Counterfeit components are a concern in a number of industries, but they’re especially worrisome in the world of automotive, where fake parts can lead to serious safety concerns. The problem has gotten worse in recent years, and is now considered a global phenomenon.
The Center for Responsible Enterprise and Trade (CREATe), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that helps companies around the world prevent piracy, counterfeiting, trade-secret theft, and corruption, has researched the issue of counterfeit auto parts and published some chilling facts. According to CREATe:
What can be done
One of the ways to combat counterfeiting is to shore up vulnerabilities in the automotive supply chain, so it’s harder to introduce fakes into legitimate channels and harder to divert authentic products into grey-market channels.
Many manufacturers already use RFID tags to track and trace parts through the automotive supply chain, and this helps reduce vulnerability. But a new generation of tags, equipped with functions for secure authentication, offer extra features specifically aimed at combating counterfeits.
Next-generation RAIN RFID tags
The new tags are part of NXP’s widely used UCODE family of passive RAIN RFID tags operating in the UHF frequency range. They use a unique, factory-locked transponder ID (TID) number, for easy product serialization. They also include memory for storing the Electronic Product Code (EPC), to make inventory and warehouse management faster, more efficient, and more accurate. In addition to the EPC memory, they also include user memory for storing valuable product data, such as manufacturer and lot number. The user memory can even be loaded with work-in-progress data, down to the specific operator and machine that built the part.
The new RAIN RFID tags add several features for increased security. They include a digital signature which offers enhanced electronic protection and can be used as a first alert for counterfeit products.
Additionally, RAIN RFID tags now also support cryptographic security, including cryptographic product authentication. This represents the highest level of protection because the transactions between the tag and the reader are dynamic and unique every time, always based on cryptographic computations done with the help of secret keys which never leave protected security vault embedded inside the microchip. All of this gives original parts manufacturers high level of certainty that they can effectively and quickly identify fake products which enter into their supply chain.
The need for increased security in the automotive industry was one of the reasons why NXP developed the new UCODE products, but the tags can, of course, be used to protect products in other supply chains, too, such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), luxury items, consumer electronics, and more.
Join the conversation
Do you have direct experience with counterfeit products entering the supply chain? What other methods, beyond item tagging and authentication, might manufacturers consider in the fight against fakes?
NXP UCODE products
NXP application page for inventory and supply-chain management