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Kodak Markets Optical Marker as RFID Alternative

The company says its Traceless System, which requires a Kodak optical reader, can be used in conjunction with bar codes to authenticate pharmaceuticals. Unlike RFID tags, however, the Traceless marker requires a clear line of sight.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 01, 2008Eastman Kodak is marketing its Traceless System to pharmaceutical companies, claiming drugmakers can use it instead of RFID to verify a product is genuine as it passes through the supply chain. The solution is an "ultracovert" marker material applied over drug labels to confirm the authenticity of the bar-code labels on medication packaging.

Several years ago, Kodak developed its Traceless System, which employs a covert substance that is imperceptible to the human eye, but can be detected by a special Kodak optical reader. The company has since offered the system for a variety of authentication applications, including validating wine bottle labels and garment brands. Since 2006, pharmaceutical companies have also used the system as an anticounterfeiting measure on some of their product packaging. Only recently, however, has Kodak offered the system for bar-code authentication as well, in which the bar-code label itself could be validated as a means of thwarting drug counterfeiting.

Kodak is marketing its Traceless System to pharmaceutical companies, claiming they can use it to verify a product's authenticity instead of RFID.
Pharmaceutical companies and health-care providers alike can use serial bar codes or RFID tags to track the movement of medication as it passes from manufacturing sites through distribution centers and, ultimately, to a drug store or medical facility. An electronic pedigree (e-pedigree) system requires that a drug's identity be verified and recorded at every point through which the product passes, so there is a clear data trail as to where the medicine has been by the time it reaches a patient.

Counterfeiters have found ways to sneak bogus medications into the supply chain, however. Most drug companies use bar-coded labels on their packaging, but such labels can be removed and reapplied to other containers, or copied and reused. RFID tags, though harder to copy, are more expensive than bar-coded labels and require an investment in time to get the RFID system integrated with a company's own management system, as well as attain FDA certification for a new type of packaging.

Kodak has produced what it describes as a better solution that doesn't require investing in new infrastructure, as RFID does, but rather allows bar-coding to be used with greater security. The odorless, colorless Traceless marker can be applied on top of a bar-code or medication label by several bar-code label makers that are working with Kodak to manufacture these labels, says Steve Powell, Kodak Security Solutions' general manager. The marker can also be applied using a thermal transfer ribbon (TTR) that can be dropped into existing thermal printers and printed onto the front of a label—or it can be added to the ink used to print the product labels.

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