Gravotech, Oridao Unveil System that Prevents Tag Counterfeiting, Cloning

By Beth Bacheldor

The solution is designed to make it easy for companies to securely track critical information about components, tools and other items that need to be traced throughout their lifecycles.

Gravotech Group, a provider of permanent-marking systems, and Oridao, a French-based developer and supplier of secure EPC Gen 2 RFID ASICs and tags and associated software, are partnering to offer a solution leveraging ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags, as well as permanent marking and engraving technologies. The partners hope to create a one-stop shop for a secure tracking and tracing solution for the aerospace, oil and gas, defense and engineering industries, as well as other sectors laden with sensitive maintenance processes.

The solution is designed to make it easy for companies to securely track critical information regarding parts, such as engine components or tools, that need to be traced throughout their lifecycles, explains Frederic Lallemand, a Gravotech VP. The solution, known as Augmented Traceability, includes laser, scribing or micro-percussion marking devices from Gravotech's Technifor division, and EPC Gen 2 RFID tags that incorporate Oridao's secure (protected from cloning and data-tampering) ASICs. The tags can be physically hardened to protect them from environmental hazards, including physical blows (impacts), cuts from sharp objects, temperature extremes and water intrusion. According to the two companies, the solution can help businesses improve the quality and productivity of parts, by automatically and securely collecting data at every point during production and assembly, and even after market. By simplifying the tracking and management of assets and equipment, companies also can reduce maintenance costs, and thwart counterfeiting and data corruption via anti-tampering and encryption technologies. Finally, the two firms report, because the solution is a one-stop shop for permanent marking, secure RFID and associated services, businesses can reduce their overall operating costs.

An example of an Oridao secure EPC Gen 2 plastic-encased RFID tag mounted on a stainless steel plate engraved by a Gravotech micro-percussion marking device.

"Our technologies are really complementary," Lallemand says. "The physical marking from engraving or laser-cutting has one advantage: You can read the information with your eyes. And permanent marking is compulsory for many of the industries for traceability. But what it doesn't provide is the dynamic aspect of the data, and this is what RFID provides, and the reason for our partnership with Oridao."

Augmented Traceability includes all of the necessary hardware, software and services—which are customizable to meet a customer's specific needs—including mobile devices for marking plastics with laser-engraving or metals using oscillating engravers. The marking devices are portable, so they can be used to mark a wide variety of items, including those too large to move, such as a helicopter blade or a chassis. The Augmented Traceability solution also comes with an EPC Gen 2 reader with secured firmware for encoding the secure RFID tags, as well as all of the dedicated middleware and online trusted authority services and interfaces required for integrating the solution with various manufacturing resource planning (MRP), enterprise resource planning (ERP), product lifecycle management (PLM) and asset-management systems.

The RFID tags, developed and manufactured by Oridao, have embedded security features, including both Electronic Product Code (EPC) user memory and secured access memory, in addition to a 256-bit Hash function that protects the ASIC's critical data and maintains the stored data's integrity. The tags also use Pathchecker, Oridao's secure traceability protocol that enables the authentication of each tag read during the product's complete lifecycle. Basically, says Nicolas Reffé, Oridao's president and CEO, the protocol enables the tag to be encoded, or digitally signed, every time it receives new data or is interrogated during the tagged product's lifecycle, so that all of the collected information can then be traced and authenticated. At each point along the supply chain, an RFID reader updates a tag's internal state by using some secret information. A reader at the end of a defined path (such as a supply chain) verifies that the internal state is consistent with the list of updates that it should have received. The Pathchecker protocol's aim, Reffé says, is to check that a given tag has followed the correct path, in order to prevent such problems as counterfeit products being introduced somewhere in the supply chain.

All of the security features are designed to prevent cloning, Reffé says, which is critical for such industries as aerospace and defense. "A tag can be cloned in a matter of seconds, very easily," he states. "Not very many people are aware of this. If a company wants to track and trace sensitive objects and sensitive data, you have to protect the tag, and we do this with these hardened tags." According to Reffé, most traceability systems currently on the market can be easily corrupted, and cannot provide proof of integrity for critical operating data, like proper maintenance or part status.

Oridao's RFID tag, which Reffé says is about half the size of a credit card, is available in two versions, containing 2 kilobits and 8 kilobytes of non-volatile memory, respectively. Both tags come with 496 bits of EPC memory, comply with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards, and can be interrogated using any standards-based UHF RFID reader. Reffé says his company is currently developing a version featuring 1 megabyte of memory. The tag is available with a silicon or plastic housing and is fully sealed; the silicon version can withstand temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +250 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees to +482 degrees Fahrenheit). The silicon-encased tag can be marked with laser-etching, and the tag in plastic can be affixed to an engraved stainless steel plate.

The Augmented Traceability solution is available now. Each solution can be customized to fit a client's particular needs.