COMBATING COUNTERFEITS AND PROVING AUTHENTICITY WITH AN APP

Millipedia tells you whether services are credible or blacklisted: an innovation that was born in a Standards Committee.

Marietta Ulrich-Horn is co-founder and co-CEO of Securikett, located in Münchendorf, Austria. She specializes in the protection of products, by making originals distinguishable from counterfeits. The concept of one of Securiketts biggest innovations originated in a standards committee, and her involvement in this committee was key in the development.

Combating counterfeits

“If you're innovative and you develop products, you should look at the standards immediately. Either use them, or work actively in the creation of standards.”

Marietta Ulrich-Horn,
SECURIKETT, Münchendorf, Austria 

When Ulrich-Horn started Securikett operations twenty years ago with her husband, they noticed that counterfeits were abundant, and the problem was growing due to internet sales and open trade. A big problem, she explains: “Who wants to be seated on an airplane with a counterfeit part? Which parent wants to feed their baby counterfeit milk? Nobody wants to have a counterfeit in their hands when it comes to baby food, medicine or technical parts.”

At Securikett they offer consumers assurance through both physical and digital products and services. The physical department of the company develops labels: security labels and tamper-evident labels, products which are sold globally. The digital part is a unique ID code system called Codikett, which backtraces products via the internet by giving each item a unique code, comparable to let’s say for example a car license plate or a birth certificate. By scanning the code using a smartphone, anyone can trace the origin and authenticity of a product.

Ulrich-Horn believes this type of authenticity tracker is very market-relevant, and not only for the consumer. Fake products are often made under questionable working conditions and made by companies linked to tax evasion.

Unfortunately, the authentication system itself was also sensitive to fraud and this led Ulrich-Horn to consider the feasibility of a verification system. “The issue we faced was that counterfeiters can also run a website, offering identification services and telling you that this code is real. So how can you know for sure that you are scanning a real code to start with? My idea was to build a gateway that has a filter function, so all the validated and legal systems would be routed and the bad ones would end on a blacklist. This would be very helpful for the industry. So we needed to be open, to work together with competitors, with governmental agencies, with private services and others, to create interoperability. And that was the idea for a product which we call Millipedia.”

 

Writing the script for industry standards

And so the concept of one of Securiketts biggest innovations was born, originating from within a standards committee: the committee on ‘Interoperability of Identification Code Systems’.

“When I worked in the committee on interoperability, the idea of the Millipedia app was born, and it was developed in parallel. It's an interoperable app, that routes to different systems, so not only our own Codikett system, but also competitors or national systems. It gives you an evaluation of the credibility of the identification system that you are routed to.”

 

According to Ulrich-Horn standardization influenced the product in two ways: “One was the committee as such; to understand the thinking of my colleagues on the committee, and also to get their feedback on these ideas that I had. There were a lot of critical voices; what to do, what not to do, and all of that was quite helpful.”

Mindset

The other way in which standardization shaped the product was to see the mindset of the industry. “Interoperability is a mindset. And I think many of my colleagues couldn't follow me, why I should
encourage other systems to play together with us. But it’s the only way, because we are not going
to have the only identification system, not only on a European level. You will have a system in
Europe and you will have another system in China, and a third system in the US, and so on. So
even on a much larger scale, interoperability will be key in the future.”

The problem, however, is that people still have misconceptions about standardization. “I believe that many people think standards put up barriers and hurdles and limit your space of operation. But there are many standards which are guidelines, and we mainly work on those. For example, guidelines on how to do something, how to establish interoperability, how to set up a familiar quality management system. Standards really guide in such a way to help you become more professional.”

 

Joining forces in expertise to lift the industry standard

That's why Marietta Ulrich-Horn urges her peers to become active in the field of standardization. “If you're innovative and you develop products, you should look at the standards immediately. Either use them, or work actively in the creation of standards.” Ulrich-Horn explains that “it’s comparable to patents, if you don't know them, you will develop the same thing again and if you are aware of the standards and you know where the industry stands, you will start at the right point.”
 

Ulrich-Horn is quick to describe her experience with standardization as a positive one. “In our working group of ISO 292 -  for Authenticity, Integrity and Trust for products and documents, we mainly write new standards, and it is so exciting to talk with all these other experts, and to work with them on the standardization of our new industry.”

Ulrich-Horn admits that it can be at times very difficult to work with other experts who are direct competitors. “How much expertise will you give … and vice versa. But at the end of the day, we all understand it's a mutual give-and-take, and we all benefit from each other's expertise. When we meet, typically there are up to twenty individuals. Most of us, we know each other personally. We travel quite a lot, so we have three or four face-to-face meetings per year. It is quite challenging, being a CEO of a company and then travelling so much for something that's public work. But it is quite rewarding,” she says.

“I would really recommend fellow entrepreneurs to join the standardization committees. It's the best way to meet other experts, either nationally or globally, depending on where you work. And every one of us who comes out there says 'I have learned more than I gave’. It has grown our expertise and that's very important for our business, to be at the cutting edge of knowledge in this area.”


A staunch supporter of standardization, Ulrich-Horn believes that standards are helping us to improve the world. “Standardization levels the playing field for industry participants; they have a common language and a common knowledge base, on which they can work, on which they can talk to their customers. And customers, users, industry, whoever, can rely on their suppliers having a certain industry level of going about business.”

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