFID tags to labels from Selinko, to prove each bottle's authenticity to customers, and to gain visibility into its own supply chain.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 17, 2013

Fine wines are vulnerable to counterfeiting or fraud, in large part due to their high value. A single bottle of French Bordeaux, from Château Le Pin, averages $3,000 and can be priced at up to $10,000 or more, making the trafficking of forgeries lucrative for counterfeiters. Photocopied labels, for example, can be attached to bottles of counterfeit wine, which can then end up being sold to consumers—often at auctions, or at any weak link along the supply chain.

Le Pin sells its wine in Europe, as well as in Asia, which is one of the company's focus markets. To combat fraud and counterfeiting—which the vintner says is not only expensive but difficult to prosecute—the firm sought a reliable anti-counterfeiting technology that would also be well-received by consumers. In 2012, it looked into technologies that included QR codes, Data Matrix, bubble codes (polymer film encoded with raised dots, each in a unique location on the label) and holograms, but found that all of these solutions could be copied using digital, laser or industrial printers.

The Selinko phone app includes a feature known as "My Wine Registry," with which users can use a bottle's RFID tag to leave personal notes about a wine they have sampled.
Anti-counterfeiting identification technology company Selinko has developed a Near Field Communication (NFC) solution consisting of a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz NFC-compliant RFID tag built into a wine bottle's label, an application for an NFC-enabled phone to capture that label's ID number, and a server to manage the collected data. This helps Le Pin's owners ensure that every bottle's label is authentic, and confirm that a particular product is in a consumer's hands. For Le Pin, the advantage that the NFC solution offered was its inability to be copied, says Gwennaëlle Festraets, a partner at Selinko, since each chip contains an encrypted, tamperproof digital certificate. "The entire communication is encrypted and is impossible to reproduce, even by ourselves," she says.

After working with Selinko to create a solution since January of this year, Château Le Pin began applying Selinko's NFC labels in April, beginning with its vintage 2010 bottles, as they were released. Each label's lower left corner, Festraets explains, includes a discreet Selinko logo indicating that the label is interactive. An Inside Secure NFC RFID chip encoded with a unique ID number is embedded in the label, directly beneath the Selinko logo. Le Pin printed a leaflet to be provided with each bottle, explaining how to employ the technology and referring users to the Selinko Web site to learn more or access the app.

The Selinko app is available at no cost, either at the Selinko Web site or at Googleplay. Users can log into the app on their NFC-enabled phone, and then place it near the Le Pin label. If the wine is authentic (that is, if it has a Selinko NFC tag embedded in the label), the bottle's certificate of authenticity and unique serial number will then be displayed for the user.

The transaction is also stored on the server, providing Le Pin with a view into what is happening with its bottles after they are shipped to a store or directly to a customer. Every time an individual reads the label via an NFC phone, the company has a record of that read event, and in that way knows where its bottles were distributed, as well as to which customer, as long as the customer supplies that information. This also provides proof of purchase for the consumer, Festraets says. The technology, she notes, is designed to "always respect the privacy of the consumer."


Tony Rosati 2014-08-21 04:21:33 PM
Nice idea. I understand that EEPROM on those NFC tags last about 10 years before the data starts deteriorating. Wine like this would likely sit in the seller for 10+ years. So does that mean the NFC data is at high risk of evaporating? In that case what is the value of this solution?

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