Trafficking in Illicit goods, from contraband to counterfeit, is far from being a new phenomenon. However, its scale and impact have increased dramatically in recent years, largely thanks to  the proliferation of new technologies and ease of access to manufacturing and other infrastructure capacities that have been fuelled by globalisation.

Illicit trade has become one of the most profitable activities worldwide, generating hundreds of billions of dollars annually, in part by stealing from brand owners, using forced and/or child labor, substituting ingredients with substandard and sometimes toxic alternatives, and evading taxes. This criminal behaviour has had a devastating impact on our public health, security, economy, businesses, labor, and the very foundation of law and order in a civil society.

Tracking and Tracing Technologies  

It is vital that innovative and intelligent solutions are effectively applied to thwart the traffickers and thereby turn the tide against illicit trade.  

There are already many organisations that are mobilized and with common cause to fight this global issue.  From NGO’s  to innovative companies like INEXTO, a Swiss-based business delivering cutting edge technologies designed to help neutralize this threat.  Inexto’s Suite of software solutions empower clients with powerful tools that will help to secure their supply chains and thereby increase trust, transparency, safety, and ethics in their trade flows.

Key to Inexto Suite’s capabilities reside in its INEXTOR coding method.  Through advanced algorithms and encryption processes, a unique code is securely generated at the instant each discreet product is created in the manufacturing process.  From this highly secure process the unique code is marked on the product, thereby providing instantaneous and secure identification of that product within the system.  Inexto’s solution is able to track the items movement while it is scanned along the supply chain and at each point in the distribution network, all the way to the final point of sale.

As the secure code was generated from detailed information about the item, to include its date, time, machine count, manufacturing origin, destination market, price, and/or a multitude of other attributes pertinent to establishing its identity, its uniqueness is assured. By checking this code, customs authorities, businesses, and consumers can evaluate the logistics journey undertaken by the item and thereby control, monitor and/or validate that it has in fact reached its target destination. As this solution is based on Open Standards, a simple reading of the code with readily available tools such as a common smartphone or tablet will allow the user nearly instantaneous access to relevant information that reveals if the product is genuine, present at the right place, and/or offered at the right price. The ability to track & trace with the accuracy, scale and speed of the Inexto Suite is critical to enforcement authorities who often cover large territories and who must depend on timely and accurate intelligence in the apprehension and prosecution of sophisticated criminal networks.

 

The Emergence of New Technologies

Technology is evolving at an unprecedented pace and the challenge to stay ahead of traffickers, armed with ever advancing technology, is daunting.  For example, holograms and optically variable inks, once recognized as robust security features to the average consumer and currently applied to common materials such as paper stamps, can now be effectively copied or mimicked.  

However, thanks to the development of new technologies that can marry secured unique identification with robust authentication and without sacrificing scalability nor the interoperable capability to navigate through and across borders and economic operators; legitimate stakeholders can turn this tide. Businesses like Inexto are continually researching modern techniques, to reveal emergent technologies and to apply them within extremely powerful tools, such as the latest addition to its portfolio, INEXTIMATE™.  This new product leverages the intrinsic uniqueness of material construction within an item, digitally incorporating that fingerprint as an attribute in the building of the unique and secure code.  Able to accomplish this feat at ultra-high production speeds and for fast moving consumer goods, Inexto has delivered a secure mass serialization technology like no other.  One that is capable of seamlessly operating within Inexto’s globally proven track & trace environment.

Of course, technology alone cannot solve the issue of illicit trade and must be aligned amongst a multitude of diverse stakeholders, from NGO’s and Nation States down to the individual consumer.  However, as awareness of the illicit trade issue grows and as organizations like the EU are tuning and aligning their policy measures to meet this challenge, legitimate enterprises are following suite; with a common goal to fashion a world where trade is more secure and safe for consumers whilst fair to legitimate markets.